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When Uprisings Aren’t Spontaneous: The Wisconsin Uprising as a product of movements in struggle

  • Author(s): Manski, Ben;
  • Advisor(s): Flacks, Richard;
  • et al.

The Wisconsin Uprising not only was the early riser of the U.S. protest wave of 2011, it was highly militant and the largest and most broadly based of those mobilizations. Nonetheless, the full meaning of Wisconsin continues to be lost to scholars and activists alike. The Wisconsin Uprising provides a classic case for studying the process and consequences of movement building, and stands for the proposition that the conscious movement building activities of activists matter. I draw on interviews and archival research as well as my personal history as a protagonist in the popular movements of Wisconsin over 25 years. I show how key elements of the Wisconsin Uprising were constructed in the greater period of struggle that began in the early 1990s, arguing that the wave of 2011 was a product of purposive actions in the course of that struggle. In so doing, I introduce a theoretical framework for explaining the trajectories and outcomes of “movements in struggle” and takes lessons for future social movement action.

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