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

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    US State Senate. 2005. Eco-terrorism specifically examining Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. Hearing before the Committee on Environment and Public Works, First Session, October 26. Accessed 3 March 2016. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-109shrg39521/pdf/CHRG-109shrg39521.pdf

  2. 2.

    Searches were conducted on 8–9 October 2014 at the British Library, London, using Factiva (www.factiva.com).

  3. 3.

    Given names without reference to external sources are pseudonyms used for the interviewees.

  4. 4.

    The concept of “coercive force” has been used to describe forms of power used by state actors towards protestors (see della Porta and Reiter 2016). Here the concept is used to describe the counter-power exerted by clandestine militants.

  5. 5.

    “Run-ins” describes rushing into the premises of an entity that protestors want to disrupt and/or forcing the entity to see and hear their case by using banners, shouting slogans, etc. “Lock-ons” describes the act of protestors locking themselves onto a device as part of a protest. The locks make it hard to remove the protestors, thus increasing disruption. This results in a bigger impact on the protest target.

  6. 6.

    Using the search phrase “extrem*” thus finds “extremists,” “extremism” etc.

  7. 7.

    See their webpage for more details: www.pro-test.org.uk

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Acknowledgements

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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Correspondence to Rune Ellefsen.

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Ellefsen, R. Deepening the Explanation of Radical Flank Effects: Tracing Contingent Outcomes of Destructive Capacity . Qual Sociol 41, 111–133 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-018-9373-3

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Keywords

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