Protest Wave or Protest Spike?

An Examination of European Protest Activity, 2008–2012

in Contention
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Abstract

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.

Contributor Notes

Matthew Schoene is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Albion College. His research focuses on protest activity in a cross-national framework, with a special focus on how cities facilitate social movement activity, especially in the European Union. He is also actively working on projects examining institutional distrust using both European and global datasets. Email: mschoene@albion.edu

Contention

The Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest

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