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Empowerment dynamics in collective action: Elaborating social identity and social change John Drury University of Sussex, UK Symposium: The positive crowd:

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Presentation on theme: "Empowerment dynamics in collective action: Elaborating social identity and social change John Drury University of Sussex, UK Symposium: The positive crowd:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Empowerment dynamics in collective action: Elaborating social identity and social change John Drury University of Sussex, UK Symposium: The positive crowd: Psychological and social dimensions 15th General Meeting of the European Association of Experimental Social Psychology Opatija, Croatia, June 10-14th 2008

2 Positive psychology in the crowd Atmosphere and positive emotion Comfort and enjoyment Mutual aid and resilience (a) The crowd can also be a socially positive force (b) the psychological and the social are connected through the Elaborated Social Identity Model of empowerment dynamics

3 Empowerment – a definition positive social-psychological transformation, related to a sense of being able to (re)shape the social world, which takes place for members of subordinated groups who overturn (or at least challenge) existing relations of dominance Hence refers not only to psychological (subjective) change but (objective) changes in social relations

4 The ESIM of empowerment dynamics Indiscriminate outgroup action, shared fate, history…(the conditions that create a crowd) Unity (shared self-categorization) Expectations of mutual support Power Collective self-objectification

5 1.Indiscriminate outgroup action, shared fate… Antecedents of collective unity: Proximal: indiscriminate, illegitimate action by an outgroup against a physical crowd… Distal: history of intergroup relations

6 2. Unity: shared self-categorization Example: Subjective sense of unity through indiscriminate exclusion from common land: P5: So that was the turning point because I think that was the point at which any kind of division between people from the outside and people, local people, just suddenly dissolved. Everyone knew that they were really fighting for exactly the same thing and a really strong bond developed between everyone that was there on that day. Even though many of us had never met each other or known each other before. [tree-dressing ceremony] (Drury & Reicher, 2005)

7 3. Expectations of mutual support… …for ingroup normative action Shared identity produces expectations of shared definitions of reality [How did she feel able to join in pushing?] H: Just the support of everyone else, it really was yeah just everyone was doing it and everybody was all charged up really [Exeter anti-poll tax protest, 1990] (Drury & Reicher, 1999)

8 4. Power P5: It was almost it was almost as if that kind of sent a kind of wave of- a wave of kind of empowerment through a lot of people, including protesters. I think a lot of people [ ] suddenly realized that they could actually- they could actually take take some responsibility for what was going on and actually take control. [tree-dressing ceremony] (Drury & Reicher, 2005)

9 5. Collective self-objectification CSO: action which serves to realize participants social identity (and hence their definition of proper practice) over against the power of dominant outgroups. That felt really brilliant, cos it was just… I dont know, theres something about overcoming opposition. Like if wed just walked out of the tube station and walked straight onto the road, it wouldnt have been as good, as having to have got round the police lines first. So it was that kind of, you know, makes you feel more like youve achieved something. [Reclaim the Streets party] (Drury, Cocking, Beale, Hanson & Rapley, 2005) CSO is a function of empowerment but is itself empowering!

10 Four features of empowerment 1.Empowerment as outcome as well as precondition of action (i.e. How self-action can change self) 2.Emotion and well-being 3.Taking part in further action 4.Generalization and limits of empowered identities

11 1. Empowerment CSO empowerment or How self-action can change self When our action against a powerful outgroup serves to change the world to reflect our identity, such an action-outcome thereby evidences that we are powerful. The self-changed context reflects back to the world-changing self.

12 2. Emotion and well-being Empowerment is associated with positive feelings Why? Action which affirms the collective self in relation to dominant illegitimate outgroup forces should feel life- enhancing, joyful and positive P6: That tremendous feeling when the fences went over and people just felt so powerful, as they rightly should, in that situation. [No M11 tree dressing ceremony] (Drury & Reicher, 2005) CSO was best predictor of positive emotion in empowerment (Drury et al., 2005)

13 3. Taking part in further action It was empowering in the sense that after that I had a lot of energy and, you know, the feeling after that Wow!, you know, we can do anything, and I personally can, you know, do things, I think that was quite important cos then, you know, we decided to do Reclaim the Streets [ ] feeling like Im actually capable of doing it [No M11 Claremont Road eviction] (Drury et al., 2005)

14 3. Taking part in further action (cont.) Unity was the best predictor of reports of further action, with CSO second (Drury et al., 2005) Why? Perceiving the unity/support as enduring and ongoing (crowd event as part of social movement) Perceiving self as powerful in an enduring sense – CSO as a lasting impact

15 4. Generalization and limits of empowered identities H1. Limits The same positive achievement may be differentially empowering to different groups as a function of its relevance to their differing social identities. Some evidence: Experimental analogue (Drury & Cocking, in preparation) Two nominal identities imposed: Sussex students as valuing accuracy versus valuing creativity Cover story: does your performance match your values? A series of tests of mental abilities Half the accuracy value ps told theyd done well at accuracy (identity relevant) but badly at creativity (identity irrelevant), half told the opposite. Equivalent pattern for accuracy ps.

16 4. Generalization and limits of empowered identities (cont.) Results: Subjective success self-reports MeanStd. Error identity-irrelevant identity-relevant (Controlling for subjective value of creativity)

17 4. Generalization and limits of empowered identities (cont.) H2 If identity is defined broadly, empowerment generalizes to other issues/actions CP6: Ive progressed in that now I would, given time permitting and everything else, I would actually go and help in another campaign somewhere else even if its only for a day if theres a rally or something, which is what I said to this policeman, actually I said I would actually go and help in a campaign like the north-circular or elsewhere for the day and that would make me an outsider there wouldnt it, and he said yes well I suppose it would [ ] thats what Im saying when I said become more radical; I would actually take time out to help somebody else rather than just sort of being at the end of my road and then once thats gone forget it, that - actually determined to keep on with the whole roads programme, fighting it wherever. [No M11 campaign interview] (Drury, Reicher & Stott, 2003)

18 ESIM as a virtuous cycle of empowerment Empowerment feeds into a positive cycle of social change where: the self becomes more powerful collective action is joyful there is ongoing support for further action self is re-defined to broaden (a) the issues/goals (b) the boundaries of the ingroup

19 Why collective action does not always take the form of a positive cycle of social change 1.Empowerment does not always occur in collective action – various contingencies (some of which are social structural rather than psychological – e.g., resources, means of communication, outgroup power) 2. Theorizing disempowerment 3. Empowerment declines/ends (provisionality) –Outgroup/establishment re-asserts itself (e.g. arrest, reaction)

20 So what kind of model of identity do we need? Four features of an ontology of the self adequate to theorizing a world-changing self: 1.Collective (enjoyment, resilience, collective empowerment) 2.Changing as a function of changes in social relations (variability and transformation) 3.Legitimate action oriented (explains why only certain experiences feel good) 4.Intentional but acting in a context not (wholly) of ones choosing (from modest actions to social change)

21 Empowerment dynamics in collective action: Elaborating social identity and social change The same processes of dynamic self- categorization that produce positive psychological experiences also explain how it is possible that crowds can change society itself in a positive direction.

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