Against All Odds: A Sociological Examination of the Social Movement that Opposed the Keystone Pipeline XL

dc.contributor.advisorKurtz, Lester R.
dc.contributor.authorKalich, Nicholas
dc.creatorKalich, Nicholas
dc.description.abstractThe purpose of this study is to investigate why people engage in civil disobedience against powerful corporations and how social movements attract and mobilize protestors, even when the odds are against them. Given that both supporters and opponents of the Keystone Pipeline XL considered its construction inevitable, I was surprised by the number of people who continued to protest against it. I explore this dynamic through an ethnographic study of the social movement opposed to the Keystone Pipeline XL, thus contributing to our understanding of the environmental movement and the general knowledge regarding both individual interest in joining social movements as well as the ability of social movement organizers to mobilize individuals. In August 2011, the social movement opposed to the Keystone Pipeline XL construction organized a week-long act of civil disobedience that ended with 1,252 people arrested in front of the White House. The following November, 12,000 people organized again in a demonstration to encircle and create a symbolic chain around the White House (no arrests were made). Organizers have continued to call upon supporters to participate and contribute towards various acts of civil disobedience against the Keystone Pipeline XL, yet many participants did not believe their protests would be successful. This research outlines three conditions why people participate in social movements. First I identify key decisions that lead individuals to participate in collective action throughout various observed demonstrations. Rational choice theory seeks to identify just how these preferences (attitudes, belief, and values) determine behavior (Aldrich 1993), but the decision to participate in a movement goes well beyond the narrow understanding of rational choice theorists and includes the role of emotions in mobilizing protest (Goodwin et al., 2001; Eyerman, 2007). Next, I identify motivational factors that social movement organizers used to bring people together and demonstrate for their cause. Conflicts can mobilize the people that are most directly affected by oppressive manipulations of social and economic resources (Melucci 1980) yet other factors can be identified as sources of motivation towards collective action. This describes how environmental movements must convey certain motivational messages to encourage the individual’s rational decision to participate. Finally, I identify interactions between the social movement and the individual to describe how this relationship affects the participation and effectiveness of planned demonstrations. Nonviolent movements obtain their strength from the participation of people from all areas of society and the more members the movement has supporting it, the more effective the tactics will be when implemented (Stephan & Chenoweth 2008; Chenoweth & Cunningham, 20013; Merriman 2010). The results of this research are derived from field research at movement protests, content analysis of movement publications, and fifteen interviews of participants at planned actions organized by the environmental movement.
dc.subjectEnvironmental Movement
dc.subjectCivil disobedience
dc.subjectKeystone Pipeline XL
dc.subjectSocial movement
dc.subjectContentious politics
dc.titleAgainst All Odds: A Sociological Examination of the Social Movement that Opposed the Keystone Pipeline XL
dc.typeThesis Mason University's of Arts in Sociology


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