IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New book by IOE academic explores social structures and individual motivations behind mass protests

13 June 2023

Dr Benjamin Abrams, author of The Rise of the Masses: Spontaneous Mobilization and Contentious Politics, looks at how spontaneous large-scale protests and uprisings emerge.

Gathering of protestors. Image: Life Matters via Pexels

The book, published by University Chicago Press, addresses why and how individuals are motivated to protest around a common cause. It looks at spontaneous mobilisation in particular, where people come together in large scales despite little prior planning or organisation.  

He draws on several examples: the French Revolution; the Arab Spring; Occupy Wall Street; the 2011 Egyptian Revolution; and most recently, the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, which came as a reaction to the murder of George Floyd, the third anniversary of which has just recently passed.  

Dr Abrams is based in IOE’s Department of Education, Practice and Society, where he works as a Lecturer in Sociology. His research interests lie in mass mobilisation, populism and democracy, revolutions and resistance movements, and contentious politics.  

Recently, he won a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship to fund four years of research. Prior to his time at IOE, he was based at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) teaching on Politics and Sociology. 

He says, “The book explains something we didn’t really understand before: how mass mobilisation occurs from beyond the reaches of organisations and activist networks. Old academic theories largely put this down to mass derangement or secret organising.  

The book shows how ordinary people choose to participate in protest as conscious agents, responding en masse to changes in social conditions that encourage them to converge. 

The book goes to great lengths to elevate and centre the voices of participants. It shows in vivid detail how the Black Lives Uprising of 2020 unfolded, and why so many ordinary Americans from across racial and other social categories came to protest in defence of Black Lives and against police brutality. 

Its release comes on the third anniversary of the uprising, after Minneapolis Police slayed George Floyd and sparked the most enormous wave of racial justice protest since the Civil Rights Movement.” 

The Rise of the Masses was published on 9 June 2023. The book launch event, hosted by the Institute of Advanced Studies, is scheduled for 10 July 2023.



Life Matters via Pexels.