While individual movements maintain themselves in various forms, periods of intense protest activity by multiple movements do not last forever. Cycles of protest decline because they eventually ‘produce counter-movements, violence, and political backlash, new repressive strategies, and thence demobilization’. Tarrow identifies three sets of processes involved in the decline of protest cycles.
(1) Activists simply become exhausted, but not all activists drop out at an equal rate. Those who are more extreme in their beliefs, and less likely to compromise with authorities, are most likely to remain active despite exhaustion. Moderates are more likely to scale back their participation, and as they do the movement may become more polarized between those who are willing to compromise and those who are not.
(2) Splits between moderates and radicals lead to two tendencies. On the one hand, radicals may become more violent in their behaviour while, on the other hand, moderates turn to more institutionalized actions.
(3) Governmental authorities selectively repress some movement actions and facilitate others. When governments encourage the actions of moderates and repress those of radicals, they are likely to push the latter to further extremism while shrinking the movement as moderates turn to institutionalized action.
So, how to keep the radicals – posturing and preening and persisting in zombie repertoires – in productive dialogue/tension with the sell-outs and lunchouts and part-timers.
Not to frame it in unhelpful terms or anything…