Grumblers, Malcontents, Activists. Does Ritual Complaining Lead to Political Activism?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:55
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Maciej KOWALEWSKI, University of Szczecin, Poland
Although complaining is well-recognized by psychologists and economists, the political potential of "expression of dissatisfaction" (Kowalski 2003) is still not clear (Ward, Ostrom 2006). One of the reason is that complaining appear in different forms, from “grumbling” to consumer complaining behavior or submitting official civil complaints. Does complaining, defined in terms of grievance communication, have a political meaning? Some theories of emotions in social movements suggest that dissatisfaction can be a prelude to outrage (Goodwin, Jasper 1999), but if complaining could lead to social change, the change may be negative, destructive, or reversed as well. Researching discontent built up around negative emotions, raises then serious theoretical problems: some of these relate to the cultural tolerance for complaining (Wojciszke 2004), while others relate to the political ability of authorities to manage dissatisfied (Cichocka, Jost 2014).           

Urban movements are good example to research the complex relation between the ritual complaints and political mobilization. The difficulty that we face here concerns the nature of reported claims. Dissatisfaction of xenophobic groups with the influx of migrants representing a different culture or religion, although organized as a social movement is not usually referred to the term of “urban movement”. In that sense  “right to the city” does not mean “right to complain” automatically. It is worth to examine then, in what sense urban middle class belong to the "ritual complaining class" ("klagende Klasse", see Lepenies 1992) and if it has the ability to organizing political change around urban issues.