Spontaneous Mobilization and Contentious Politics
The Rise of the Masses is a book about why spontaneous mass protest happens.
When George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police in 2020, up to 26 million people took to the streets in response. That year's Black Lives Matter protests were an epochal moment in American politics, but similar immense, spontaneous mass mobilizations have shaped societies throughout world history. Alongside 2020's Black Lives Uprising, these include the 2011 Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and even the 1789 French Revolution.
In The Rise of the Masses, Benjamin Abrams tells the story of how all four of these momentous mass risings took place, and uses them to build a new theory of spontaneous protest.
The book draws on nearly a decade of empirical research, in-depth interviews and careful historical sourcework to shed light on how and why mass mobilizations can take place without large-scale organization or planning. Abrams shows how people may autonomously mobilize should a cause appeal to their pre-existing dispositions, and how rising structural conditions can catalyze this process on a larger scale, developing an approach he calls Affinity-Convergence Theory. Uncovering the driving forces that propel spontaneous mass protest, The Rise of the Masses provides a significant theory and a novel toolkit that could help predict the uprisings of the future.