The Micro Potential for Social Change: Emotion, Consciousness, and Social Movement Formation



Can one explain both the resilience of the status quo and the possibility for resistance from a subordinate position? This paper aims to resolve these seemingly incompatible perspectives. By extending Randall Collins’s interaction ritual theory, and synthesizing it with Norbert Wiley’s model of the self, this paper suggests how the emotional dynamics between people and within the self can explain social inertia as well as the possibility for resistance and change. Diverging from literature on the sociology of emotions that has been concerned with individual emotional processes, this paper considers the collective level in order to explore how movement action is motivated. The emotional dynamics of subordinate positioning that limit women’s options in face-to-face interactions are examined, as are the social processes of developing feminist consciousness and a willingness to participate in resistance work. Pointing toward empirical applications, I conclude by suggesting conditions where resistance is likely.