Predicting Future Action Patterns Based on the Cultural Hypothesis about Repertoires of Contention

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 1:15 PM
Room: F206
Oral Presentation
Takeshi WADA , Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Yoojin KOO , The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Kayo HOSHINO , Department of Area Studies (Latin American Studies), The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Contentious events—such as the collapses of socialist regimes around 1990, the Seattle anti-globalization protests in 1999, and the Arab Spring since 2010—often catch many by surprise. It appears that future contentious events are totally unpredictable. The literature of repertoires of contention, however, suggests that future actions by contentious actors are highly predictable because actors’ selection of action forms is dependent upon their familiarity with these forms. In a word, people cannot perform if they do not know how. This paper explores such a cultural hypothesis about repertoires and asks to what degree we can predict future action patterns (violence, nonviolent protests, and conventional institutional actions). Specifically, we ask, what is the most important predictor of action patterns, (1) institutional regime characteristics such as degree of democracy and state capacity, as political process theorists have argued, or (2) actors’ familiarity with contentious forms, as the cultural hypothesis claims? To find an answer to the question, we conduct a cross-national comparison of action patterns using a data set of 10 million events world-wide, reported by Reuters, between 1990 and 2004. Using multilevel analysis, we estimate and compare the national-level effects of structural-institutional characteristics (e.g., regime characteristics, levels of development) and the actor-specific effect of cultural factor (actors’ familiarity with specific forms of contention, measured by action patterns in the past years). We also uncover the conditions under which new innovations of action patterns are likely to occur. This study contributes to the study of contentious politics both theoretically and methodologically by explicitly integrating cultural dimensions—rather than by treating culture as a residual explanatory factor—into the analysis of repertoire selection. While the prediction of future events and actions is difficult and, therefore, is not a popular topic, this study makes an important step toward such a research direction.