American Sociological Association

The Advantaged Cause: Affect Control Theory and Social Movements

The role of grievances in drawing public concern and activist support is a surprisingly understudied topic in modern social movement literature. This research is the first to parse issues into core components to understand whether some grievances are more successful than others in evoking reactions that can benefit social movements. Specifically, I use concepts and measures developed by affect control theory scholars that tap into cultural perceptions of the goodness or badness of behaviors and identities to investigate how people react to different configurations of good or bad perpetrators, behaviors, and victims in mobilizing events. I find strong support, across outcomes, that evaluations of goodness and badness in grievances affect people’s willingness to care about an issue or support a campaign. This provides insights into both the types of movements more likely to be successful as well as the types of social problems less likely to draw public support.


Kelly Bergstrand





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