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Why do protests fail?

  • Swarthmore College (Science Center 101 - Chang Hou Hall) 500 College Ave Swarthmore, PA USA (map)

Protest is undeniably cool again. And yet, if we evaluate recent protests by their outcome, not their rhetoric, it is increasingly clear that contemporary forms of activism are resulting in diminishing effectiveness. Despite their size, their sophistication and their speed, the last decade of social protests have largely failed to achieve their desired social change objectives. If protest as we know it is broken, how do we fix it?

In this lecture by Micah White, the co-creator of Occupy Wall Street and author of THE END OF PROTEST, we will evaluate various theories for why contemporary protests are failing. Is it a lack of demands? Police repression? Absence of leadership? Or something deeper? Our goal will be to develop a general theory of protest failure grounded in the concrete experience of contemporary activism. Guiding our collective inquiry will be the hope that understanding protest failure will better equip today’s democracy activists for creating positive social change in their lifetimes.