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category: peer-reviewed article

title |

May Day Demonstrations in Five European Countries

author(s) | Abby Peterson, Mattias Wahlström, Magnus Wennerhag, Camilo Christancho and José-Manuel Sabucedo

journal | Mobilization

publication year | 2012     volume | 17     issue | 3

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keywords | Corporatism, May Day, Political Opportunity Structures, Political Rituals, Protest Survey

abstract | In this paper, we argue that there is an element of rituality in all political demonstrations. This rituality can be either primarily oriented towards the past and designed to consolidate the configuration of political power—hence official—or oriented towards the future and focused on challenging existing power structures—hence oppositional. We apply this conceptual framework in a comparison of May Day demonstrations in Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK in 2010. The demonstrations display significant differences in terms of officiality and oppositionality. Our study provides strong evidence that these differences cannot be explained solely—if at all—by stable elements of the national political opportunity structures. Instead, differences in degrees of oppositionality and officiality among May Day demonstrations should be primarily understood in terms of cultural traditions in combination with volatile factors such as the political colour of the incumbent government and the level of grievances.

country project | The Netherlands

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