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Theory According to Your View Explains BetterAssessment

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¶ … theory according to your view explains better mass mobilisation?

According to Jenkins (1983), social movement theory generally seeks to better understand why people become actively involved in social movements. To this end, a wide range of theoretical perspectives have been offered, including mass society theory, relative deprivation, and collective behaviour theory. These were developed, Jenkins suggests, to help explain mobilisation that is "generated by the structural strains of rapid social change" (1983, p. 528). Likewise, resource mobilisation theory as articulated by McCarthy and Zald (1977) has been used as an alternative explanation for mass mobilisation. The recent and in some cases, ongoing, series of uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East and successful revolution in Egypt, though, suggest that mass mobilisation can best be understood as a response to a crisis that presents an opportunity. In this regard, Muller and Weede suggest that regime structures offer both constraints and opportunities that tend to influence the respective potential benefits and costs that are associated with collective political action, as well as the probability that such actions will succeed. According to Jacoby (2008), these influences operate in three distinct ways as follows:

Since mobilisation depends on the coercive, normative, remunerative and informational resources that incipient movements can extract from their settings, and employ in their protests, variables such as the availability of data, the accessibility of media outlets and the efficiency and extent of communications infrastructures can all have an important impact on collective conflict.

2. The institutional relationship between civil groups and political elites may, through the formulation and implementation of rules and conventions, shape collective demands. As agents of social change are rendered, according to rational choice assumptions, as an exogenous variable captured by the cost function, mobilisation is likely to be encouraged by conciliatory responses and impeded by reactions that are more forceful.

3. Mobilisation may be affected by the presence or absence of other mobilising groups. The perceived success of one group may exert a demonstrable influence over others, while the concurrent appearance of many such groups can help to determine the type of response preferred by the polity (2008, pp. 127-128).

These three influences on mass mobilisation can be seen in many civil uprisings, with an initial grassroots effort being amplified by increasing participation by others who view the event as an opportunity to improve their condition and address inequitable distributions of resources and power. For example, according to Lichbach, "Nations with an unequal distribution of income and wealth are more subject to phenomena like revolution, rebellion, civil war, terrorism, demonstrations, and coups than those with a more equal distribution. All major theorists of conflict believe that economic inequality is, at least, a potentially important cause of dissent" (1989, p. 431).

What are the key elements in the analysis of a crisis?

Conflicts are typically enormously complicated affairs, but there are some key elements involved in all conflicts that can be used to help understand their source and objectives. In this regard, according to the United Nations Development Group/World Bank Needs Assessment Handbook:

1. Each transition situation is unique, so that the analysis needs to be context-specific; and,

2. Conflicts are not mono-causal phenomena and arise from a set of interconnected conflict factors and dynamics.

Therefore, the following key elements set forth in Table 1 below are required for a timely and informed analysis of a crisis:

Table 1

Key Elements in Analyzing a Crisis

Key Element


Analysis of Key Conflict Factors

Understanding proximate conflict factors is critical to ensure that transition programming mitigates against the impact of violent conflict over the short-term. At the same time, transition programming should be informed by an analysis of structural conflict factors, in order to ensure that its inputs become assets for long-term peace building and development. This is particularly relevant as countries emerging from crisis are prone to relapse. Conflicts are multi-dimensional phenomena and cannot be understood in terms of one single factor, as they result from a complex interaction and overlap of various conflict issues. For this reason, it is important to map out the causes and consequences of violent conflict from the perspective of various thematic dimensions, as outlined below:

1. Security, from a state, community and personal perspective;

2. Political/governance;

3. Economic; and,

Social, broadly defined to include ethnographic, cultural, religious, etc. factors.

The mapping of the structural and proximate conflict factors may also be further divided into international, regional, national, sub-national and local levels. The focus on the different levels at which conflict factors operate is essential, as it often brings out the external dimensions of what may originally be purely internal problems. Moreover, transitions usually reflect "no war, no peace" situations, where a disaggregated analysis of conflict intensity and impact is critical. Depending on the context and the level on which the analysis will focus, these levels may be further adjusted -- e.g. leaving out the regional level, or using a simplified approach (internal vs. external), etc. Experience nonetheless suggests that the sub-national level is an important level, which is often neglected in conflict analysis

Actor Analysis

The term "actors" refers to individuals, groups and institutions engaged in, as well as being affected by conflict. People are central to understand how groups become polarised around key conflict issues, as well as what drives the interests of those promoting violent conflict. By providing an understanding of the potential risks associated with engaging with internal and external actors, this may also help address the issue of "interlocutors" and "partners," with whom support agencies interact, both in humanitarian and development terms, in transition situations. This step therefore aims to complement the analysis of key proximate and structural conflict factors in a given transition situation, with an actor-based assessment that focuses on shorter-term interests and motivations. In particular, the actor mapping will be centred on an analysis of:

1. Their stated interests;

2. Their hidden agendas;

3. Their relationships with other actors, at various levels, and their perceptions of such interrelationships;

4. The resources that they have at present, in order to realise their agenda; and,

5. The resources that they still require, in order to realise their agenda.

Analysis of Capacities for Peace

The term "capacities for peace" traditionally refer to structures, mechanisms, processes and institutions that exist in society in order to peacefully and constructively manage conflict. Typical examples of capacities for peace include: informal approaches to conflict resolution, role of traditional authorities, strong civil society, a culture of tolerance, role of the judiciary, inter-village meetings, traditional courts, truth commissions, etc.

Source: Inter-agency framework for conflict analysis in transition situations (2004), pp. 2-3.

Although every conflict will be unique in some fashion, applying the foregoing steps to its analysis will help illuminate the proximate causes, major actors and opportunities for resolution that are involved.

To what extent do the misperceptions at the decision-making level lead to crisis?

On the one hand, history has shown time and again that misperceptions at the decision-making level can result in less than optimal outcomes for a variety of reasons, paramount of which is taking a course of action that is based on an erroneous understanding (or a complete lack of understanding) of all of the factors that are involved. A good example of such a misperception leading to crisis was General Douglas a. MacArthur's prosecution of the early part of the Korean Conflict in 1953 wherein he did not believe the Chinese would intervene and he would be free to occupy the entire Korean peninsula. The well-known result was hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops pouring across the North Korean border into North Korea to repulse the United Nations coalition and a protracted war that still has not ended. Similarly, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 was intended to disable the United States' Pacific fleet, especially its aircraft carriers, only, but it only served as a catalyst for American to declare war on Japan and steel American resolve for vengeance at any cost. This is not to say, of course, that decision-makers always enjoy complete and reliable information about a given set of circumstances upon which to formulate their courses of actions; however, it is to say that when top-level decision-makers fail to perceive the "big picture," they run the risk of taking actions that will inevitably have unexpected and frequently adverse consequences.

On the other hand, though, misperceptions at top decision-making levels may have unexpected consequences that turn out favorable. In this regard, Jacoby (2008) points out that, "Misapprehensions regarding the potential costs of becoming involved might inspire zealotry and increase risk-taking, while a misleading impression of the group's internal structure can convince individuals that their participation could make a material difference to the outcome of mobilisation" (p. 130). In fact, some historians maintain the President Roosevelt knew well in advance about the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese but choose to allow the attack to proceed because he knew it would mobilise the American public behind the war effort, but it is… [END OF PREVIEW]

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