Protest Wave or Protest Spike?

An Examination of European Protest Activity, 2008–2012

in Contention

Recent scholarly attention has designated European protest activity from 2011 to 2013 a “protest wave,” a term with specific sociological meaning. While many European countries indeed experienced a period of unrest, I argue that for protest activity to be considered a wave, the protest in question must be significantly higher than normative levels of participation. To this end, I conceptualize national protest culture as an explanatory factor for recent protest activity. Using the European Social Survey, a series of multilevel mixed effects regression models for 22 countries demonstrates that the most powerful predictor of protest in 2012 is the protest rate for each country in 2008. I therefore question this period’s designation as a protest wave and instead choose to refer to it as a set of discrete protest spikes.

Contention

The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest