Glee and grievance in nonviolent resistance

In the study of nonviolent resistance, it is commonly accepted that mass mobilisation increases the likelihood that a social movement will realise its objectives. Thus, scholars are interested in the causes of campaign escalation and size. To explain variation on those fronts, previous studies have tended to point to structural determinants, such as the presence of political opportunities that allow for mass mobilisation and/or the availability of resources that facilitate the organisation of a large-scale nonviolent protest.

In this study, we shift the focus to an exploration of motivations. In so doing, we echo debates over whether ‘greed and/or grievance’ motivate mobilisation for violent insurgency by exploring whether sentiments of ‘glee and/or grievance’ prompt actors to participate in nonviolent resistance movements. Our assumption is that individuals can derive ‘gleeful’ feelings of empowerment, solidarity, or joy by participating in certain kinds of (festive) nonviolent movements. Where that is the case, they will have an active interest in participating, rather than free-riding on the efforts of others, since they will only be able to enjoy the benefits of ‘glee’ by being present at protests and actively contributing to campaign activities.

We are testing this claim by adding indicators of glee to the dataset on Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns and Outcomes (NAVCO) 2.1, and then assessing whether glee in the early stages of protest movements is associated with a subsequent escalation of movements.

John Gledhill
Associate Professor of Global Governance
Allard Duursma
ETH Zurich
Christopher Shay
Harvard Kennedy School