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Millbank tendency: the strengths and limitations of mediated protest ‘events’ in UK student activism cycles

Hensby, Alexander (2019) Millbank tendency: the strengths and limitations of mediated protest ‘events’ in UK student activism cycles. Current Sociology, 67 (7). pp. 960-977. ISSN 0011-3921. (doi:10.1177/0011392119865761)

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UK students’ desire to create disruptive, media-friendly ‘events’ during the 2010-11 protests against fees and cuts is reflective of wider cycles and processes in student activism history. First, constant cohort turnover restricts students’ ability to convert campaigns into durable movements, necessitating that they must periodically ‘start from scratch’. This informs a second process, namely the need to gain the attention of mainstream media, as this can potentially amplify students’ grievances far beyond their own organisational capacities. Both have shaped student activism over the past fifty years, compelling contemporary students to create protest events that live up to their radical history. These processes were evident in autumn 2010, when an NUS demonstration saw students attack and briefly occupy Conservative Party headquarters at 30 Millbank. The protest’s mass mediation was central to activists’ ‘eventing’ processes, and provided the spark for the radical UK-wide campaign that followed. Yet once the fees bill was passed by Parliament, students’ dependency on mainstream media cycles was quickly exposed. With ‘mediatization’ tendencies having dogged student activism since the sixties, this article argues that creating ‘events’ epitomises students’ longstanding strengths and limitations as society’s ‘incipient intelligentsia’ (Rootes, 1980: 475).

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/0011392119865761
Uncontrolled keywords: Student activism, social movements, protest events, media, memory
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Alexander Hensby
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2019 11:12 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2019 11:24 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Hensby, Alexander:
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