A seminar on modern social movements was held in the Laboratory
The seminar featured a presentation by Linda J. Cook, a professor at Brown University, an employee of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University and Academic Supervisor of our Laboratory, as well as the presentation of an article on the conceptualization of modern social movements in Bangladesh by Research Assistant of the ILSIR – Saikot Chandra Ghosh.
The speakers considered two relatively young social movements existing in Bangladesh: the "Quota Reform Movement 2018" and the "Road Safety Movement 2018". Despite the mass discontent and moral indignation of the people of Bangladesh related to the activities of political elites, the social movements of the last decade have not been able to positively influence the organization of the practices of political figures in the country. The current situation is paradoxical. In this context, the social movements under consideration are studied from the standpoint of critical realism, with equal importance being given to structures and discourses.
Linda Cook started the session with a comprehensive discussion of the evolution of the theories of social movements. She outlined major theoretical perspectives in the studies of social movements; from classical to modern approaches. In her discussion, she pointed out that earlier approaches were psychology-based and viewed social movements as irrational crowd behavior because movements were seen as an emotional reaction to grievances instead of a rational deliberate attempt. Then more comprehensive theories came along the line namely "Resource Mobilization" and "Political Process" where social movements are no longer seen as monolithic spontaneous response to grievances, rather protesters deliberately and logically incorporate different resources to create movements and consider political opportunity to emerge. She then briefly discussed contemporary approaches and argued that these theories are constructivist and incorporate all the previous features, including the psychological dimension of the earlier theories, to conceptualize social movements.
Conceptualizing and comparing social movements, the seminar participants discussed the provisions of the Political Process Theory (PPT) and came to the conclusion that the different degree of success of social movements is associated with significant differences in the "mobilization structure", given that the "framing" and "structures of political opportunities" were relatively similar.
The cases considered at the seminar, related to the development of various social movements in Bangladesh, bring a new dimension to the modern contradictory political environment of the country. In order to succeed, Bangladesh's social movements have always needed to maintain close communication and rely on patronage, support and interaction with the main political parties. However, exceptions have also been identified: some movements that have some autonomy and independence from any political resources for development can achieve noticeable success.
During the discussion, Research Fellow of the ILSIR and Academic Supervisor of Saikot Chandra Ghosh – Arnab Roy Chowdhury noted the emergence of a new dimension of the social environment in Bangladesh. According to him, a new independent civil society is being formed in the country, which is not bound by traditional loyalty to a certain political ideology or the state, which can determine the nature and degree of success of modern social movements.
Professor Linda Cook, in turn, suggested that the social movements discussed at the seminar differ in the scale of requirements and scope of action. Taking into account these differences can be useful for the further development of the research and the general conceptualization of the research work.
Professor and Laboratory Head Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova noted that in the current political situation in Bangladesh, new vital elements of the mobilization structure of social movements are coming into action.
The seminar ended on a high note, with a mutual desire to continue working in the noted direction of research to increase opportunities for social change for the sake of everyone's well-being.