What Makes Protest Powerful? Reintroducing and Elaborating Charles Tilly's WUNC Concept.
23 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 1, 2017
What makes protest powerful? Prevailing theoretical and empirical accounts of protest impact stress the importance of a favorable context — an advantageous opportunity structure — to explain social movement success. This study presents an alternative and complementary theoretical perspective, stressing the agency of social movements in producing wanted outcomes. We argue that protest matters in part because of the features it displays, altering the calculations of observers of protest. The theoretical framework we put forward reintroduces and elaborates Charles Tilly’s WUNC concept. Tilly’s idea is straightforward — protestors who succeed to come across as worthy, united, numerous and committed are more likely to exert influence. We integrate Tilly’s scattered writings on WUNC, embed the concept in the broader social movement literature, explain why the WUNC components matter and clarify how they relate to each other. We conclude this theoretical contribution by sketching the contours of a research program that can empirically tackle the presented WUNC framework. By more firmly grounding the WUNC concept, we aim to spur debate on how movements matter.
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