Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The formation of contention cycles: Participation growth during strike and lockout waves in the United States, 1881–1894
by Lind, Benjamin Elliott, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, 2011, 288; 3494330
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation addresses how participation in collective action waxes and wanes over time. In past research, this pursuit has typically been developed using concepts of contention cycles and protest waves. I further this research agenda by arguing that waves, and participation in general, grow and decline according to influences from previous collective action events. The theories I develop draw upon relationships between events. These relationships include the timing between events, the similarity of actors, and role of oppositional mobilization. To ascertain participation growth and wave formation, I analyze strikes and lockouts in the United States from 1881 to 1894. This time period marked the nascence of the organized American labor movement, enabling insight into a young movement's expansion.

The data I use comes from the U.S. Commissioner of Labor and represents firm-level details on the population of strikes and lockouts during the period. I supplement this data with accounts on select strikes, lockouts, and historical circumstances of the time. In the three substantive chapters I perform a comparative case study, an exploratory analysis of wave growth, and daily time series regressions to understand how previous events influence future conflicts.

Focusing on daily changes, I found incredible fluctuation in growth from one day to the next. Typically, gains in new participants one day were followed by relatively fewer new participants the following day. As a consequence, wave duration tended to be rather brief. Likewise, influence between events tapered quickly, lasting just one day to one week after the initiations of previous events. While I found considerable evidence in support of influence from event initiation, the event outcome effect had limited support in predicting conflict escalation. Event participants did somewhat respond positively to those similar to themselves, exhibiting mild homophily, but this effect did not drive general conflict growth. For this effect to mobilize actors, the causes behind the conflicts must have general appeal and the organizing strategy must be inclusive. Lastly, though strikes and lockouts, the oppositional interests in this study, exhibited many similar characteristics, I conclude that the phenomena are incomparable due to the rarity of lockouts.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Stepan-Norris, Judith
Commitee: Butts, Carter T., Meyer, David S., Snow, David A.
School: University of California, Irvine
Department: Sociology - Ph.D.
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 73/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Labor relations, Social structure
Keywords: Collective action, Comparative and historical sociology, Contention cycles, Dynamics, Organized labor, Social movements, Strikes
Publication Number: 3494330
ISBN: 9781267158239
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