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The Global Justice Movement: How Far Does the Classic Social Movement Agenda Go in Explaining Transnational Contention?

1 Jun 2006

  • Authors: Marco Giugni, Marko Bandler, Nina Eggert
  • Press Contact: Emanuel Wragg


This paper analyses the new form of contention represented by the global justice movement (GJM) through the lenses of the classic social movement agenda for explaining contentious politics.

The paper takes up each of the three core components of the classic agenda (political opportunities, mobilizing structures and framing processes) in order to ascertain their relevance for explaining transnational episodes of popular contention.

Underlying many analyses of the GJM and transnational contention is the idea of the emergence of a global civil society. A certain number of scholars argue that the new (transnational) “protest cycle” attests to the emergence of a “movement of movements”, and reflects a decline of nationally based forms of contention and the emergence of a global civil society.

The paper states that this view overlooks the crucial impact of a number of domestic factors and overstates the idea of an emerging transnational civil society. Every protest cycle rests on previous mobilizing structures and episodes of contention. To a large extent, protest activities that occur at the transnational level, such as those carried by the GJM, rely on networks of actors that are embedded within national arenas of contention.

The main part the paper is devoted to an analysis of the GJM following the classic agenda and its core explanatory factors—political opportunities, mobilizing structures and framing processes (including a discussion of the concept of democracy put forward by the GJM). This analysis makes use of empirical evidence drawn from existing studies as well as from an original dataset on participants in two protest events that occurred in Switzerland in 2004.

The authors examine the role of political opportunities, mobilizing structures and framing processes for this movement in an attempt to show that the national context remains crucial even for transnational forms of contention, such as those staged by the GJM.

Concluding that at present the imprint of the national context and characteristics is so strong, after centuries of state formation, that even a genuinely transnational movement such as the GJM remains partly imprisoned in the cage built by the nation-state.

Marco Giugni is a researcher and teacher, and Nina Eggert is a research assistant, at the Laboratoire de recherche sociale et politique appliquée (RESOP), University of Geneva, Switzerland.
Marko Bandler is an assistant in the Department of Political Science of the same university.

Order PP CSSM 24 from UNRISD, 32 pages, 2006; US$ 12 for readers in industrialized countries and US$ 6 for readers in developing and transitional countries and for students.