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Political Mass Strikes: A Study in Class-based Collective Action, 1919-2010

  • Author(s): Chirino, Fernando Cortés
  • Advisor(s): Stepan-Norris, Judith
  • et al.
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Political mass strikes are understudied modes of collective action despite their being dynamic mobilizations and their growing usage around the world to challenge capitalist globalization. Traditional conceptions of social movements underemphasize the extent to which class relations and position in the world-system structure political opportunities. The study of political mass strikes, as uniquely powerful class-based collective action, reveals the importance of reintroducing issues of political-economy into social movements research. To examine the social origins and determinants of political mass strikes, I use a mixed-methods approach that includes both comparative case studies and statistical analyses. Arthur Banks' Cross-National Time-Series provides one of the largest, comprehensive data sets collecting national-level information on political mass strikes (i.e. strikes that involve at least 1,000 workers who are employed by at least two different employees and that target the State, its authority, or its policies) around the world between 1919 and 2010.

Using bootstrapped negative binomial regressions, I find that core countries experience significantly more political mass strikes than countries in the periphery and semi-periphery. However, this effect decreases over time as the majority of political mass strikes occurring after 1975 occur in the periphery and, to a lesser extent, the semi-periphery due to the onset of neo-liberal capitalist globalization. In contrast to conventional social movement expectations of high-risk actions occurring in weak, non-democratic nations, I find that political mass strikes occur in states that are coherent democracies and have strong capacities to defend themselves militarily from internal and external challengers. Comparative case studies of the five countries with the largest quantities of political mass strikes further reveal that political mass strikes have historically concentrated in nations with histories of military dictatorship and fascism. Lastly, I find that political mass strikes are significantly associated with economic crisis (i.e. unemployment) but not with higher concentrations of social movement organizations (i.e. unions).

These findings strongly suggest that the occurrence of political mass strikes is highly dependent on the class character of the state (i.e. the degree to which the state has adopted the functions of capitalist accumulation) and the state's regulation of and intervention in the economy.

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This item is under embargo until March 10, 2021.