James Jasper

James Jasper
CUNY Graduate Center | CUNY · Program in Sociology

Ph.D. U.C. Berkeley

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156
Publications
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10,964
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Publications

Publications (156)
Book
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What kind of tradeoffs do protest movements face in trying to change the world around them? Many scholars have tried to figure out why some social movements have an impact and others do not. By looking inside movements at their component parts and recurrent strategic interactions, we show that they usually produce familiar packages of effects, incl...
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A caucus of activist transit workers seeking to fight management chose to focus their efforts primarily on ousting a perceived “do-nothing” union leadership. This chapter demonstrates some of the gains and losses intrinsic to the electoral package. As a commonly used arena, running candidates for office was easy for workers to understand, and it he...
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In electoral arenas, political personalities are crucial: they can run and win elections. Personalities are important to collective efforts beyond elections, too. They can become symbols of movements and proposals. Compound players struggle over how dominant and influential a particular personality should be. The hopes, risks, and outcomes that acc...
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Strategic tradeoffs give rise to dilemmas and decisions, and those decisions launch players down paths of interaction with others. In many cases, those interactions lead to patterns of gains and losses, spread across multiple arenas, that we can identify as familiar packages. Although we focus on the details of interactions among players in strateg...
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In recent years, scholars have tried to explain what impact protest and social movements have on the world. Some efforts succeed and others, probably most, fail, but they all have a range of consequences. This book looks for patterns of gains and losses by concentrating on the interactions between protestors and various other strategic players as t...
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This chapter outlines a package of gains and losses linked to the institutionalization of movement-backed public policies. Activists often mobilize to advance policy goals or to democratize policymaking itself. But even when they achieve such goals, their task remains unfinished. They face further challenges in implementation and institutionalizati...
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Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement gained fame when it occupied multiple parts of the city, including around the Central Government Complex in Admiralty in September 2014. It was the product of nearly two years of organizing and negotiating between factions of the pro-democratic movement by a group called Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP). This...
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Protest efforts occasionally succeed but more often fail; either way, they leave behind a number of impacts on both the players and the arenas involved. In looking for patterns in both unanticipated and anticipated gains and losses, and by concentrating on multiple microlevel interactions among players, we incorporate a range of strategic players (...
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This chapter examines the crucial relationship between gains and losses across different arenas. The Communist Party of Austria in the country’s second-largest city of Graz benefited when it came to “own” the issue of housing advocacy. It leveraged its initial success in direct-help and protest arenas (more typically associated with social movement...
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This chapter finds players who create new arenas rather than only using preexisting ones. In 2014, Seattle was the first major American city to pass a $15-per-hour wage law. A set of diverse players—an avowed Socialist, the owner of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle tower, many representatives of the city’s labor movement, and a newly elected mayor—wra...
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Social movements never entirely win or lose, nor do they suddenly appear or disappear. Just as their component parts recombine and continue in other forms, so movements have dozens of impacts of various kinds. To make sense of this complexity we propose examining the outcomes of political interactions for a variety of players (including individuals...
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The Capitol breach that occurred on 6 January 2021 immediately revived images of protest crowds as irrational, emotional, violent, and out of control. This frame had flourished for millennia, but had been displaced by more sympathetic ideas about protest in recent decades. Inspired by the civil rights and feminist movements, scholars had come to se...
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Heroes play a role in every nation's founding narrative, embodying a group's strength and courage, its dedication to protecting all within its fold, and its most important traditions and promises. Yet hero images and tropes have not received the attention they deserve in the social science literature on nations and nationalism. Recent theories of c...
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Amitai Etzioni: Reclaiming Patriotism. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019. Pp. 220.) - James M. Jasper
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Starting from the hero Jon Snow, in Game of Thrones , this chapter turns to several traditions of psychology to show the cognitive processes by which people put together small pieces of information in order to see others as “persons.” Public characters are a prominent special case of this process. According to affect control theory, strength, moral...
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Images are a key tool in the creation of public characters. The bulging biceps of a hero’s sculpture, a line that makes a villain squint slightly in a political poster, the high-pitched squeak of a minion: a few tiny visual or aural details can suggest a character in the blink of an eye. Florence launched civic humanism and republican ideology with...
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Words are the main tool with which we construct characters, especially in literary narratives. Opening with Shakespeare’s King John , this chapter looks at narrative theory, epidictic rhetoric, public relations, and theater to show how characters are constructed in literary and other genres. Traditional characters are often considered “flat,” but e...
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This chapter presents villains as part of a typology of primary characters including heroes, villains, victims, and minions. Within this framework, villains are bad and powerful. They can be cruel, arrogant, greedy, hypocritical, sacrilegious. They are also secretive. This heightens people’s sense of urgency in stopping them, generates collective i...
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This chapter addresses a number of ways that traditional public characters have evolved to correspond with the way that moderns picture blame and causality. It looks at the decline of heroes and villains in this supposed post-heroic era. It turns to the ways that the essentialism of character work is challenged, through various attitudes that range...
Book
Admirable heroes, threatening villains, innocent victims, and ridiculous minions have long been central to politics and related strategic arenas. These public characters populate the dramas through which people understand those around them, and they are important because of the emotions felt toward them. Public Characters shows the work that goes i...
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The conclusion looks at how public characters offer lesson to understand culture more generally. It includes a critique from Robert Zussman and a response to that critique. Zussman challenges the claim that social and political life inevitably involves character work. And when it does, he strongly doubts it is a good thing. The simplifications of c...
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This chapter presents minions as part of a typology of primary characters including heroes, villains, victims, and minions. Character work tends to portray the weakness of victims—paradigmatically women and children—as the lack of physical power, whereas the weakness of minions lies more in their ineptitude and in an overexcitability that undermine...
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This chapter presents victims as part of a typology of primary characters including heroes, villains, victims and minions. The same attributes that make heroes appear strong also make victims—who lack them—appear weak: a soft or feeble physique, small size, a lack of experience, intelligence, wisdom, wealth, offices, or special skills. Victims cann...
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This chapter looks at an important transformation, when victims manage to become heroes, addressing several ways that groups can jump the boundary from victim to hero. It discusses the intentional suffering of martyrs and saints. They are heroes by example, as their pointed sacrifice becomes a form of power for those who have no other. The chapter...
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Opening with a discussion of eulogies for John McCain, this chapter presents heroes as part of a typology of primary characters including heroes, villains, victims, and minions. Strong, good, and active, heroes are the players who must set things right and protect others. Heroes struggle, which is why they are admirable—and also why they need other...
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Public characters, especially the main versions of heroes, villains, victims, and minions, represent central building blocks in the reputations of groups and individuals. Character work is devoted to crafting familiar images, especially of strategic players and even more especially of political players, that influence audiences primarily by suggest...
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This chapter examines how institutional environments elicit and shape character work. Their reputed characters help or hinder players in a range of strategic arenas. This chapter explores the founding of nations, mobilization for war, corporate public relations, protest movements, elections, and legal proceedings for the nuances of character work i...
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An arena is a familiar, common-sense word to specify what constrains and enables human actors, or players, in politics, in the sense of the places where they do politics. It joins a long list of similar concepts – institutions, political opportunity structures, fields, spaces, worlds – that reflect the intuition that no political players, even the...
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Emotions come in several distinct forms, ranging from quick reflex emotions like surprise, anger, and fear, through medium-term moods, up through long-run convictions that shape our sense of who we are and how we should act (see Jasper 2018). Among these long-run emotions I distinguish affective commitments – feelings about people, places, and thin...
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The articles in this special issue represent the triumph of detailed historical research over an older version of comparative research that was too eager to reduce complex settings to correlations among a few variables. While the events in MENA starting at the end of 2010 revived interest in revolutions, they also suggested new ways of thinking abo...
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Culture, in the sense of meanings and their embodiments, is crucial to the emergence of protest. First, culture is a kind of shared common sense about how institutions do and should operate; when that common sense is unsettled, people may develop new stakes in contention. Second, culture provides tools and know‐how for movement organizers and parti...
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We examine three basic tropes—villain, victim, and hero—that emerge in images, claims, and narratives. We compare recent research on characters with the predictions of an established tradition, affect control theory (ACT). Combined, the theories describe core traits of the villain-victim-hero triad and predict audiences’ reactions. Character theory...
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An interactive approach to social movements highlights time dynamics in ways more correlational approaches do not, in that interaction and outcomes unfold in sequences as players react to one another. Some aspects of these engagements are shaped by institutional schedules, while others leave discretion to the players. Some institutional schedules,...
Book
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Contributors try to get inside the Arab uprisings by looking at the players from the ground up: the individuals, groups, and their interactions who tried to change the world.
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Social movements carry out extensive character work, trying to define not only their own reputations but those of other major players in their strategic arenas. Victims, villains, and heroes form the essential triad of character work, suggesting not only likely plots but also the emotions that audiences are supposed to feel for various players. Cha...
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While contests and conflicts are well recognized in heritage research, analysis of the specific circumstances and dilemmas that individuals and groups face when pursuing heritage goals and partaking in heritage contests can benefit from further methodological work. This paper presents a case and method for incorporating concepts from an emerging in...
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During the last 30 years the study of social movements has changed dramatically, under the recognition of how important cultural meanings are to collective action and outcomes. Social movement studies has rediscovered a number of microlevel cultural mechanisms that have enriched our understanding of protest and social movements, bringing some subje...
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This ‘Authors Meet Critics’ symposium focuses on two books edited by Jan Willem Duyvendak and James M. Jasper, Players and Arenas: The Interactive Dynamics of Protest and Breaking Down the State: Protestors Engaged. Both books make bold attempts to develop and apply a strategic interactionist perspective in social movement studies by focusing on th...
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On 30 October 2013, James M. Jasper and AK Thompson spoke at an event entitled ‘Did Someone Say Riot?,’ hosted by New York City’s Brecht Forum (now sadly defunct). According to the promotional material for the event, despite being ‘maligned in official accounts, the riot has in fact been a decisive feature of American politics.’ Jasper and Thompson...
Book
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In this important book, Jan Willem Duyvendak and James M. Jasper bring together an internationally acclaimed group of contributors to demonstrate the complexities of the social and political spheres in various areas of public policy. By breaking down the state into the players who really make decisions and pursue coherent strategies, these essays p...
Book
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Players and Arenas brings together a diverse group of experts to examine the interactions between political protestors and the many strategic players they encounter, such as cultural institutions, religious organizations, and the mass media“as well as potential allies, competitors, recruits, and funders. Discussing protestors and players as they in...
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In recent years sociological research on social movements has identified emotional dynamics in all the basic processes and phases of protest, and we are only beginning to understand their causal impacts. These include the solidarities of groups, motivations for action, the role of morality in political action, and the gendered division of labor in...
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Former Budapest mayor Gábor Demszky talks with scholar James Jasper about his life as a publisher of samizdat literature before 1989, and his life as mayor afterward. Demszky also grimly assesses Hungary’s future under Fidesz.
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In the past generation, the effects of culture have been acknowledged throughout the human sciences, including the study of social movements. The shared tools by which we make sense of the world — through schemas, narratives, frames, practices, identities, and so on — are now seen to permeate and define both structures and action. An extensive cult...
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Derived from the ancient Greek word for a military commander, “strategy” has two common meanings. In business it is a broad plan, and in military terms, similarly, it is what is done before the battle begins (in contrast to the tactics that lower officers use to implement the commander's strategy during the battle). In contrast, as an adjective, st...
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The big theories of social movements are being reexamined. In their place are emerging analytical approaches with cultural theories that allow scholars to transit from the micro to the macro level more empirically. Social movements are made up of individuals and interactions. The perspective of rational choice recognizes this, but its version of th...
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This essay is a response to “Parts and Wholes: Goffman and Cooley.”
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The past 20 years have seen an explosion of research and theory into the emotions of protest and social movements. At one extreme, general theoretical statements about emotions have established their importance in every aspect of political action. At the other, the origins and influence of many specific emotions have been isolated as causal mechani...
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This essay is a response to "Parts and Wholes: Goffman and Cooley."
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Grand theories of social movements, relating them to History or Society, are being dismantled and reevaluated. In their place approaches are emerging that offer a cultural and emotional theory of action, allowing analysts to build from the micro-level to the macro-level in a more empirical way rather than deductively from the top down. Social movem...
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Ipse docet quid agam; fas est et ab hoste doceri [The enemy himself teaches me what to do; it is good to be taught by him]. Ovid The study of strategic interaction, in which players hope to influence the actions, beliefs, and feelings of others, has long been dominated by game theory. As a branch of mathematics, and a mostly normative one at that,...
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Humans inflict violence upon animals in numerous ways, both deliberately and inadvertently. Purposeful cruelty towards animals is most likely to be seen as violent. But the "normal" use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and testing can also be considered violence towards animals. Human development may also threaten animal habitats, caus...
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In the late twentieth century, the social sciences underwent a broad cultural turn, building on an earlier linguistic turn (Lafont 1993) but finding human meanings in a variety of activities and artifacts not previously interpreted as cultural. Cognitive psychology played the vanguard role in this shift, but practitioners in all disciplines were so...
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To develop inductively a preliminary list of rhetorical tools that sociologists use in their presentation of facts, we examine three general claims that are widely accepted as having been demonstrated empirically in the field of social movements: social networks are necessary for recruitment of new members; individual mental traits do not matter; a...
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Getting other people to do what we want is a useful skill for anyone. Whether you’re seeking a job, negotiating a deal, or angling for that big promotion, you’re engaged in strategic thought and action. In such moments, you imagine what might be going on in another person’s head and how they’ll react to what you do or say. At the same time,...
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The study of emotions in politics and protest has emerged (or reemerged) in the past decade through a messy inductive process of recognizing the obvious: Emotions of many sorts permeate political action. In grappling with the inadequacies of existing theories of politics, researchers grabbed pieces of emotion theory opportunistically where they cou...
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This article considers the use of emotion and motivation as analytic tools for understanding politics. It outlines the distinction among different categories of feelings that have been often lumped together in order to discourage conceptual overextension. These include urges, reflexes, affective allegiances, moods, and moral sentiments. This articl...
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For at least 2400 years observers of the human condition have debated whether humans were rational or irrational, which itself is a variation on the question of whether we are basically good or evil. We cannot be good if we are irrational, although being rational does not guarantee that we will be good. In fact, part of the genius of modern economi...
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This chapter argues that the early critics of Smelser's concept of generalized beliefs erred by neglecting not only its colligatory connotations but also the continuing significance of their causal effect. In the light of the recent developments in the sociology of culture and emotions, this chapter argues that Smelser's own generalized belief in c...
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In theories of social movements, the structural models of the last thirty years may have reached the limits of their utility. Future breakthroughs are likely to arise from attention to the microfoundations of political action. The study of strategic choices may be one fruitful new path of research, especially if sociologists can develop an approach...

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