Societies change rapidly these days. ‘The times they are a changing’ to quote Bob Dylan. Social change is almost always controversial. Inevitably, citizens mobilize in support or opposition.
The Social Change and Conflict Group studies the dynamics of contentious politics. That is to say, it studies the dynamics of political protest, street demonstrations, collective action, political violence and so on. Contentious politics is rare behavior. In response to adverse circumstances most citizens refrain from any action. SCC aims to find answers to the question why. Why is it that in seemingly the same circumstances the one person takes to the barricades, while the other stays on the couch and remains inactive? Contentious politics is actions by people who are aggrieved, who are angry about some state of affairs be it about earthquakes in Groningen, Trump in the US, or windmills in their backyards. Demand, supply, and mobilization is how SCC tries to answer these questions. Demands mean that there are people who are keen to take part in political action. Supply is about social movements or political parties that offer opportunities to engage in politics. Demand is needed but without social movements, or political parties that supply opportunities to engage in politics the issue would not get very far. Finally, mobilization is needed to communicate to citizens the opportunities to act.
SCC explores the dynamics of demand, supply, and mobilization and the mechanisms that are involved in these processes. How issues politicize, how social relations polarize and people politicize and or radicalize. Intergroup polarization is the sharpening of opposition between groups in society that may result in intergroup tension and increased segregation (along ethnic, religious, class lines). The more intergroup relations polarize, the more there will be a tendency to minimize intra- or ingroup differences, and to maximize inter- or outgroup differences. Protest is not without any costs or risks. Repression—sometimes severe repression― increases the costs of protest. What are citizens to do? Politics can be enacted via political parties and social movements. What makes people take part in parties rather than movements or the other way around? Politicization might be the answers to that question. Politicization is often the beginning of a process that proceeds with polarization and radicalization. SCC seeks to understand how these processes evolve.