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Metaphors of Protest: A Classification of Motivations for Collective Action


  • We thank Hein Lodewijkx and Agneta Fischer for their comments on a previous draft of this article.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Martijn van Zomeren, Department of Social Psychology, University of Groningen, 9712 TS Groningen, The Netherlands [e-mail:].


This article proposes a classification of motivations for collective action based in three of Tetlock's (2002) metaphors of social functionalism (i.e., people as intuitive economists, politicians, and theologians). We use these metaphors to map individual- and group-based motivations for collective action from the literature onto the distinction between individuals who are strongly or weakly identified with their social group. We conclude that low identifiers can be best understood as intuitive economists (supported by both early and recent work on collective action), whereas high identifiers can be best thought of as intuitive politicians or theologians (as recent work on social identity has started to explore). Interestingly, our classification reveals a remarkable lack of attention for the intuitive theologian's motivation for collective action. We therefore develop new hypotheses for future research, and derive recommendations for policy and practice from our analysis.