The modern political process is saturated with various contradictions. Political participation is seen as the result of rational and relatively individual choice. This is the voluntary activity of individuals articulating personal and group interests in the face of power. Most acute socio-political conflicts arise when the government prefers to work with citizens at the level of manipulation and persuasion or does not interact with them. For example, Marx and Engels (1967) criticized how in a bourgeois economy, the process of manufacturing is more important than the people who maintain that process. Given the instability of society, its transitional state, it is possible to trace the high probability of new socio-economic and political upheavals.
There are many contradictory attempts to bring the phenomenon of power under a theoretically adequate concept of power. Because of this, when creating one’s theory of power, one cannot be content with such a descriptive interpretation and analysis of the essence of power. Then it would, to one degree or another, already knowingly assume something that can only be obtained as a result. If the person in power can exercise power concerning their partner, who, in turn, also has a considerable number of diverse alternatives, their power becomes even more extraordinary. Weber (1965) states that “the administrative staff, which externally represents the organization of political domination, is like any other organization, bound by obedience to the power-holder and not alone by the concept of legitimacy” (3). Power increases as the degree of freedom of both sides increases; for example, it grows in society as possible alternatives increase in that society.
Protest is usually understood as a relatively open reaction to a public situation: sometimes in support, but usually against it. Depending on the attitude of the authorities and the political regime towards it, protests can be sanctioned and unauthorized. An extreme form of social protest can turn into a revolution. Protest behavior is understood as the situational activity of citizens, which is caused by a malfunction of the functioning of social management bodies. For example, Marx and Engels (1967) also stated that the law that grew from revolution is a natural one due to the fact that society as a whole produced it. The motive of activity is accumulated social tension, discontent, frustration, an increase in aggressiveness, provoked, as a rule, by some shocking event. The protest action is characterized by the rationality of its subjects, their ability to plan activities and use a variety of resources to increase its effectiveness.
Protests are organized during elections when it is necessary to give legitimacy to the unstoppable power of certain groups or individuals. In addition, they are held for certain people to have the opportunity to concentrate democratic power in their hands. Nevertheless, despite everything, some elements of the government are forced to take measures against the protesters. These measures are becoming crueler every year and often turn to outright violence. According to Weber (1965), “force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state, but force is a means specific to the state” (1). This means that force is one of the most effective tools in resolving conflicts, provided by the fact that the state has all means to employ it, using the army, police, and other departments.
The chains of decisions of those in power should be sequentially separated from those clutches that bind a more comprehensive range of decision carriers. Both of these types of time-ordered decision chains turn out to be possible due to a broader essentialization of power, and both serve to order complexity in a time sequence. Only based on relatively complex prerequisites of the power code, the latter turns into a flow; that is, it is formed into a kind of process that transfers complexity from solution to solution. By allowing citizens to protest, the state builds their trust in institutions. Moreover, in some countries, such as Russia or Ukraine, for example, the possibility of peaceful protest matters even more than elections.
This trust is based on the fact that the government hears the demands of citizens and hopes for forthcoming reforms. The very possibility of a sanctioned protest activity is often more important than the specific program of the protesters. Such an approach is especially important for understanding the nature of the relationship between the authorities and society in hybrid regimes, where the outcome of elections is predictable, but their consequences are unpredictable. It turns out that by allowing citizens to participate in a public discussion about the consequences, the government in such regimes can hedge itself and not weaken.
Nevertheless, today’s protests, in many aspects, became a product of political technologies. It is obvious that the people take it to the streets absolutely sincerely, with a desire to achieve change for themselves in the first place. However, the authorities also have their own interest in the protest activities: to test different strata of the population for their ability to take action, to understand how to properly let off steam of discontent. Moreover, the power, especially in less democratic states, needs protests to form a controlled right-liberal project, which can give a turnout in the elections and further allow to transfer street activity to the parliamentary plane. Because, in addition to the urban protest, another kind of such activity began to intensify in the world – the grassroots social protest. Its development, as well as the solidarity of the “angry townspeople” with it, together with the youth a la 1968, carries immediate and serious risks to any political system.
Social protest is still fragmented and poorly represented in the media; it has almost no connection with the middle class. However, it is indeed growing, complementing the urban agenda with discontent rising at the lower levels of society. It becomes increasingly more clear that often, the authorities are chronically incapable of solving social problems that give rise to protests, as well as organizing a dialogue with the protesters. The most preferred format for the state is a power-driven resolution of conflicts. As a result, the idea of power as an unjust brute force that can only crush and humiliate is consolidated in the minds of people. The radicalization of rhetoric also becomes logical: from requests to power to claims. This remains mainly the problem of the federal center: the inconsistency in the actions of various departments demonstrates the inability of the entire vertical of power to act as an authoritative mediator between the parties. Therefore, peaceful protests often turn to violence in the light of the lack of adequate response from power.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. New York: International Publishers, 1967. Print.
Weber, Max. Politics As a Vocation. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1965. Print.