Legislative protest as disruptive democratic practice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Carole Spary


Publication details

DateE-pub ahead of print - 28 May 2013
DatePublished (current) - Jun 2013
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)392-416
Early online date28/05/13
Original languageEnglish


This article explores the phenomenon of legislative protest and presents an analytical framework for understanding its significance for democratic theory and practice. Legislative protest is defined as disruptive behaviour of elected representatives within legislative settings. Acts of legislative protest include sit-ins, boycotts, walkouts, and individual or collective disobedience of the presiding officer within legislative chambers or committees. This article begins from the premise that legislative protest should not be dismissed as frivolous or self-interested behaviour. Such acts are significant because they are disruptive, literally of the routine proceedings of legislatures, and figuratively because they transgress boundaries of ‘orderliness’ according to formal rules and norms of behaviour in legislative settings. Variations in the significance and justifiability of such acts of legislative protest are interpreted according to three key debates in democratic theory, namely legislative conflict, deliberation, and representation. Beyond these three broad debates, it is argued that any attempt to decipher the substantive meaning of legislative protest must be informed by a grounded analysis paying attention to specific forms of protest performed within specific legislative settings. Such analysis should acknowledge the corporeality of protest and its embeddedness within historically contextualised institutional and cultural scripts.

    Research areas

  • legislative protest, disruption, deliberation, representation, parliaments, democratic practice

Research outputs

Discover related content

Find related publications, people, projects, datasets and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations