La Macchia, Stephen T. and Louis, Winnifred R. 2016, Crowd behaviour and collective action. In McKeown, Shelley, Haji, Reeshma and Ferguson, Neil (ed), Understanding peace and conflict through social identity theory: contemporary global perspectives, Springer International Publishing, Cham, Switzerland, pp.89-104, doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-29869-6_6.
Crowd behaviour and collective action are integral to historical and political developments; they are the hands that turn the wheels of conflict and peace and propel societal change. Crowds engaging in collective action are the very embodiment of mass political mobilisation, as seen in countless examples from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movements to European anti-austerity rallies. In this chapter, we examine the contribution of social identity theory to understanding crowd behaviour and collective action, and discuss possibilities for continued theoretical integration and promoting social change. We first discuss competing theories of crowd behaviour, showing how those based on the social identity approach have progressed our understanding. We also discuss how the application of such an approach to understanding specific riot events has led to a conceptual and theoretical synthesis of collective action and crowd behaviour. We then examine social identity explanations of collective action more broadly, before analysing the apparent disconnect between established models of crowd behaviour and those of collective action, with a view to theoretical integration. Finally, we address the role of social identity in peace and conflict more broadly, and discuss future directions in this area of research.
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