Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 111–133 | Cite as

Deepening the Explanation of Radical Flank Effects: Tracing Contingent Outcomes of Destructive Capacity

  • Rune EllefsenEmail author


Radical flank effect (RFE) research has too often ignored the conditions under which particular RFEs occur and failed to acknowledge that RFEs might change over time, producing different, yet interrelated, outcomes across societal arenas. In order to fill these gaps, this article argues for expanding the framework to be used in analysis of RFEs by incorporating insights from recent social movement theory, and thus adding temporal and arena dimensions. This enables a deeper explanation of the conditions under which specific RFEs occur—and change—in more complex empirical settings where several actors interact in distinct arenas over time. The analytical approach is employed in the case study of the international Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign and its engagement with corporate and state adversaries throughout a fifteen-year period in the UK. The analysis does two things: first, it identifies the pathways along which the overall campaign attained its destructive capacity, which was key to the SHAC campaign’s short-term successes, and secondly, it explicates the variables and factors in distinct arenas that explain why the initial positive outcome was reversed. Thus, the analysis reveals the contingency of RFEs by comparing their short and long-term outcomes, and it explains why and how the outcomes changed. Broadly, the aim is to produce a deeper explanation of RFEs, while also suggesting ways to expand this strand of research by, for example, examining the radical flank dilemma that results from the contingent outcomes of RFEs.


Protest Radical flank effects Social movement outcomes Radical flank dilemma Factionalism Radical animal rights movement 



The author would like to thank Qualitative Sociology’s Editor-in-Chief David Smilde and the three anonymous reviewers who provided thoughtful comments and suggestions that helped improve the original manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminology and Sociology of LawOslo UniversityOsloNorway

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