Author: Sveta Klimova
Title: Disagreeing to Agree and Disagreeing to Disagree: Can Protest Be Rational
This paper was presented at the Fourth International Conference 'Alternative Futures and Popular Protest' held in Manchester in April 1998. It contains a preliminary statement of the argument which is fully developed in my PhD thesis entitled 'Righteous Rebels: Collective Action from Normative Perspective' to be submitted in June 1999. The paper attempts to question the current understanding of social conflict as a power struggle that involves mobilisation of resources against the adversary. It argues that the representation of conflict as social warfare (the strategic interaction model of conflict) is wrong insofar as it overlooks the fact that conflict is a product of shared normative understandings. Drawing on the analysis of the discourse of three protests in post-communist Russia I show that parties engaged in a conflict attempt to resolve their differences by appealing to shared notions of right and wrong. Because any social conflict can rely on normative argument in order to transcend itself, the locus of conflict and protest would more appropriately be defined as a normative relationship rather than be seen as a structural opposition of interests. The paper concludes by exploring some of the general theoretical implications of understanding conflict as a normative relationship.