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 workers from the Misr Spinning and Weaving Factory in the northern industrial town of Mahalla el-Kobra, Egypt, beat on makeshift drums

AP/Paul Schemm, File

Journal Article - Journal of Peace Research

A Win or a Flop? Measuring Mass Protest Successfulness in Authoritarian Settings

| 2023

Previously rare events, mass protest movements have become popular vehicles for those seeking political, economic, and social change. How do scholars and policymakers evaluate movement success? Most studies addressing movement outcomes are grounded in the goal attainment approach, where movement success is dependent upon fulfilling one's stated demands. The models derived from this approach heavily rely on visibility and transparency in the policymaking process. These offer limited analytical utility for scholars studying movements in authoritarian states, where policymaking is shrouded and media is state-controlled. Evaluating movements solely on their fulfillment of mission goals is highly problematic, as movements produce more outcomes than their intended goals. Movements also produce unintended benefits: concessions unrelated to the movement's mission. These include negative consequences, or societal costs.