Unobtrusive practices of contention in Leninist regimes

Hank Johnston, Carol Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This article broadens understanding of the mobilization-repression relationship by drawing on materials from eastern European Leninist regimes. It identifies "unobtrusive practices of contention" as an important yet understudied and undertheorized element of political contention in repressive regimes. Three general forms of unobtrusive practices are identified. First, oppositional speech situations are settings in which participants use tacitly understood rules about what can and cannot be said to criticize the regime and "tell the truth." Second, duplicitous groups and organizations are officially recognized associations where oppositional speech tends to cluster. This allows for denser and more continuous interaction that imparts to them a mildly oppositional milieu. Third, dissident circles are the most contentious and least unobtrusive form of opposition. They blur the public-private distinction by emphasizing innovative public tactics such as samizdat press and access to foreign media. All three forms are precursors to public protest and the appearance of movement organizations during white-hot mobilization phases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-375
Number of pages25
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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