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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2014

2 - Killing Social Movements from the Outside and the Inside


Although research has advanced our understanding of demobilization a great deal, existing scholarship has not really acknowledged that the factors outside of social movement organizations could interact with factors inside SMOs to kill them (e.g., Connable and Libicki 2010; for important exceptions, see Martin and Dixon 2010; McLaughlin and Pearlman 2012). Within this chapter, I wish to develop this newer, third way to think about how social movement organizations are demobilized. To guide this discussion, I initially overlay the two types of influences described in the last chapter (three external and five internal). Doing this reveals fifteen distinct combinations, which will be discussed here. The combinations most relevant to the current book are those involving state repression. These combinations are important not only for what they tell us about how SMOs are influenced; they also serve to guide us in what we should look for when examining the topic, because most of those involved in challenging governments have some idea of what these combinations are and develop countermeasures to offset their negative effects. Similarly, in an effort to counter the countermeasures, governments engage in activities to weaken social movement resilience to their efforts, thereby facilitating social movement demise. As I discuss, not all efforts put forward by the different actors “work” (i.e., achieve their objectives – at least in the short term), and thus the interaction continues back and forth until one side has the advantage. The chapter concludes by outlining different scenarios as well as the dynamic interplay between state and challenger activities and counteractivities. Additionally, I identify some likely trajectories of challenger survival and demobilization.

Killing Movements

As conceived, most of the intersections between internal and external factors in social movement demobilization identified in the following are straightforward (Table 2.1). Moreover, most of them are explicitly intended by political authorities who attempt to exacerbate perceived limitations within challenger institutions. This does not mean that governments are all powerful and succeed in these efforts. Indeed, unintended consequences are more than possible. Rather, it means that the relevant authority intends to facilitate those internal-external intersections.

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