Social Unrest

image of Social Unrest

This report develops a framework of social unrest within a complex understanding of systemic risk.  The goal is to  try to identify triggers (events that lead to social unrest) and drivers (causal roots) for the emergence of social unrest and, based on this functional analysis, to design policy options on how to avoid, mitigate or handle unrest. The framework should enable a better understanding of the circumstances that may trigger social unrest, how intensely that unrest is likely to materialize and what interventions promise  to de-escalate the conflict or even prevent social unrest in the first place.   Since social unrest is more a process of escalation than a finite state of the world, the term has been conceptualized in a step-by-step escalation scheme.   Each step makes social unrest more severe. It is a gradual framework that identifies the different stages that make social unrest more and more probable. In order to identify relevant drivers and cluster of drivers, three case studies are investigated:  pandemics, cyber-related risk and financial crises. The main question is how did or could these events cause social unrests.  In a second step, an analytic model is used to capture the combined effects learned from the case study analysis. In a third step,the IRGC risk governance model for explaining the risk of social unrest or predicting the consequences of social unrest is applied. Finally , guidelines for normative governance with respect to social unrest are developed.


Basic model

Our literature review revealed that the term social unrest is not frequently used in scientific research. Most definitions rely on operational descriptions, that means the term is explained by using indicators of their measurement. Such definitions are not conceptual but empirical (Drury and Olson, 1998; Zhang et al., 2005). Our own argumentation will start with these operational definitions. These will give us a hint about the activities that can be grouped under the term social unrests. In a second step we take the indicators as a heuristic tool to explore additional literature on theoretical or empirical studies dealing with activities connected to these indicators. In particular, we refer to studies on political participation, social movements, conflict and crisis, and collective violence. We will discuss the intersections and boundaries between these concepts and social unrest which will lead us to a nominal definition and a specific frame that characterizes our approach. The aim here is to make theoretical and empirical thoughts coming from other fields of research accessible to an audience primarily interested in social unrest.


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