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A collection of free coloring books from libraries and museums

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Library Coloring Books

Library Coloring Books

Library Coloring Books

Library Coloring Books

A bunch of libraries and museums have banded together for the Color Our Collections campaign, offering up free coloring books that let you color artworks from their collections. Participating institutions include the NYPL, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the Smithsonian, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford.

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mindspillage
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Mountain View, California
ashaw
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The Thousand Day Reich: The Double Movement

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This is the second in a series of projected posts that try to look at the Trump administration and right wing populism through the lens of different books (the first – on civil society – is here). The last post was mostly riffing on Ernest Gellner. Today, it’s another middle-European exile intellectual – Karl Polanyi.

Karl Polanyi’s key book, The Great Transformation has enjoyed a big revival in the last decade. This Dissent article by Patrick Iber and Mike Konczal provides a great summary. Their article – from last year – was intended primarily to frame a discussion of differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. However, as Iber and Konczal suggest in passing, Polanyi would not have been surprised by Trump. Why not? In part, because Polanyi offers a macro-level account of the changing relationship between society and economy, and how efforts to free the economy from the embrace of social relations become self-undermining.

In Polanyi’s argument, the economy is ‘socially embedded.’ This means that economic transactions and relationships aren’t separate from society – they are part of it. Efforts to free the market from society and make it self-regulating are not only utopian, but are likely to have disastrous consequences. For Polanyi, the liberal market societies that sprung up in countries such as Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and spread across the world, are not rooted in some natural propensity to ‘truck, barter and exchange one thing for another.’ Instead, they are an unnatural extrusion – the result of a doomed effort to separate out the market from the society that constitutes it, turning nature and social relations like labour into artificial commodities to be bought, sold and exchanged.

This is rooted in Polanyi’s understanding of economic history, which discusses other ways in which the economy has worked (an aside: a substantial portion of the work of the Nobel prize winning economist Doug North can be read as an extended effort to prove Polanyi wrong). It also leads to his famous (among social scientists) argument about the ‘double movement.’ Polanyi argues that efforts to disembed markets from their social supports leads to a backlash from ‘Society,’ which looks to re-embed market relations within a social context.

This effort to re-embed social relations can take both benign and malign forms. Polanyi was a social democrat. He wanted to roughly map out a set of social protections that could restrain the harmful effects of markets, effectively re-embedding them within a set of social protections. Yet his book was first published in 1944, and he was equally concerned with the malign ways in which Society might re-embed markets. He saw the economic crises of the 1930s as a product of disembedded markets and the gold standard. This led to direct political confrontations between workers – immiserated by lower wages and capitalists who had “built industry into a fortress from which to lord the country” (p.235). Economic and political paralysis provided ideal conditions for fascism to succeed: “Fear would grip the people, and leadership be thrust upon those who offered an easy way out at whatever ultimate price” (p. 236).

Polanyi believed that fascism had little to do with the outcomes of World War I, and depended for success more on the sympathies of the powerful than on any true mass movement. At least as important as an actual fascist movement “were the spread of irrationalist philosophies, racialist esthetics, anticapitalist demagogy, heterodox currency views, criticism of the party system, widespread disparagement of the ‘regime’ or whatever was the name given to the existing democratic set-up” (p.238). More broadly, ‘[f]ascism, like socialism, was rooted in a market society that refused to function’ (p.239). The more market crisis, the better fascism prospered, since it purportedly offered a way to re-embed markets within social structures, albeit at the cost of human freedom.

Thus, for Polanyi, the key challenge was to re-embed markets in society in a healthy rather than pernicious fashion. This would involve social protections and the restoration of the primacy of society over the economic system, so that “the market system would no longer be self-regulating” (p. 251). Governments would cooperate more, while retaining the freedom to organize their national life as they wanted, rather than being strangled by the need to maintain an artificial currency standard. The valuable aspects of liberal society – specifically, the civil liberties, private enterprise and wage system which sprung up from nineteenth century liberalism – would have to be maintained through persistent efforts to ensure that every move to strengthen society be accompanied by a move to strengthen individual freedom.

Polanyi’s arguments provided many post World War II social democrats with a set of intellectual tools to understand and justify the world that was being created. They suggested that European social democracy, rather than being a way station on the path to true revolution, was an end-state, and arguably a more attractive end-state than exemplars of post-revolutionary society such as the USSR and China. In domestic politics, national governments instituted the welfare state and other social protections. In international politics, scholars such as John Ruggie argued in the 1980s that the post World War II economic order provided a kind of ‘embedded liberalism’ of the kind recommended by Polanyi.

They also provide, potentially a diagnosis of what has gone wrong since the 1980s. Embedded liberalism is dead, and neo-liberalism has triumphed in its place. Mark Blyth’s book, Great Transformations, is an explicit updating of Polanyi. It documents how intellectuals and business leaders brought through an intellectual, social and economic transformation, deliberately intended to undermine embedding institutions, and reinstitute market freedoms in their place. The world of the last twenty years has seen an extraordinary transformation. International markets do not any more have an equivalent of the gold standard (although the euro served quite well in its place in the European Union), yet they create their own disciplining apparatuses that subordinate national economies to international markets. Traditional social protections haven’t been gutted, but they have been greatly weakened.

As Piketty and others have documented, the benefits of globalization have flowed, to a vastly disproportionate extent, to those who were already rich. Unions have been crippled, often quite deliberately. Traditional labor markets have been hollowed out, leaving working class people exposed to uncertain and often miserable futures. Just like the nineteenth and early twentieth century paupers and workers that Polanyi discusses, modern workers and members of the lower middle class find themselves exposed to an unrestrained market, that seems intent on ripping out the social bulwarks that used to protect them.

Hence, a straightforward Polanyian account of Trump and right wing populism would explain it as a backlash to the renewed efforts of market liberals (or neoliberals in market parlance) to free the economy from the social restraints that make it bearable for human beings. It would argue that we are again seeing a ‘double movement,’ as right wing populist politicians take advantage of popular anger to restore a social and moral order which may look appalling to liberal eyes, but which reinstitutes (or, at least, claims to reinstitute) much desired social protections.

Fred Block and Peggy Somers provided such an account a couple of years ago, where they foresaw the threat of resurgent right wing populism. Their analysis is worth quoting in extenso

Polanyi argued that the devastating effects on society’s most vulnerable brought on by market crises (such as the Great Depression in the 1930s) tends to generate counter movements as people struggle to defend their livelihoods, their neighborhoods, and their cultures from the destructive forces of marketization. The play of these opposing dynamics is the double movement, and it always involves the effort to remobilize political power to tame the apparent over-extension of market forces. The great danger Polanyi alerts us to, however, is that mobilizing politics to protect against markets run wild is just as likely to be reactionary and conservative, as it is to be progressive and democratic. Whereas the American New Deal was Polanyi’s example of a democratic counter movement, fascism was the classic instance of a reactionary counter-movement; it provided protection to some while utterly destroying democratic institutions.

This helps us to understand the tea party as a response to the uncertainties and disruptions that free market globalization has brought to many white Americans, particularly in the South and Midwest. When people demonstrate against Obamacare with signs saying “Keep Your Government Hands off My Medicare,” they are trying to protect their own health care benefits from changes that they see as threatening what they have. When they express deep hostility to immigrants and immigration reform, they are responding to a perceived threat to their own resources—now considerably diminished from outsourcing and deindustrialization. Polanyi teaches us that in the face of market failures and instabilities we must be relentlessly vigilant to the threats to democracy that are often not immediately apparent in the political mobilizations of the double movement.

We just saw in the European elections that right-wing, seemingly fringe parties, came in first in France and the U.K. This is a response to the continuing austerity policies of the European Community that have kept unemployment rates high and blocked national efforts to stimulate stronger growth. It might still be largely a protest vote—a signal to the major parties that they need to abandon austerity, create jobs, and reverse the cuts in public spending. But unless there are some serious initiatives at the European Community and the global level to chart a new course, we can expect that the threat from the nationalist and xenophobic right will only grow stronger.

The best evidence for this perspective comes from the rhetoric of Trump and other right wing populists. Trump’s rhetoric differs from traditional Republicanism in that it isn’t as viscerally hostile to social protections (at least social protections that Trump supporters don’t associate with African Americans and immigrants). He welds together a detestation for foreigners with anger towards a perceived cosmopolitan elite, and a promise to protect ordinary Americans from both. Irrationalist philosophies. Racialist esthetics. Anticapitalist demagogy. Heterodox currency views. Criticism of the party system. Widespread disparagement of the ‘regime.’ Und so weiter.

Orban and Kaczynski, pari passu, offer much the same blend. So, for that matter, does Theresa Mayin a watered down form. They may or may not deliver on their rhetoric (Trump’s anti-Wall Street fervor, for example, has miraculously disappeared after his election), but each bases their appeal on it.

There are different flavors of Polanyian thought. Iber and Konczal represent a left-leaning social democratic flavor, that is in line with the Sanders wing of the Democratic party, and look to build bridges with those further to the left. Other Polanyians like Sheri Berman are more attracted to a moderate version, which builds more directly on the European example, and are skeptical of anti-system versions of leftism. Polanyian arguments involve compromise between a left critique of markets and a more centrist defense of liberalism. Different writers strike the compromise in different places.

This also has implications for how one analyses Trump and other populists. For example, Berman argues that the dangers of right wing populism depends to a very great extent on the strength of existing liberal institutions and practices, and the willingness of others to oppose Trump (just as traditional fascism depended for its success on the willingness of ‘establishment’ conservatives to strike a deal).

Polanyi’s arguments about great transformations differ from civil society oriented approaches like Gellner’s in some important ways. Gellner is, in the end, on the side of the cosmopolitans – he prefers a detached and ironic liberalism to more traditionalist versions of identity, and believes that it is crucially linked to the thought system that has given rise to science and the partial mastery of nature (even if he prefers to maintain a quasi-ironic stance towards that thought system too). Civic nationalism, for Gellner, is the homage that virtue pays towards vice – an identity politics homeopathically diluted so as to make it stronger in some ways (people remain oriented to the general interest of a larger collective), but weaker in others (they are also capable of maintaining and moving between other forms of identification). Polanyi, in contrast, values community attachment and accompanying ‘thick’ notions of society as good things in their own right. While he also sees great virtue in some aspects of liberalism, he seeks always to prevent it from overwhelming society, both because of the devastation that it wreaks itself, and the corresponding devastation that may be wreaked by Society taking its revenge.

This makes Polanyi attractive to two, somewhat different, strains of modern argument on the left. The first – closer to the center – is a strand of communitarianism, which similarly looks to reconcile the values of liberalism and community order. The second is a more strongly left leaning social democratism, which is indirectly influenced by Marx and friendly to Marxian thought, but which looks to find a different set of intellectual ancestors than those of the Marxist tradition.

The weakness of traditional Polanyian thought is twofold. First, modern conditions are not the same as those identified by Polanyi in the 1930s. There isn’t a stalemate between the workers and the capitalists (the capitalists seemed mostly to have won). Second, the mechanisms that Polanyi identifies are notably vague. To argue that ‘Society’ strikes back against the ‘Market’ is to identify an already indistinct relationship between two indistinctly defined abstracts. There is arguably something very important in there, somewhere. However, without further specificity, it is hard to make concrete arguments about what is going to happen when, let alone to build on these arguments towards successful action.

One possible way forward is offered in a new paper (non-paywalled until the end of May at Review of International Political Economy) by Blyth and Matthias Matthijs. As noted before, Blyth’s first book riffed explicitly on Polanyi, while drawing out a separate set of arguments about the relationship between ideas and institutions, and how this explained the senescence of embedded liberalism as well as its birth. This paper, in contrast, is not a development of Polanyi’s arguments so much as an effort to do what Polanyi did in the 1940s. Blyth and Matthijs use current events to come to a systemic understanding of changes in the world economy, changes in domestic economies, and how they are related to each other.

They argue, more or less, that the international economic order tends at any one moment in time to have a specific ‘regime’ – a set of ‘policy targets’ or expected goals that actors within the system, look to achieve, and the institutions within which these targets are embedded. The problem, they argue, building on Kalecki’s thought and generalizing it, is that each regime contains the seeds of its own destruction. More precisely, each regime encourages actors within it to behave in ways that gradually make the regime politically unworkable.

Thus, after World War II, the regime of Western countries was oriented towards the policy target of achieving full employment. This, however, as Kalecki argued, meant that the median wage kept on rising, advantaging skilled workers, and disadvantaging business, which found it hard to ‘discipline’ labour, or maintain productivity. In turn then, private investment fell, and unemployment rose at the same time as inflation rose too – the so-called ‘stagflation’ of the 1970s. Kalecki predicted, rightly, that this would lead business and capitalists to start pushing actively for a more ‘orthodox’ set of policies which would move away from trying to maintain full employment, and towards cutting deficits instead.

Blyth and Matthijs argue that this is indeed what happened, giving rise to neoliberalism. The neoliberal regime identified the key problem of the previous regime, inflation, as its major policy target. And indeed, advanced industrialized democracies have had relatively low inflation over the last thirty years. However, pursuit of this policy goal has its own problems. Neoliberalism too contains the seeds of its own demise, even if they are different seeds, and it is a different demise.

If the previous era was a debtor’s paradise, where inflation made it cheaper to pay back debts, Blyth and Matthijs identify the current order as a creditor’s paradise where the real value of debt is maintained (on the struggle between creditors and debtors, see also James Buchan’s wonderful and neglected book on money, Frozen Desire). Thus, the current regime is pursuing a “policy of price stability in an environment of wage stagnation and rising debt levels driven by the [regime] itself” (p. 22). Stagnant wages and low job security led people to borrow money to retain their ability to consume, helping lead to the financial crisis. The policy responses to this crisis – which have boosted returns to asset holders, while imposing austerity on others – have not eased the systemic problems of the new regime, but rather worsened them.

This (combined with the supine response of the center left to these problems) is what is leading to the new populism that is threatening to overwhelm the existing system – the “anti-creditor pro-debtor political coalitions that have been systematically eating away at mainstream center-left and center-right party vote shares since the crisis.” The political success of Trump, and politicians like him, is the consequence of endogenous breakdown within the regime.

Blyth and Matthijs’s account differs from Polanyi’s in some very important ways. The key dynamic is not ‘Society’ striking back at the ‘Market.’ Instead, it is a more specific set of actors, whose interests are largely determined by the situation that they find themselves in, and how that situation changes as the dynamics of a given regime become self-undermining (in the sense that they erode the underlying foundations of the regime) at the same time as they are self-reinforcing (in the sense that the core actors try to keep the system going through increasingly desperate measures. It also is, as they note, exploratory rather than dispositive. What it does is to usefully show how Polanyi’s basic intuitions – that the neo-liberal project of market creation is inherently self-undermining – can be applied to a far more specific set of actors, and specific set of mechanisms entraining those actors, than described in Polanyi’s own work.

(Updated to include many small fixes and a couple of clarifications. Updated again to include Block and Somers quote which really should have been there in the first place).

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ashaw
76 days ago
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Here to Help

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"We TOLD you it was hard." "Yeah, but now that I'VE tried, we KNOW it's hard."
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ashaw
83 days ago
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mindspillage
83 days ago
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Mountain View, California
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vl
83 days ago
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Instead of algorithms it should be machine learning of course.
Seattle, WA
eraycollins
83 days ago
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Suggest having this strip at hand when reading Cathy O'Neil's book, Weapons of Math Destruction.
Covarr
83 days ago
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For the last time, Joe, an algorithm can't explain why kids love the taste of Cinnamon Toast Crunch!
Moses Lake, WA
chusk3
83 days ago
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My life in a nutshell
Austin, Texas
alt_text_bot
83 days ago
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"We TOLD you it was hard." "Yeah, but now that I'VE tried, we KNOW it's hard."
JayM
83 days ago
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ROFL. :)
Atlanta, GA

A Golden Age of Oral Histories

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Golden Girls is one of my ten favorite TV shows ever. Recently, the entire series came to Hulu. I went to find the terrific oral history of the show, published just last year… and it was gone. The entire publication and its website had folded.

Luckily, the writer (Drew Mackie) had saved a copy, and published it on his own site after the magazine went under. So we still have gems like this anecdote from writer Winifred Hervey:

Bea was always my favorite. I left after the third season, and that’s the year she won her Emmy for Best Actress. I was at the ceremony, and after she gave her speech she came over and said, “Winifred, did you hear I mentioned your name, you little twat?” She was mad because I left.

That Golden Girls oral history is part of why I’ve been thinking about how we might save and recirculate the best parts of the web. So many good things have already vanished. The web is resilient, but fragile, too.

Big, splashy, gossipy pop culture oral histories used to be pretty rare, online or off. Vanity Fair would publish one every once in a while; in 2009, the magazine collected nine of them from the previous decade, including great features on The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, Motown Records, and a galloping 50-year history of the entire internet, from ARPA to YouTube. Other magazines would do oral histories from time to time — GQ has had some terrific ones — but the real explosion begins in this decade, and it begins and ends on the web.

One of the first pieces Grantland published in 2011 was an oral history of The National, a writerly sports publication stacked with talent that could never make enough money and ended far too soon. (Message!) Right around then, a few really successful features helped kick off the boom.

Since then, my god — we have so many oral histories! Two years ago, Thrillist put together a list of 260 oral histories on music, movies, TV, and related pop culture alone. There are fake oral histories, “oral histories” that only interview two people, oral histories of things the writers profess to hate (trigger warning: autoplay), and oral histories of cult TV shows even more cultish side characters. (“In the end, I really liked Magnitude because I realized that the reason he calls himself Magnitude is because it stands for Magnetic Attitude.”)

But what are the histories you actually need to read? The Kottke Archives have links to and capsule summaries of no fewer than twenty-five oral histories, going back to 2008. These include histories of SXSW Interactive, the Challenger disaster, Freaks and Geeks, Cheers, Die Hard, and George Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic.

With these alone, you already have enough reading material to get you through this week and beyond. But since we’re saving these for aliens, our grandchildren, and our alien grandchildren, I’m going to add a few more. These are just some of my favorite oral histories that (as far as I can tell) have never appeared on Kottke.org.

That last oral history in particular shows you how much the web has changed over the last twelve years — i.e., about half its life. In 2005, Yacht Rock was a show that me and a few thousand other people were really excited about, and that was enough to make it a web sensation. You couldn’t even get it on YouTube, because YouTube barely existed. Web video series were not getting loving write-ups in prestigious magazines. Yet here we are.

Tags: best of the web   Golden Girls   oral history   paleoblogging   yacht rock
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ashaw
97 days ago
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deezil
96 days ago
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There's also this: http://andyhky.com/overthinking.htm?referred=true
Louisville, Kentucky

The Coffee Shaman

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Meet the man responsible for third-wave coffee—and the Frappuccino.



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ashaw
114 days ago
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asking the wrong questions about protest

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Originally published in Race, Politics, Justice About protest as a complex multi-actor field.

We social movement scholars are in the news a lot these days. There have been massive protests since the election of Donald Trump. Reporters want to know: will the protests be effective? Do protests work or are they just ego-trips of protesters? How can protesters be sure they can win? These are the wrong questions because they presuppose that people can just make the right choices and gain victory. 

To be sure, there are things that are correlated with the effects of protest, and many of my respected colleagues have obliged reporters by giving them some of the answers. The most important one is size: absolutely, yes, bigger and more sustained protests are more likely to get at least some of what they want than smaller more ephemeral protests. Non-violent protest is more likely to win than violent protest. Successful movements combine street protests with other strategies. Proactive protests (where the protesters have the initiative) are more likely to win than reactive protests (where the opposition has the initiative and the protesters are scrambling to keep up). Left out of the recent news coverage is another generalization I think is often important: moderate groups in a field where there are more radical groups are more likely to gain victories than comparably moderate groups where nobody is more radical than they are (what we call “radical flank effects”).

But even these broad patterns are not always true: some very large and sustained protest movements that stay nonviolent, employ other strategies along with protest, and have radical flanks are still utterly defeated. Violence is sometimes effective, especially if your group is already strong or the violence works as a radical flank effect. Radical flanks help moderates win but not always: sometimes opponents successfully equate the whole movement with the radical flank. Small reactive protests sometimes achieve big victories. Even less consistent are other factors some scholars cite, like whether narrow or broad agendas or coalitions are more effective or whether and how to craft a message to it speaks to bystanders.

Bystanders are the people in the middle who are neither protesters nor their targets. The reactions of bystanders are often crucial. Will the protest win their sympathy or motivate them to join the movement? Or will it alienate them? Protest is often polarizing, challenging people to choose which side they are on. If the protest leads bystanders to choose the opponent’s side, it can backfire. And even when they don’t side with opponents, if bystanders dislike the protesters they may tolerate repression against them.

Although the disruptive anti-war protests of the late 1960s were important for pressuring the regime to scale back the Viet Nam War, they also alienated sizeable fractions of the US public. There was a significant fraction of the US population who opposed the war because US personnel were dying in it to no apparent purpose but who also opposed the anti-War protesters and their larger political and cultural ideologies. The wave of Black urban riots had the direct effect of increasing social welfare policies to calm things down and opening some doors for advancement via affirmative action and passage of anti-segregation laws, but also led to escalation police repression of Black communities and fed into the mass incarceration boom. The massive Wisconsin Uprising protests of 2011 ultimately failed to change policies enacted by the Republican Governor and Legislature and had the effect of increasing polarization and strengthening support for the Governor among those who were not opposed to him (i.e. hollowing out the middle).

All of these discussions also ignore structural power imbalances. This week’s anti-Trump protests basically pit two large majority groups against each other: White liberal Democrats and White conservative Republicans. The Republicans have gained control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress, but the Democrats also have substantial bases of power and are only recently out of power in the national government. The bases of other movements like Black Lives Matter or immigrant rights or transgender rights are smaller disadvantaged minorities. Smaller, weaker groups are much more likely to experience police repression if they protest disruptively, lack the raw numbers to have the same level of power as majority groups, need allies to win, and are more likely to suffer defeat no matter what they do.

Media cycles and protester fatigue matter, too. It has long been recognized that there are “media attention cycles.” Something is big news for a while, then news attention wears out on that issue and moves on to something else. Research shows that protests are less likely to make it into the news both before and after the spike in news coverage. The way news media portray the protest issue and the protesters is crucial to how it will affect bystanders. Businesses and civic actors that support or tolerate protest in the short run become weary of ongoing disruption and become more supportive of repressing protest the longer it lasts. One common finding is that police become more repressive toward protesters after the media attention cycle has turned away.

And the protesters themselves have to go home at some point. Unless the entire society has fallen apart and people have no homes or jobs, they will have to return to life maintenance activities. It is just not possible to be in the streets day after day, unless you have someone else taking care of your home front. Leaders of a white hot mobilization at some point look for a way to end the protest and claim at least a short term victory, before the protest collapses from exhaustion. Movements that want to sustain themselves for the long haul look for ways to take breaks and put rhythms into their protest. Teacher protesters in the 2011 Wisconsin uprising worked out a schedule of rotation for protest days because they knew people simply could not protest day after day. Protesters now are conveying messages to each other about how to maintain protest pressure while getting back to work and maintaining life and doing self-care.

Protest is always at least two-sided and typically multi-sided in its effects. Protest is a tool for the disempowered and those out of power to express dissent, to call attention to a grievance, to create pressure for policy change through disrupting institutions or systems, or to topple a regime through disruption or violence. Protest has produced large-scale social change. But the protesters are not the only actors in the system. That a group is protesting at all is usually a sign that it is in a weak or at least defensive position. People who already have power and privilege usually don’t protest because they don’t need to protest to get what they want. They just get it through the normal workings of the system, or through political control or back-stage lobbying. These powerful people do not just give up when they are the targets of protest, they look for ways to counter the protest. They try to ignore it, or trivialize it, or outlast it, or repress it. If the protest keeps going and seems to be winning, they will engage in ideological campaigns or promote counter-protests, or escalate the repression.

In a ball game, you know what things it takes to win, but it is still the case that every ball game has a loser. The outcome is a result of the relative strength of each side, but also luck and the ability to out-smart the other side and do something unexpected. A protest field is like a ball game in that the outcome depends on the interactions between the sides and elements of luck. Except that the protest field has 12 teams, each trying to win with a somewhat different vision of what winning would mean, employing a wide variety of different kinds of tactics, forming temporary coalitions with other teams, trying to out-guess and out-think those opposed to their interests, and having somewhat different ideas of what the legitimate rules of the game are. Protest is a complex chaotic system in which intentional human actors can and do change tactics in light of their predictions about what others will do. Even systems that follow the strict laws of physics, like the weather, are unpredictable when they involve a large number of independent probabilistic factors in complex nonlinear interactions. When you add human intentionality to the mix, you really cannot generate consistent precitions about outcomes.

Strategy always matters in this complex field, but it has to be a strategy that is constantly adapting to the actions of opponents and bystanders, seeking ways to gain allies and an advantage over opponents. It is easier to develop strategy in a proactive protest where you can take your time, quietly build support and alliances before going public, and work out clear demands. In a reactive protest where the opponent has the initiative, coalitions are cobbled together quickly among people with divergent goals and tactical repertories, communication and coordination are often poor, and everyone is arguing about what the best response is in the face of time pressures and uncertainty. They disagree about whether a particular response is appropriate or an overreaction. They are not sure where the mass of public opinion is or how to deploy their resources. In the current period, protesters are not sure whether they are facing an authoritarian coup or “merely” a weak and losing position in the normal game of democratic politics. This is not because they are stupid and have failed to study the playbook. It is because there are too many uncertainties in the game.




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ashaw
168 days ago
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