Element Descriptor

Abeyance refers to the morning after the night before, when the crowds have a no longer attending the demonstrations the streets have emptied. The psychological and political consequences of balance can be severe. Not being able to deal with them means that the defeat is longer and darker than otherwise needs to be.

Level descriptors


You understand that abeyance happens and you are aware of the basic ways in which you can protect yourself and others both in preparation for and during abeyance.
You have a detailed understanding of the implications of death spirals for individuals, individual groups and wider social movements around an issue. You’re able to offer practical advice and support to yourself and others to deal with decreasing numbers.
You have a detailed historically informed understanding of a balance across different waves of activity and indeed different issues. You have read extensively, both academic literature and activist memoir. And at short notice you are able to provide detailed helpful recommendations for surviving abeyance.
You’ve been there done that repeatedly, You have helped other people get through the worst of it and emerge stronger and ready for the next wave. You can do this across issues, languages, cultures.

Element Overview Essay

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The causes of organisations not dealing with the reality of abeyance are several. First, most people haven’t been through it. Because those that were engaged in previous waves often don’t come back, because abeyance has dealt with so badly. And those that do don’t want to talk about the morning after the night before when it’s still the night before, because who likes a buzzkill?

Secondly, the very nature of abeyance means that the institutional memory and the treadmill of the conveyor belt rather, of information and tradecraft is broken. So it’s a hole in my bucket situation with abeyance.

Thirdly, we’re desperate, desperate for any sense of hope and momentum. So thinking about talking about previous occasions when the momentum was not sustained, is extremely emotionally costly, alongside the intellectual difficulties of tracking down information which exists in people’s heads or not at all.

So the consequences of not understanding abeyance are, as alluded to in the element description, that the night before the morning after, is darker and deeper and more painful than it otherwise would need to be. And the recovery back to being effective active citizens who can help bring in new people new ideas, new energy is longer. And the path is harder. The longer the abeyance, the longer the incumbents have to entrench their position. And of course they will, because that’s what incumbents do.

The fixes. Well, there aren’t any easy fixes. For those of us who are new, it would help if we accepted that we have all been here before. For those of us who’ve been on this rodeo before, it’s important to modulate your language and to do the right messaging at the right time. And to also have lots of easily digested histories of how we have been here before. Not just in ranty blog posts, but also as memes. Yes. cartoons, short animated films, blog posts, etc. and if we have that, then we decrease the surprise that people feel when things start to hollow out. But this is really difficult. If this were easy, being dumped by now. Large amounts of compassion in the coming weeks, months and years. of many years that will be for the people. We’ve pinned all their hopes on Saint Greta and Saint Roger and on the IPCC’s 1.5 degrees report as some kind of magic talisperson.

Development Resources

There’s this blog post

There’s some academic articles worth your time-

Laurel L. Holland &Sherry Cable 2002 Reconceptualizing Social Movement Abeyance: The Role of Internal Processes and Culture in Cycles of Movement Abeyance and Resurgence Sociological Focus, 35, 3. Pages 297-314 https://doi.org/10.1080/00380237.2002.10570705

Diarmuid Maguire 1992 When the streets begin to empty: The demobilisation of the British peace movement after 1983 West European Politics, 15, 4 Pages 75-94 2007https://doi.org/10.1080/01402389208424933

Traci M. SawyersDavid S. Meyer 1999 Missed Opportunities: Social Movement Abeyance and Public Policy Social Problems, Volume 46, Issue 2, 187–206, https://doi.org/10.2307/3097252

Verta Taylor 1989 Social Movement Continuity: The Women’s Movement in Abeyance American Sociological Review Vol. 54, No. 5 (Oct., 1989), pp. 761-775 DOI: 10.2307/2117752https://www.jstor.org/stable/2117752

Assessment Resources