Katia Pilati

The concept of riot. Between crowd psychology and theories of collective action

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Riot; Collective Behavior; Protests; Collective Actions; Hegemony.

In the last decade we have witnessed a return of the use of riot as a category to define several protest events. This has occurred among media and political representatives, and among academics as well despite Tilly's warning against the use of such category. This article aims to examine some events identified as riots, and to reinterpret them in light of mainstream theories of collective actions. It first treats narrations equating protests with riots and identifies several dimensions linking these interpretations to the collective behavior perspective. It then considers the same events by drawing on the literature on collective actions. By focusing on the spontaneity and organization of protests, the article illustrates some empirical evidence on the Arab Uprisings. The results show that the interpretation of protests as riots is hegemonic to the degree that it marginalizes conflict by accusing the most peripheral sectors of societies to adopt unmotivated violence. By emphasizing the danger associated to such violence and the necessity to limit it, these interpretations contribute to the creation of consent among the population, with the aim of keeping social order and control, and build the basis of élites' own legitimacy.

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