Tag Archives: grievances

On Democratic Revolutions

By Elisabeth Clemens

American Insurgents, American Patriots

Breen, T.H. 2010. American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People. Hill and Wang.

In the final years of the eighteenth century, political insurgents on both sides of the Atlantic attempted something radically new:  to institute government by the consent of the governed.    Yet these efforts played out rather differently in France and the United States.  As exemplars, these two cases have long informed the theoretical imaginations of political sociologists and social movement scholars.  Two recent works at the intersection of history and social theory, however, suggest that we may all need to recheck some of our basic assumptions.

With American Insurgents, American Patriots:  The Revolution of the People (Hill & Wang, 2010), T.H. Breen has produced that rare work of scholarship that one actually might want to read in a hammock or a beach chair.  Exploiting the organized obsession with the American Revolution, embodied in so many wonderful local history associations and library collections, Breen reconstructs the close-to-the-ground processes by which some communities remained loyal to the British Empire while in others the social network pressures to join the insurgency became close to irresistible. Continue reading

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An anti-gay marriage movement?

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), should we expect a strong backlash from opponents of gay marriage? If so, what will this backlash look like? Right now, we have heard statements from a few key opponents – from Michelle Bachmann to Mike Huckabee. But will opposition grow into a full-scale countermovement, especially as state legislatures increasingly become the site of the gay marriage conflict? I also ask this question in light of the recent French example where the legalization of gay marriage led to significant involvement of both grassroots and elite elements (albeit motivated by different grievances) converging to attack the Hollande government’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

Supporters of gay marriage celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to rule on the California law Proposition 8 in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Supporters of gay marriage celebrate after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act and declined to rule on the California law Proposition 8 in Washington, D.C., U.S. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Countermobilization in France around the recent legalization of gay marriage raises several key issues. First, despite the fact that it was well known to activists that protests would not deter the French government from going through with the legislation, protests grew increasingly more intense and continued to do so following the legislation. Second, as I noted in a previous post, it became increasingly clear that what has people mobilized is not so much the right of gays and lesbians to marry but rather, the part of the legislation that deals with assisted procreation and surrogate motherhood for gay couples. Continue reading


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Will Québec Anglophones take to the streets?

Anglophone municipal leaders are worried that the Parti Québécois (PQ) government is destroying linguistic peace according to a March 12 Globe and Mail article by Rhéal Séguin.  Since the PQ formed the minority government late last summer, language has been back on the political agenda in a very contentious way. Québec has had its ethno-linguistic battles historically between the Francophone majority and the Anglophone minority (although the language debate has expanded to include other linguistic groups).  Through most of the last decade, the language issue seemed to have quieted down.  Scholars like Meadwell and Pinard have described the cyclical nature of mobilization, demobilization and remobilization of the nationalist movement (and by consequence, the ebb and flow in the salience of ethno-linguistic politics). There are numerous reasons given about the perennial revitalization of language politics: from labor market competition, to threats to the French language, to political pandering. Whatever the reason this time, it begs the question as to how Anglophones will respond; specifically if they are more likely to resort to disruptive collective action. Continue reading


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Protest, Elections and Public Opinion

Summers in Montreal usually mean festivals; whether Just for Laughs or the Jazz Fest. But, with an impending election, Montrealers this summer are wondering whether student protests will influence the upcoming Québec provincial election. Protests were first activated by the threat of a tuition hike, but quickly became about something bigger (see my May 10th post). One development has been the so-called radicalization of the protests, particularly organizations like CLASSE, accused of undermining negotiations with the government and as being aligned with the current opposition party, the sovereigntist Parti Québécois. It became clear, fairly early on, that the greatest obstacle for student protesters was convincing Quebeckers that the protests were more than just about tuition, that they are symptomatic of a bigger socio-structural problem, and that disruption is necessary (see my May 25th post). Unfortunately for protesters, public opinion has not been on their side. Continue reading


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Recall Elections: The (Con)tested Grievance Tactic

Kathleen C. Oberlin

Journalists and pundits alike clamored to interpret the recall election that took place in Wisconsin last week on June 5th. As Republicans beam with pride over Governor Scott Walker’s steadfast hold onto his seat, the Democrats are left to reevaluate among many issues whether or not the recall election is a tactic to continue to use in the current political climate. For those unfamiliar with what exactly a recall entails or where and when it can be done (presumably many of us), check out the national center for state legislators’ overview. Until recently state level (e.g., assembly members, governors) recall efforts were quite rare. It remains to be seen if this will continue in the future as a viable means to channel grievances. Continue reading

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Why is student protest “radical”?

Have, as Montreal Gazette reporter Karen Seidman suggests, radicals hijacked the conflict over tuition increases in Québec?

In my previous post, I suggested that recent student protests in Montreal were more than just about tuition increases, and that tuition increases served as a triggering event that activated some other latent, longstanding grievances. In a recent May 16th article in the Montreal Gazette, Peggy Curran seems to agree with that assessment and writes that “it was clear the battle against tuition hikes had been transformed into the revolutionary cry of a lost generation. Toss a little anarchist mayhem into the mix, and you get a cocktail called pandemonium.”  According to Curran, student mobilization is partially explained by the broader context of social unrest and breakdown characterized by economic uncertainty and high unemployment. But in addition to social unrest, Curran suggests a certain kind of intergenerational conflict between today’s students and baby-boomers – what she calls “boomerhate.” Continue reading


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The Return of Student Protest

By Nella Van Dyke

For those of us who were present on a college campus in the 1980s, the tents of the students participating in the Occupy movement on campus this past year provided a feeling of nostalgia, and even a sense that things are as they should be.  College students should be protesting, and when a long time goes by without a visible protest on my campus, I think something is wrong.  When I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in the mid-1980s, I was accustomed to seeing the anti-Apartheid shanties on the quad as I walked to class.  As with myself, college student protest makes many people think of a specific era, most often the 1960s.  However, college students have always protested.  The first recorded student protest in the U.S. occurred in 1766, when students at Harvard protested the quality of the butter served in the campus cafeteria.  “Behold our butter stinketh and we cannot eat thereof” was their somewhat tongue in cheek rallying cry (Lipset 1972).  (I can’t help but share this quote whenever I have the opportunity).  Student protest is a part of the college campus landscape and culture, even though at sometimes it is less visible than at others.

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Student Activism in Social Movements