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Participation and Non-Participation in Student Activism

Paths and Barriers to Mobilising Young People for Political Action

Alexander Hensby

Why might some students convert their political interests into activism when others do not? There is a strong need to understand the changing dynamics of contemporary youth participation: how they engage, what repertoires are considered efficacious, and their motivations to get involved.

This book uses the 2010/11 UK student protests against fees and cuts as a case study for analysing some of the key paths and barriers to political participation today. These paths and barriers – which include an individual’s family socialisation, network positioning, and group identification (and dis-identification) – help us explain why some people convert their political sympathies and interests into action, and why others do not. Drawing on an original survey dataset of students, the book shows how and why students responded in the way that they did, whether by occupying buildings, joining marches, signing petitions, or not participating at all. Considering this in the context of other student movements across the globe, the book’s combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, and its theoretical contribution provide a more holistic picture of student protest than is found in existing studies.
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Rowman & Littlefield International
Pages: 272Size: 6 1/2 x 9 3/4
978-1-78348-693-9 • Hardback • February 2017 • $120.00 • (£80.00)
Alexander Hensby is Research Associate in the University of Kent’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Research. He is co-author of Theorizing Global Studies (2011) and has published in established journals, including Sociology, Social Movement Studies, and Organization.
Preface / 1. Introduction / 2. Theorizing political participation and non-participation / 3. Student activism past and present: opportunities, constraints, and repertoires of contention / 4. Who participates? Patterns of student political engagement and action / 5. Becoming a participant: activism mobilization and the university campus / 6. Being a participant: commitment, radicalization and the building of collective identities / 7. Being a non-participant:uncertainty, dis-identification and the ‘caring but not committed’ / 8. Conclusion
A generation ago many scholars thought that students would usher in the Revolution. Through this brilliant study of non-participation, Hensby shows why this did not happen. Because non-participation always dwarfs participation, this book should interest anyone interested in social movements.
James M. Jasper, Professor, CUNY Graduate Center, author of The Art of Moral Protest

A fascinating and important book which makes a number of very significant contributions to our understanding of student politics. Hensby offers a rigorous analysis and discussion of data gathered through extensive and thorough empirical work. A must-read for anybody working in this area.
Nick Crossley, Professor, Sociology and Mitchell Centre for Social Network Analysis, School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester

Student activism has a long, rich history. Hensby’s excellent book places the 2010/11 UK student movement against increased fees and austerity within this cultural history. His engaging use of student surveys and interview data shows that pathways to activism are enhanced in the digital age. Costs of activism remain high but, importantly, supportive non-participants are also a core group in mobilisation success.
Ariadne Vromen, Professor, University of Sydney

This well-researched, engaging and readable account of the 2010-11 student protests in Britain is an important addition to social movement literature. Hensby highlights the varied pathways to participation but also analyses why people opt not to get involved even though they are sympathetic to the cause. It is theoretically and empirically rich and will appeal to academics and activists alike.
Hugo Gorringe, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Edinburgh University

Hensby's Participation and Non-Participation is a terrific addition to the present literature on protest movements, student activism, and modern British society and culture. Carefully researched, convincingly presented, and written with great clarity and authority, it provides an intelligent assessment of the forces that inspire student civic engagement. This is a book for scholars and students alike.
Michael Holm, Lecturer of Social Sciences, Boston University