What Will Spark Real Change?

We know that great, revolutionary social movements are sparked by extreme discontent surrounding a variety of maladies. Yet many also often surround a single, large disaster that pushes the people over the edge.

The Russian Revolution was tipped off by the exceeding losses that the Russians were suffering on the eastern front during the first World War. The French Revolution was inflamed by the high prices of bread in Paris due to monarchy mismanagement (This was even somewhat due to the investment Louis 16th made into our cause in the American War for Independence.

What am I getting at? The question I am proposing is if there are any calamities in the foreseeable future that may push capitalist countries over the edge?

Sure, we have growing inequality which has exploded ever since 1975 (the end of the post WWII period) that is only going to get worse and worse according to Thomas Piketty’s work Capital in the 21st Century (this link is to a free.pdf copy of the book; It’s a must read if you are concerned with issues of economic inequality). But will that be enough or does one single event have to occur to move the people toward real change?

A few ideas I have is maybe a skyrocketing of fuel prices due to some foolish military action in the Middle East that everyone perceives as folly. Or perhaps a constitutional crisis, such as a U.S. President refusing to leave office after a lost election, or after his/her two terms are up. Perhaps, as Piketty also predicts, there will be a cycle of recession/depression after recession/depression occurring now that the golden years of 1913 to 1975 are over. But that one would be more of a gradual change unless one economic downturn would reach the level of the one of Weimar Germany.

Anyhow, I am not sure.

I invite the readers of this piece to offer up, first, if you think my theory is valid, and then if there is any form of disastrous phenomenon you see as a catalyst for real, radical change in the future? I look forward to your comments.

Demonstration against G8 Summit in Le Havre We just wanted to re-post that we have provided the inaugural paper for our “New Work” section here at Sparking The Left: a brief primer on social movement theory from a sociological perspective.

Social movement theory is an important topic, and all those engaged in activism stand to learn a great deal from it. There is a vibrant academic community rigorously analyzing social movements and much is still to be learned. Yet, this is only a primer that will get you thinking about social movements and the dynamics present within and inside of the milieu around them.

It is an academic paper with cited sources from peer-reviewed journals, but do not be intimidated. I made it as accessible as possible.

You will be able to find the piece in its entirety beneath the “New Work” tab at the top of the STL homepage, but you can find the introduction below:

Below you will find a brief introduction to social movement (SM) theory and its main tenets from a sociological perspective. I include the three dynamics that serve as the foundation in the studies of SMs today: resource mobilization theory, political process theory, and framing processes. Hopefully this paper will inspire you to do some of your own research if you plan on engaging in contentious politics. I believe that all actors practicing collective action would be much aided with such a line of research.

All of the referenced material here can either be found in a downloadable .pdf format at Google Scholar or cited for reading at your local university’s library.