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The populist label has been attached to such a variety of political movements (right and left, top and bottom) that it is difficult to stabilize a central meaning that can function rigorously as an analytical concept. Some analysts propose conceptualizations that are compilations of characteristics of specific movements and provide no basis for abstracting a more parsimonious conceptualization that serves a broader comparative analysis (Pipes 1964, Goodwyn 1976, Hicks 1955). Other individuals engaged in comparative research have identified a particular trait or subset of characteristics (Germani 1962, Di Tella 1965, Ionescu and Gellner 1969, Laclau 1977, Conniff 1999, Taggart 1995). Although modern jurisprudence is imbued with ideals of equality before the law and isolation from the dispute over the identity, ties and resources of the parties, this isolation is still imperfectly realized. Those with wealth, power, and other resources can hire better lawyers, invest in gathering evidence and arguments, use delays to their advantage, and employ strategies that divert attention from unfavorable rules and take full advantage of favorable rules (see Injustice: Legal Aspects; Equality and inequality: legal aspects). The benefits of stronger parties who are repeated users of the legal system are even more pronounced in out-of-court forums such as legislators and administrative authorities. Thus, legal regulations that place norms of equality at the centre may at the same time allow the `haves` to have the advantage” (Galanter 1974). Although political geography has contributed to our understanding of the roles and functions of the state in a global capitalist economy, there is still a need to continue to address questions of the extent and nature of the impact of state participation in the global capitalist economy on social movements. Social movements that make ethnic demands are largely the product of the failure to build a nation-state on the periphery of the capitalist system. The relationship of the state to the capitalist economy could shape collective action against the state, not least because the process of capital accumulation (e.g., privatization) and its effects (e.g., privatization) increasing inequality) create the conditions for social mobilization. There has been a huge stream of work on theories of the state emphasizing the linear development of the modern state.

A mass mobilization of Los Indignados on May 15, 2011 (known as “15 M”) led to widespread protest activities throughout Spain. Some scholars have pointed out that Internet protests like 15M have become “personalized” and do not require a rigid organizational structure to achieve broad participation: the sum of all these individual decisions is also not sufficient to anticipate the emergence of large protest events. The cumulative effects of individual behaviours are not linear: as explained in the section The importance of interdependent decisions, networks activate feedback mechanisms that can promote a sudden change in mobilization dynamics, such as: an exponential growth in the number of demonstrators recruited. These mechanisms are at the heart of the complexity of the network – and the unpredictability of their dynamics – but they can be dissected and reconstructed to reveal their logic. The research project on legal mobilisation has its origins in the INFAR project led by Professor Sanne Taekema of the Erasmus School of Law, in which ISS has been closely involved, and in various collaborations between ISS and the Wits School of Law and the work on the Child Rights Index led by Professor Karin Arts. The use of law and legal systems by disadvantaged people to challenge the unjust distribution of power and resources is a real phenomenon that is older and exists independently of international law and legal aid. [5] Legal mobilization refers to the social processes by which the law is invoked in situations perceived as problematic. In liberal democracies, much of the legal mobilization takes place in the activation of legal claims arising from processes by which people change the meaning of harm situations and seek redress for them.

Several contextual factors influence this process, including social hierarchy, interpersonal relationships, culture, and organizational and institutional (legal) structures.