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Repression: The governance of domestic dissent

Chapter in book
Authors Abby Peterson
Mattias Wahlström
Published in The Oxford Handbook of Social Movements
Pages 634-652
ISBN 978-0-19-967840-2
Publisher Oxford University Press
Place of publication Oxford
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Pages 634-652
Language en
Keywords channeling, countermovements, surveillance, governance, plural policing, protest policing, private security industry, repression, soft repression, war on terror
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)


Social movement protest and repression are inextricably joined. In this chapter we make a case for conceptualizing repression as the governance of domestic dissent. Repression or policing contention is a dispersed mechanism for the governance of the dominant political and economic order. In order to survey the vast literature on repression our model for understanding the forms of governing dissent departs from three conceptual dimensions. The scale dimension denotes the geographic and operational scale of the governance of dissent. The institutional dimension tackles the identity of the actors governing dissent—from actors more or less tightly linked to the national government to private security and civil society actors that act more or less independently of any state. Finally, the functional dimension addresses the ways that dissent is governed—ranging from subtle forms of channeling, through intimidation and symbolic violence, to violent coercion at the other end of the spectrum.

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