Social control of crowds

There is a pretty high level of social protest taking place in France today. Strikes and demonstrations are taking place in many cities, involving students, faculty, workers, and other ordinary people. (Here is a recent news roundup dated March 19, 2009, on strikes, demonstrations, and manifs in the past month or so, and here is …

Acting as a group

What is involved in acting as a group? What is the difference between a crowd of pedestrians crossing Mass Ave in Cambridge when the light changes and a group of students marching into Harvard Hall in an attempt to initiate a protest? How about the difference between a group of history graduate students pursuing research …

Labor protest in China

C.K. Lee’s book, Against the Law: Labor Protests in China's Rustbelt and Sunbelt, is a very important contribution to the sociology of contemporary China. The field needs this kind of innovative and theoretically adept work. And one of the great strengths of the research is the fact that it takes the Chinese context seriously in …

Why does unrest spread?

Why does social unrest occur and spread?This is a little bit of a trick question. It really implies three questions: What are the circumstances that make unrest in a population possible or likely? What circumstances need to occur in order to precipitate expressions of unrest in particular places? And what circumstances are conducive to spreading …

Unequal polities

Most nations are at least nominally based on the idea of the legal equality of all citizens. This commitment provides a salient pathway through which even the most disadvantaged groups can pursue their goal of achieving greater equality for themselves and their communities, consistent with the defining values of the nation. Some countries, however, have …

Social progress in India?

How much social progress has India made since Independence sixty years ago? According to economist V. K. Ramachandran, not very much when it comes to life in the countryside. (Hear my interview with Ramachandran on iTunes and on my web page.) Ramachandran gives a profile of the social problems faced by India at the time …

Power and violence in China

Several recent postings on this blog have focused on power. Ultimately power depends upon a threat of violence. And recent reports from China have thrown the spotlight on the use of violence against innocent citizens who are challenging one aspect of power or another. The photo at left is taken from a news story reporting …

The power of the authoritarian state

If any collective entity possesses power, surely it is the state in a dictatorship – the Burmese military dictatorship or the single-party states of Cuba or China. So how does an authoritarian state exercise power?It is common to equate power with the ability to coerce and threaten in order to compel behavior. And certainly force …

Collective behavior and resource mobilization theory

The study of collective behavior and social movements has been a central sub-discipline of sociology since the 1970s. This is understandable for several reasons -- first, because collective behavior is inherently an important sociological process, and second, because the 1960s and 1970s witnessed particularly significant social movements in the US and other parts of the …

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