Why do people protest? Give as many reasons as you can but make sure you are thinking about “reasons” in a general sense (i.e. excluding specific reasons for a certain social protest in a certain place). In your view, are social protests constructive or destructive to a nation’s politics and society?
A protest is an expression or declaration whereby a person expresses a personal objection or disapproval of an act (Lehman & Phelps, 2005). It is a one-off incident and is a form of collective action and of social movement at the same time. Protests can take place in many ways, such as street protests, petitions, boycotts and demonstrations. It is about how to mobilize strangers which all have a specific and shared claim concerning a specific issue to come out and protest against an institution. In the protests, the claims have to be a concrete demand and promoted and framed for a higher cause, like linked to the core values of a society so that it is strong enough to mobilize people to stand for that claim.
The main reason why people protest is that protest is a mean for people to present their claims concerning specific issues. Protestors will stop and their protests will not go on once their demands are satisfied. Firstly, according to Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, people rebel and protest because of the existence of class conflicts and class struggles, either between the bourgeois and the proletariats or the proletariats and the communists (Tucker, 1978). In the case of the bourgeois and the proletariats, the bourgeois are the oppressors and the proletariats are being oppressed. As the bourgeois own most of the mean of production, the proletariats have to work for them. The class struggle between the bourgeois and proletariats are described by Marx as “against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeoisie and its rule” (Tucker, 1978). Marx believes that class struggle is the dividing force behind history. The Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 is an example of protests because of class struggle between the working class and the capitalists. The working class was in conflict with the capitalists because they own most of the means of production, which led to income equality in the United States (Los Angeles Times, 2012). The protest started in Wall Street, New York and later spread to other states and even other countries.
Secondly, Ted Gurr (1970) suggests that relative deprivation and mass mentality is another reason for why people protest. In this case, people are comparing what they get against what they expected to get. Nowadays, democracy is seen as a “better” system and people have high expectations and hopes on the system. If the amount or quality of the things they are getting at the end is too different from what people were expecting. People’s anger is based on a feeling that they are being deprived. Also, Gurr (1970) suggested that it is not individual anger that costs protests, instead protests are caused by the anger of a mass. The anger towards a specific issue is based on mass mentality, not individual anger.
The Resource Mobilization theory emphasizes on the mobilization of people and acquisition of resources. Unlike the class struggle and relative deprivation theories, which are based on feelings, the resource mobilization theory gives a more rational explanation on why people protest. Connections, resources and leadership are the main elements of a protest. Gaining support from other countries is also important.
Lastly, cultural backgrounds and education can be a cause of protest. According to Elizabeth Perry (2008), using the example of the nonviolent strike in Anyuan and the deep roots of Communism in Anyuna, education definitely play a role in initiating protests. Originally a town with mostly illiterate workers, Mao visited Anyuan and found people there were interested in getting education. As a teacher, Mao gave...
Bibliography: Gurr, Ted. (1970). Why Men Rebel. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Lehman, Jeffery & Phelps, Shirelle. (2005). Protest: West’s Encyclopedia of American Law. Retrieved from http://law-journals-books.vlex.com/vid/protest-51574356?ix_resultado=1.0&query%5Bbuscable_id%5D=2707&query%5Bbuscable_type%5D=Fuente&query%5Bfilters_order%5D=source&query%5Bq%5D=protest
Los Angeles Times. (2012, Jan 2). Occupy Wall Street. Retrieved from http://timelines.latimes.com/occupy-wall-street-movement/
Perry, Elizabeth J. (2008). Reclaiming the Chinese Revolution. The Journal of Asian Studies, 67, 1147-1164.
Tucker, Robert C. (1978). The Marx-Engels Reader. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Zhao, Shirley. (2012, Sept 8). Record-high turnout for anti-national education protests
. Retrieved from http://www.timeout.com.hk/big-smog/features/53078/record-high-turnout-for-anti-national-education-protests.html
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