Releasing the Waters: A Sociological Study of the Anti-fracking Movement in Bulgaria
Mihaylov, Nikolay Lyubenov
The anti-fracking movement in Bulgaria, 2011-2012, represents a remarkable case of citizen mobilization against techno-industrial development. The movement merits scholarly interest both as an instance of a larger controversy around a novel technology in a world at an energy crossroads and as a social phenomenon in its own right, with its novelty to the cultural context, its power, its success. Three studies take three different perspectives on the anti-fracking movement (AFM), aiming, in their combination, to describe and explain how the AFM shaped and was shaped by policy-making in its specific context. The first study advances a conceptual framework, a policy-making process (PMP) model, for the study of social movements (SMs). The study builds on the current accomplishments of SM scholarship and presents an approach that synthesizes important theories and emphasizes issue-focused policy-making. The AFM features as a case illustrating the application of the PMP model. The model allows for the concise description and deeper understanding of a whole SM, and for cross-case comparisons with SMs in other contexts. The second study focuses on the content and processes of meaning-making in the AFM. It attempts to answer how understandings emerged and developed among activists about the issue, the technology, the threat, and the major actors in the conflict. The analysis of meaning-making is performed and presented in a novel way, reconstructing activist meanings from bounded objects to complex higher-order systems. The study presents findings on the meaning-making mechanisms, the identities, ideologies, discourses, and storylines within the movement, and the relationships among them. The third study describes and evaluates the internal organization of the AFM as a grassroots democracy. A grassroots democracy lens can help understand how the AFM mobilized thousands of first-time activists in a society with only fledgling civil structures and networks. Additionally, the study examines how democratic forms helped the AFM community mobilize and sustain participation, while also developing an alternative political process. Findings on the movement-specific forms of power, equality, participation, and consent are presented, with explanations of their origins, legitimacy, and implications for movement actions. The mutual influence and impact of the PMP and movement democracy are examined.