Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Document Type



Cross-class mobilization in developing countries can be a powerful force for precipitating political change, but the literature on cross-class protest movements in developing countries has focused almost exclusively on democratization movements and has not dealt adequately with cross-class protest in other contexts. Additionally, the literature on protest movements typically focuses on the lower classes, while the upper classes are either ignored or assumed to be one-dimensional, uniform, self-interested actors who only protest when it is in their own best economic and political interest. These deficiencies in the literature have been illuminated by the massive protests that occurred in Guatemala in 2015. In a country with a long history of class antagonism, rigid social and racial cleavages, and drastic inequality, how did Guatemalans in the upper classes find common ground and solidarity with those in the lower classes? Existing literature on cross-class protests in developing countries is sparse, and argues that cross-class protests only emerge in developing countries during democratization, or in times of extreme economic problems. This paper is a preliminary investigation into the 2015 protests in Guatemala that critiques the literature on cross-class protests in developing countries, and especially in Latin America, by providing evidence obtained from interviews regarding the motivations of protesters in the upper classes. It argues that the standard image of the upper classes in developing countries as one-dimensional, uniform, rational actors is inadequate and inaccurate. Rather, they have complex motivations ranging from self-interest, to nationalism, to altruistic concern for the poor. While the findings in this paper are preliminary due to a small, non-representative sample, they reveal the need for a larger, more comprehensive project to investigate cross-class protester motivations.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Sullivan, Christopher