(Full text in pdf format)


Jón Ólafsson


Bifröst University, Iceland



Abstract. Activism and protest occupy an uncertain space within democratic politics. While the right to voice a dissenting opinion is unquestioned in liberal theory, protesters often demand more than the right to express their opinions. Protest groups employ direct and indirect threats to decision-makers, and thus some kind of coercion often replaces argument in resistance to authorities. The paper discusses what kind of success protest groups seek and in some cases expect. It attempts to show that protest action should be seen as expanding the political dialogue rather than as a sign of failure of democratic procedure. Protesters communicate with decision-makers without thereby seeking to enter the decision-making process itself, trying to influence it without becoming a part of it. Protest is a form of political participation involving a defiance of authority, which cannot easily be accommodated within democratic methods, and yet turns out to be indispensable for democratic politics.


Keywords: protest, activism, dialogue, liberalism, democratic politics




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