Just say no! f2014
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JUST SAY NO!
Social protest and the politics of resistance
Today we will
Introduce the sociology of resistance
Consider whether democracy remains an effective means of political participation
Discuss the role of digital media in protest, particularly in regards to the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring
1. Given the divides within society, why is there not more deviance, disobedience and resistance?
2. Do existing political and social mechanisms allow for effective political participation and representation?
3. What are the most effective means of contemporary political resistance?
Essay questions: Using the case studies discussed in the module, critically examine the relationship between communication technology and social protest.
The agents of resistance
Cultures establish relatively fixed patterns of behaviour that are difficult to change: we generally repeat and reproduce what is expected of us
Resistance seeks to break from these patterns and occurs whenever social norms, structures or institutions are rejected or disrupted (transformative action)
What counts as resistance or deviance is socially defined: alternative fashions might be transformative, but not deviant what might be deviant use of social media in Saudi Arabia is not in Britain
Forms of disobedience
When was your last act of resistance/
If you disagree with what Im saying, what someone else is saying, or with the social norms in the class,
how do you resist?
What would the most effective means of
Resistance is an everyday element of life, from social disagreement to physical protests
Because social media allows for active audience participation, it facilitates resistance to dominant or received messages
We see this process in the responses to famous twitter personalities
Disorder from order
Resistance may be an everyday element of life, from social disagreement to physical protests, but resistance doesnt necessarily mean disorder
Resistance is embedded within effective means of power: our institutions and social norms often encourage and allow resistance, within certain boundaries
For resistance to create conflict and disrupt the established way of doing things, it needs to break the existing norms of resistance
Democracy is the political organisation within which members have an equal say in collective decisions
The are a large range of democratic mechanisms in Western societies democracy tends to involve a designated group of people voting to choose someone to represent them
Democracy thus allows legitimate resistance: if you disagree, you have a voice and the mechanisms to express it, provided that you follow the rules and have sufficient support
The democratic ethos extends to participation in civil society, including freedom of speech, independent media, freedom of assembly (protest) and trade unions
Ultimately it is the state, through government control of violence, who decides what the rules are for legitimate resistance
Why disobey in a democracy?
Democracies are open to resistance in that they do not demand obedience to a single way of being
Indeed, both capitalism and democracy thrive on counter-culture
Protest and resistance can be sanitised through legitimate channels but, if those you are resisting allow you to resist, is there any point in protesting?
Should all protest be agreed to by government authorities?
At various times whilst you have been at Brunel, the University and College Union has been on strike
The principle of unions is that workers can have power over their employers if they act collectively collective bargaining
In the UK, union members are permitted to take industrial action when negotiations with employers break down
In order for the strike to be lawful, unions must ballot their members and receive the support of the majority of voters
The purpose of a strike is to disrupt the regular operation of an employer
This disruption places pressure on the employer and changes the political conditions under which negotiations occur
Workers lose pay, but cannot be dismissed
Unions were powerful advocates for working people until they were broken during the 1970s and 1980s.
Regular strikes are being held, but their influence is mixed
Has your life at Brunel been disrupted by
The place of people-power has shifted from production to consumption
We have influence over corporations not by withdrawing work, but by withholding purchases
This has been seen recently in corporate tax avoidance cases
The shift from productive to consumptive activism has individualised protest and has placed more power in the hands of the wealthy
Which mode of resistance is most likely to have an
New Social Movements
Social movements are organised collective activities that are designed to bring about lasting political change
The Civil Rights movement and Gay Rights movement are two of the most notable
Social movements lie outside of institutional mechanisms, particularly those new social movements that emerged after World War II
These movements have been particularly effective in democratic societies, especially when demands can be incorporated within the existing system
In the reading, Harcourt distinguishes between civil and political disobedience in regards to the Occupy movement
Civil disobedience seeks to right injustices within the system, such as by highlighting issues and raising consciousness
Political disobedience suggests that the system cannot be justly reformed by the mechanisms it provides and must seek alternative forms of resistance
Direct action is a form of resistance that produces immediate intervention into a socio-political issue
These actions can include non-violent actions like sit-ins and occupations or direct violence
Direct action was particularly effective in colonial India and in the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and is common in the contemporary Green movement
If you were working for the NUS campaign to reduce fees, what methods would you
Democracy: A discussion
Do you vote?
Do your politicians represent you?
Does democracy work for some more than others?
Is democratic participation still a relevant form of political engagement?
Social (media) movements
Traditional protest movements have relied on the physical and local presence of protestors
Contemporary social movements are often generated, controlled and sustained through social media
Advantages and challenges
Social media also allows groups to circumvent traditional means of communication, particularly the mass media, in order to get its message across to a diverse audience
Through mechanisms like Twitter #hashtags, a greater sense of connectedness can be developed as individual concerns become more identifiably common
The speed of social media, along with the possibility of collective communication, allows protests and movements to move rapidly the Occupy movement is a strong example of this
However, although social media protests can be highly decentralised and participatory, without leadership they can struggle to produce demands or negotiate with those in power as seen in the Arab Spring
The Occupy movement begun when people occupied Zuccotti Park beside Wall Street in New York on 17/11/2011, although organising meetings had been previously held
Occupys initial motivation was to protest corporate influence over democracy, beginning with the slogan We are the 99%
Occupy soon became an international movement, including Occupy London outside of St.Pauls Cathedral, and is evidence of the abilityof social media to transcend location
Do you feel part of the 99%?
Through direct action as part of a global movement, Occupy sought to evoke collective solidarity amongst the majority
The Occupy movement has been defined by its non-hierarchical organisation and a commitment to participatory democracy, which required the physical presence of activists
The group has also refused to posit specific alternatives and demands, which has been the subject of significant criticism
Whilst the momentum of the movement has slowed considerably, at the time it tapped into popular dissent over economic conditions and bankers
The movement was also one of the first in the Western world to utilise the potential of social media
Through this use of social media the initially small occupy movement was able to mobilise activists outside of the mainstream media
Social media also allowed the ideas to change through participation and spread to other parts of the country
Occupy demonstrated how a counter-hegemonic cause could challenge dominant government, corporate and mass-media messages, this time predominately through Facebook
Nonetheless participation was far higher amongst the young, particularly college students
Occupy sought to create connections through social media, but required a physical presence to be successful
The occupations produced strong reactions from authorities, often arresting protestors and clearing sites of activists
These clearance were often violent and solidarity required strong commitment from the activists
Such was the necessity of maintaining social media contact, the Occupiers used a stationary bike to fuel battery chargers (Deborah Gambs, 2012)
That they didnt want to leave to charge phones, but required phones to maintain the movements, demonstrates the difficult balance of the movement
Have you ever felt motivated to engage in any form of
The Arab Spring was a series of political uprisings in the Arab world
These begun in Tunisia with the death of a street trader and most notably spread to Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen
These movements were built on mass demonstrations, occupations and direct action
Building on the movements in Moldova and Iran in 2009, the Arab Spring was the first widespread revolutionary movement engaged with social media According to Emma Hall, Facebook users in Egypt increased from 450,000 to 3
million in the six months following the revolution, and have now risen to 5 million
Government censorship in the Middle East had made control of
information one of the most powerful weapons
Protestors were able to communicate with each other outside of the state and gain a wider audience through collective solidarity, but also act as citizen journalists for the rest of the world
For many journalists, the most direct information in chaotic situations comes from social media, particularly following popular hashtags such as #iranrevolution
Indeed, during the attempted Iranian revolution of 2009, the majority of the tweets were from the Western world
Whilst those invested in the events and engaged with social media might investigate social media for themselves, we still rely on mass media reproductions of these events
Social media allows for potentially greater control of the message by activist, even though the most influential information comes from a small range of sources
Because internet access was often shut down, information often came from key nodal points outside of the protests and these key tweeters and media organisations dominated the discussion and were most often retweeted
Information via social media user is by definition partial and it can be very difficult to capture the full story as it is difficult to trust internet sources and rumours often spin out of control, and thus trusted sources remain dominant
Nonetheless, access to social media was a powerful tool against state propaganda and control of information during the Arab Spring
Getting physical in Egypt
Alex Choudhary argued social media was a powerful device for establishing emotional connections amongst demonstrators in Egypt by sharing stories
Twitter and YouTube in particular were able to convey counter-hegemonic messages
Yet, it is easy to exaggerate the impact of social media
How social was the Arab Spring?
Social media usage is particularly low [.26% in Egypt] in Arab countries leading to the possibility of a Dissident Elite that is not representative of the general population
As twitter usage is very low in poorer countries (Tunis 0.10%, Libya 0.07% and Yemen 0.02%) and in censored regions such as China, these methods of social protest may not be available to those who might need it the most
Social activism requires a deep commitment (strong ties) and social movements have always built from person to person communication, as well as through mass media
Most of the gains made can be attributed to the physical presence of protestors in the face of government violence
The problems of elite resistance, along with creating positive demands, were very evident in the Arab Spring
The internet is often said to bring in a whole new wave of means of social resistance and political participation
The other side of digital activism is clicktivism in which internet users can engage in passive resistance (slacktivism) by liking pages or signing petitions
This form of engagement makes us feel like we are participating and resisting without actually having to do anything
Estimate how many social media connections you have
Who would you sacrifice anything for the rest?
Whilst resistance is an everyday occurrence, some forms have more capacity to disrupt power
Resistance through participation is embedded within democratic systems
Digital protest has changed the dimensions of resistance, but generally requires a physical presence
DIVIDING THE FUTURE: INFORMATION, ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT
+ COURSE REVIEW (1HR)
Payne, G. (2006) Social Divisions as a Sociological Perspective. In G. Payne (Ed.) Social Divisions (second edition), Basingstoke: Macmillan.