The Role of Subjective Power Dynamics in Far-Right Collective Action: The “Unite the Right” Rally and the Capitol Insurrection


  • Carina Hoerst
  • John Drury


Far-right collective action has previously been explained in terms of collective grievances. However, this does not adequately explain mobilisations after ingroup-relevant successes. Based on the broader collective action literature, we suggest that analysing experiences of subjective power before and during collective action may significantly complement existing explanations of far-right mobilisations. We used secondary data (predominantly videos from YouTube and ProPublica) from the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally and the 2021 Washington Capitol insurrection to qualitatively examine the extent to which attendees reported experiencing collective psychological empowerment alongside the perception of collective grievances. The events were connected by the effort to unify the far-right yet were shaped by different immediate contexts. We find that at Charlottesville, attendees arrived already feeling empowered and gained further empowerment from the rally itself. While the Capitol insurrection seemed to be driven by collective grievances, there were some indicators of empowerment experiences mainly deriving from the event itself. Our analysis has implications for disempowering far-right collective action.