Events and Social Class in Esslingen

Exposure, Networks, and Mobilization: The Petition Movement during the  1848/49 Revolution in a German Town12

Lothar Krempel 3  and Michael Schnegg 4



This paper examines how existing social networks are transformed into political action in times of rapid social change. This general theoretical problem is exemplified for the 1848/49 Revolution in Esslingen, a middle-sized German town. We use data from more than 200 historical sources to identify patterns of activity and social linkages for more than 2000 inhabitants of Esslingen at the time of the revolution and during the 15 years preceding it.

Results indicate that existing social structure plays a key role for mobilization processes. Further, they show that the picture needs to be differentiated. Structure does not have the same effect at each stage of the process and for every person involved. Mobilization does not only take place through the existing structure but also occurs in more distinct regions of the network where a common situation and an equivalent position in society at large are the driving forces behind the organization of protest.



This paper examines how existing social networks are transformed into political action in times of rapid social change. Social networks' potential as an important carrier and as driving force behind political protest has long been recognized by mobilization researchers. The idea recently experienced a revitalization through sounder empirical and theoretical work (see Diani 1997, Klandermans, Kriesi, and Tarrow 1988 as good recent examples).

While we strongly support the empirical and theoretical weight that is put on the relationship between social structures and political action, we find it often neglects other important relations between the social world and the political domain. More specifically, political action and protest can also occur in the absence of social linkages, and existing social networks can have barely almost no effect on the formation or prevention of political protest.

In this paper we aim toward an enhancement of the understanding of mobilization processes by introducing a more general, yet formally precise, model of the role of social networks in the processes. The proposed approach uses insights from diffusion research to account for different processes under a single analytical framework.

Research on the diffusion of innovations has demonstrated that social structures are an important variable in the overall explanatory equation. How a structure contributes to a diffusion process varies with different points in time and with every person involved in it (Coleman 1957). One of the oldest and most fundamental theoretical concept developed in diffusion research is the concept of exposure. The exposure model postulates that an individual engages into a collective behavior based upon the proportion of people in his personal environment that are already active. An individual's tendency to adopt a specific behavior is assumed to be a function of the behavior of others in his immediate social environment (cf. Granovetter 1978, Valente 1995).

Yet, the strength of a relationship may vary over time and is not equivalent with each individual involved in the process. More specific parameters, such as the amount of external contacts an actor has or individual attributes and beliefs (cf. Tilly 1978,p. 59-64), are often needed to specify the model and can account for the observed variations between individuals and over time.

Such an approach to dynamic processes - that combines structural and individual parameters - has proven to be a powerful theoretical and analytical tool in diffusion research and can fruitfully be adopted for mobilization processes. This combination directly translates into the research agenda we propose and we will exemplify it with one extremely interesting empirical case: the Petition Movement during the  1848/49 Revolution in a German town.

It is first necessary to determine to which extent the movement can be explained as a process that takes place within existing social structures. Then, when we know which parts of the overall process can be explained within such a general, structural model, the second step is to use additional information about the actors to identify mechanisms of recruitment and mobilization taking place beyond the scope of the general structural model. In combining both approaches we reach a maximum statistical and substantial explanatory power.

As said, the political movement studied here is the German Revolution of 1848/1849. The geographical focus is Esslingen a middle-size town in the southwestern part of Germany. In many respects, Esslingen stands for the rest of Germany and can serve as a prototypical example: At the time of the revolution it was dominated by craftsmen and small scale (family owned) industries that quantitatively outscored the existing industrialized production plants. At the same time Esslingen was embedded into a predominantly agricultural hinterland. In this blend of crafts, industries, and agriculture, we find all the social groups that had a crucial impact on the revolution. In fact, the relationships between merchants, craftsmen, workers, and vintners were often used as an explanation for the happening of the revolution.  In this regard, we had to make sure that the events in Esslingen were representative of many of the local communities of that period: with a few exceptions mentioned in the analysis, Esslingen is a prototypical micro-cosmos, well embedded into larger society, which adequately reflects the most fundamental developments on the national scale.

One of the means used to express new ideas and to make claims to the different political agents during the Revolution of 1848/49 was the Petition Movement. Petitions, citing new political ideas, including the call for rapid changes, were addressed to the government, the monarchs of the State, and the National Assembly (Nationalversammlung) in Frankfurt. During the revolution more than 17.000 Petitions were addressed to the Nationalversammlung in Frankfurt alone and an additional 13.451 to the Assembly in Berlin. The fact that these petitions could have up to 10.000 petitioners stress the range and the importance of the phenomena for the revolution (Siemann 1985: 182). Although these petitions cover a broad span of subjects, they all have in common that they document active political involvement. In times of rapid social change the personal signatures on these petitions represent far more than a normal democratic interest: they express revolutionary practice.

This paper shows how the extreme rise of the petition movement observed during the years of 1848/49 can be explained within the proposed agenda. More specifically the following two questions will be used as guidelines: 1. What circumstances are generating the broad interest on new political ideas, and 2. who and what plays a central role for the diffusion of these new ideas.

Data and the Analytical Approach

Very rich historical data allow us to tackle questions about dynamical historical processes that normally must be left aside by historians and other social scientists dealing with the phenomena of revolutionary change and mass mobilization. These data are reconstructed from more than 200 historical records and enlighten the behavior of about 5000 persons during the revolution and in the 15 years preceding it. The enormous historical information recovered from archived records by Prof. Dr. C. Lipp includes the participation of the city's inhabitants to more than 100 city-linked events such as participation in initiatives, membership in associations and constitution of the city's political institutions. This co-participation information allows to identify parts of the social structure and is available on the individual level . It can easily be combined with additional individual attributes such as occupation, land ownership, or confession. These extremely valuable data open the door to a new perspective on the study of social movements: a perspective that combines individualistic analysis with a structural view.

Still the question remains: how can one adequately deal with the immense amount of data that describe the social structure and the process of mobilization? Our methodological answer is one that combines statistical analysis with the use of visualization techniques of social structures. These techniques are based on force directed placement algorithms (Eades (1984), Kamada (1989) which can be extended to handle valued graphs and even two-mode data (Krempel, 1999, forthcoming). As we shall demonstrate these visualization techniques help to systematically reduce the information contained in the data while preserving the information about more specific phenomena.

The German Revolution of 1848/49

In the middle of the 19th century, Germany (and many other parts of  Europe) had reached a stage where the shears between the social, cultural, and economical situation on the one hand and the political reality on the other were widely open. Whether the beginning industrial revolution had brought about or only accelerated the liberal movement in Germany is an interesting and controversial historical question that must be left aside here. Regardless of the answer, in the years proceeding the revolution Germany was in a situation where the suppression of democratic principles such as freedom of the press, democratic representation in the legislature, and the independence of the judicature could only hardly be maintained by the ruling alliance of nobles and military.

A revolt in Paris between the 22nd and 24th of February 1848 not only led to the overturn of King Louis Phillip and his regime but soon turned out to be the final trigger leading the situation in Germany to explode. Only a few days later the first uprising began as a spontaneously organized peasant revolts in the South-West (Baden) of Germany and in Bavaria. Wave-like, the revolution spread over the metropolitan areas in the Rhine-land to the political and military head of Prussia in Berlin. Surprised and overthrown by the strength of the movement many monarchs declared their willingness to install most of the basic democratic principles demanded.

On March 5th, soon after these first uprisings, the liberal leaders and intellectual fathers of the revolution met in Heidelberg to discuss further steps to institutionalize the revolutionary changes obtained so far. It was decided upon that a provisional government should meet in Frankfurt to prepare a general election and to begin the work on a new, liberal constitution. This provisional government had its constituting session on March 31st and was eventually replaced by an elected legislative body on May 18th.

Most historians agree that the conquest of the "Red (democratic) Vienna" by General Windischgrätz in October 1848 has been the crucial and final turning point in the revolution. If not from a military point of view than from a symbolic one. Like in Austria, in many Germany states the old alliance between nobles and military had recovered from its initial shock and gained back its original strength. On the long road of decline that ended in the final burial of the revolutionary claims, at least two stages need to be mentioned: The dissolution of the assembly in Frankfurt and the final refusal of the King of Prussia to accept the crown that the assembly offered him as representative of the German people in  March 1849.

A year only after the beginning of the revolution the King had recovered enough of its military and political strength to state in public that only God and not the people or any legislative body could decide upon his crown. The failed revolution was followed by a period of political repression. Many of the former leaders of the movement were suspended from their duties and had to suffer under the repression organized by the monarch's secret police.

The Petition Movement and its Drastic Rise

As pointed out, one of the fundamental means to express new ideas and to make claims to the different political agents during the Revolution of 1848/49 was the Petition Movement. On a time table, the Petition Movement can be divided into three historical phases paralleling the developments on the larger, national scale. In the first phase, the beginning of the revolution, petitions were addressed to representatives of the "old regime". They pressed monarchs and governments to install democratic principles including the right to form an association, freedom of the press, freedom of trade, and a new judicature. During the second phase of the Petition Movement, when a parliament was firmly established in Frankfurt, petitioners pointed to more specific interests, such as those of the churches, the craftsmen, and the workers. In the last period, beginning in the winter of 1848, the picture had changed drastically. The old alliance between nobility and military had recovered from its shock and it became eventually clear, that the revolution would fail. Still, petitions unsuccessfully urged the King of Prussia to accept the crown and the constitution proposed by the provisional parliament. By the end of the third phase, almost half of the city's inhabitants were in some ways actively involved in the petition movement and thus had made a political statement.

Figure 1: The Rise of Activity 

The Rise of the Petition Movement


As outlined above our approach to explain the rise of the Petition Movement is twofold: First, we will examine in how far the movement can be explained as a process that takes place within the social structure of the city. The reconstruction of the social landscape at the time of the revolution allows us to develop and test this structural model of mobilization. Secondly, we will use additional information about the actors to identify mechanisms of recruitment and mobilization that took place beyond the scope of the general structural model. But, before we move on to present the empirical results we have to present some of the theoretical considerations behind the general model and we need to introduce the operationalization of these theoretical concepts.

Mobilization Within and Outside Social Structures

Diffusion research convincingly demonstrated the importance of the web of social linkages as an carrier of innovative behavior. This influence of personal contacts is not restricted to innovations such as family planning methods and the prescription of certain medicine (cf. Coleman 1957 and Rogers and Kincaid 1981 for these classical examples): personal interactions also have an impact on political orientation, beliefs and behaviors as it has been acknowledged in political science a long time ago. To the surprise of the general public, media, and academia alike, Lazarsfeld and his colleagues were the first to demonstrate the great impact of social interactions on the change in voting preferences (cf. Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet 1948). The early attempt to include structural variables into the research agenda clearly showed the extend to which social linkages matter for political processes and decisions on a dyadic level.

Within mobilization research this structural view is most explicitly expressed in the resource mobilization approach. Kriesi (1988), as one representative of this approach, notes: " (...) that understanding organizational structures is of crucial importance to understanding mobilization processes" (cf. Kriesi 1988: 41).5

Though the results of both studies are convincing at first site there is one major theoretical and methodological drawback inherent in either example cited. Social networks are by far more than the random combination of individuals interacting in dyads: as these interactions are patterned they form structures of higher order, that entail opportunities and constraints for individual actors and groups. This point has recently been advocated by Diani (1997): "From our perspective, an important question relates to the integration of social movement actors in their broader communities, and to their capacity to mobilize consensus outside movement subcultures (Diani  1997: 139). To our knowledge no empirical study was able to follow that call and tackle these important but complex, structural effects.

The fact that collective social phenomena are often characterized by their steep growth (which is also true for the petition movement as is shown in Figure 1) can in part be explained by the multiplicative properties of social structures.

From a methodological point of view, the multiplicative properties can only be understood if one studies the embeddedness of individual actors in the structures surrounding them: depending on where an actor is located in the social structure he experiences more or less strongly the growth of activity in his personal social environment. Sooner or later he will come in touch with activists and the amount of exposure will determine his likeliness to become active himself. This argument can be reformulated into a more general hypothesis: The more contacts an actor has to other actors who are already active in the revolution, the more likely he will become active himself. This process of mobilization can continue within a given structure for as long as there are actors who experience a rise of activity in their personal surroundings. With the extension of these contacts to activists, peer group pressure rises and the question whether or not to become politically active is stated again and again for the individual actor. The extension continues to accelerate as long as these newly activated actors interact with people who have not yet become involved in the political movement.

Social structures describe who interacts with whom and who can become potentially important for whom. While we assume that social structures matter for the diffusion of new political ideas, it would be oversimplified to put deterministic weight on structural explanations alone. Not all recruitment necessarily takes place within an existing social structure. Similar experiences and an equivalent positions within society in large are very often assumed to cause political change. Such equivalent positions can result from the same access to power and representation, access to property, and same legal positions. People who are tied in such equivalent positions do not necessarily need to be tied in the sense of social networks or social structures. It is even more likely to assume that this is not the case. In a social situation where power and privileges are unevenly distributed the ruling class has strong interests and often the potential to work against the establishment of effective organizational structures on the side of their political opponents.

Taking into account the two sources of mobilization presented above, we presume that the center of revolutionary activity is located where structure and equivalent positions resulting in similar interests come together.

The Events as Context of Mobilization

The structure of public life in Esslingen, as the structural context for mobilization, can be reconstructed through the individual participation of over 5000 people in more than 100 city-linked events: political institutions, associations, various initiatives, and other social and political happenings. The overlap of personal social circles allows us to recreate the complete social structure as the interlocking of these individual activities.


The Landscape of Social Events in Esslingen

Figure 2: The Social Landscape of Esslingen Rise of Activity 


Figure 2 is a visualization of this social landscape. In the layout of the graph a high degree of overlap between two institutions is reflected by a close distance in the image. Institutions and events that lay very close to one another in the image share many common participants, those that are far apart share a few or none. Identification of the explicitly political events allows a first orientation in the social landscape we are dealing with. To facilitate the orientation we use different colors to enlighten the position and influence sphere of opposing political agents. The democrats, marked in red, are at the left end of the political spectrum. They were most radical in their call for changes and demanded not only the abolishment of the monarchy and the demotion of the King of Prussia but further the establishment of a democratic regime under a new constitution.

Almost on the opposite side of the social space we find the group representing the opposing political ideology: conservatives and constitutionalists, marked in blue. The followers of this political ideology did neither question the traditional rights of the privileged classes nor did they want change in the overall political and social organization and in the distribution of power and privileges. Finally, the liberal groups, who were the earliest but not the most radical voice against the monarchic regime are marked in yellow. During the revolution their claim for a compromise between the democratic rule and the monarchic regime put them in a floating and mediating position. The liberals pictured a constitutional democracy as the golden bridge between old and new political ideas, ideologies, and realities. This ideological position is nicely reflected by their position within the social landscape: They are in the middle of the two extremes and share members with both of them.

In sum, the visual walk through the social and political life and through the structure that is the basis for the mobilization efforts during the revolution clearly shows that the social space is constructed along one axis: A "left" versus "right" dimension.

Formalization of the General Hypothesis

The overlap between personal social environments allowed us to reconstruct the social landscape of Esslingen. This event structure aggregates reports from historical sources about memberships in institutions, committees, social clubs and single events, events prior to the protest phase. Aggregating these historical observations into a general structure of city events, treats the observations as time independent and persistent. Individual change, which in the extreme can be a movement between opposing political clusters of events, shows up as a link between these in the aggregation.

Trying to understand how the exposure in the personal environment contributes to political activity needs additional assumptions in this case. We have to assume that not only existing co-memberships contribute to the degree of exposure, but also that the political orientation of the people met at former events has an impact on the individual "political" career. Though this is true only for relatively few cases, the extent to which these additional assumptions are necessary is clearly unfavorable for an empircial test of the relationship between the degree of exposure and political protest.

To examine and test the general hypothesis that activity in the Petition Movement is a function of the exposure to actors already active, we further need to define and operationalize the concepts of activity and exposure. The activity for each actor is defined as the number of petitions he has signed within each of the three periods. The degree of exposure is defined as the number of contacts a person has to others already active in the Petition Movement.

This allows to study the overall diffusion process cross-sectionally, how activity at a given point in time is related to the distribution of activists in the overall structure of events and whether each single individual behaves according to the amount of exposure he experiences in this personal social environment.

Figure 3 Exposure to Activists:

Activists, Events and Exposure


The logic of this definition and its operationalization is illustrated in Figure 3. We distinguish between a set of activists (A1 to A8) who are already actively involved in the petition movement and events (E1 to E4), that link them to other actors (P1 to P5) who have not yet participated in the Petition Movement. Through a set of social events activists are linked to those who are not yet active at that time. How does the participation in events and the contacts to other activists translate in our measure of exposure? Let us again consider an example: P4 in Figure 2 has the highest degree of exposure among all non-activists. P4 participates in two events and through these events is linked to 6 activists. Although P2 and P3 at the same time participated in two events, they only come in contact with three activists (P3 actually met up with only two activists since he met one person twice, but we count this as three contacts) and hence have a lower degree of contacts. Calculating the amount of contacts for each actor at any given point in time, yields to a combined measure of the intensity of contact and hence of exposure. This individual degree of exposure is different for each of the three phases, depending on how many individuals a given actor is linked to through his participation in the events of the overall structure.

From network considerations one would expect a great intensity of contact among those people who are most active within the city's events. In contrast, those who do not actively participate in the social life are less likely to have a high degree of exposure. Though this relationship holds true in general, a low activity does not necessarily imply a small degree of contacts and exposure. Consider the following case as an illustration: An actor participates in only one event, but this event concentrates an in-numerous amount of activists. The result will be a high degree of exposure. Thus, expansivity alone is not a necessary condition for a high exposure, although the two generally go hand in hand.

A First, Visual Insight into the Process

The operationalization of exposure allows to create images which give an insight into the process occurring in the structure of city-linked events. Distributions are shown at the lower right of each image and the colors refer to the degree of exposure in the total population. Individual actors in the structure are colored according to their degree of exposure.

How the intensity of contacts changes over the three periods of time becomes clear in the following three visualizations. The images exhibit an overall rise of exposure and a steep increase of the spread for the most exposed actors. One can see the general tendency that the pressure spreads from the center of this system to its periphery.

Figure 4: The Growth of Exposure T1 


The Growth of Exposure: T1


Figure 5: The Growth of Exposure T2 

The Growth of Exposure: T2


Figure 6: The Growth of Exposure T3 

The Growth of Exposure: T3


Defining the Boundaries for the Statistical Analysis

For the statistical tests we need to define more precisely the boundaries of our population. Since we are dealing with partly (or potentially) incomplete historical sources that report behavior, we will restrict our analysis to the part of the population that is better documented. Out of the two sources of data, the petitions and the structural information, the petitions are complete historical sources whereas the co-participation data may be less complete.

Therefore we will define the boundaries of the population on the basis of the petitions and include additionally all those individuals for whom we know that they have not signed a petition but are structurally integrated. Assuming that exposure is related to protest, these non-petitioners should be far less exposed to activists.

Table 1:


No Petition signed

Signed a Petition


not integrated into the Structure




integrated into the structure








From the 5097 inhabitants of Esslingen mentioned in various historical records, 2184 have signed at least one of the petitions. Out of these petitioners 1284 can be localized within the structure of the city events. For 900 persons who signed a petition this is not possible since they are not listed in combination with any of the events we know of. Hence, for these 900 petitioners we can not show how their embeddedness in the structure and their exposure drove them to become politically active. Since we do not know whether this lack of integration is a lack of knowledge or an empirical fact we will have to exclude them from the analysis. On the other hand 702 persons are described through the events but did not sign any of the petitions. Since we definitely know that they have not signed a petition they must be included into the analysis. Therefore, we can test the degree of exposition to activists cross-sectionally at each of the three points in time and identify the extent to which this exposure influenced them to become personally active for 1986 persons.

A Test of the General Model: Exposure and Activity

A straightforward way to test for the relation between the degree of exposure and the amount of political involvement is a correlation measure. Table 2 reports these correlations. There is a very high correlation of r = 0,62 for the first period in time. This correlation drops to r = 0,27 at time 2 and slightly rises again to r = 0.33 at the end of period 3. These correlations demonstrate that the extend to which a person is in contact with activists is an adequate explanation for his behavior: Structure matters. Much of the mobilization process took place within the existing social fabric of the city.

Table 2:


Petition Activity


Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Phase 1












Though the correlations are all positive and highly significant, they vary in strength for the three phases. There are two alternative explanations for the weaker statistical relation during period two and three. On the one hand the amount of exposure could have risen in general without influencing people to become involved; alternatively people could have become active for reasons other than contacts to activists.

Let us briefly summarize the picture that has emerged so far before we move on to address these two alternative explanations: There is a general relationship between exposure and involvement into the revolution. Nevertheless the varying strength of the correlations asks for a more detailed analysis. It looks as if not all activity can be explained within this general model. Common interests, experiences or an equivalent position within society at large, all factors that can not be not identified through the structure of the city have to be taken into account as well. This argument reflects the more general logic of social structures that we have outlined above: They do not only describe who gets in contact with whom, but also who does not.

General and Specific Relationships

To obtain a more differentiated view of the relationship between social structure and mobilization - that does not seem to be totally accounted for by the general structural model - a more sophisticated methodology is needed. We have seen that part of the protests is diffused through the channels of the city's social structures but that the development over time indicated that the underlying process is more complicated than stated by this simple model of diffusion through social contacts. Other parameters need to be taken into consideration. In a society that has already been through some of the changes brought about by industrialization and that, therefore, is in a process where social classes, privileges and access to wealth and power are redefined, the occupational or social class of an actor is the most important determinant that must be integrated in an holistic model. The predominant feature of social organization in Germany was the division of society into estates who had different political and legal rights. One of the claims of many revolutionaries was the abolishment of that system and the establishment of a democratic regime.

Figure 7: The Social Landscape of Esslingen 

The Social Landscape of Esslingen


The network visualizations we used before allowed not only to examine the aggregated structure of events but at the same time the position individual actors occupy in this structure. Figure 7 shows, to which social group the each individual belongs. The entrepreneurs are colored in violet, the educated bourgeoisie in blue, the clerks in light blue, the craftsmen in yellow, the vintners in green, and the workers in red. Figure 7 shows how actors are connected through events, who is in the center of activity and who is only peripherally linked to the city. At first sight it is apparent that the structure of the city does not only reflect the political dimension discussed earlier: Figure 7 clearly reveals the segregation into different social classes. Some actors only appear in combination with very few events whereas others are highly integrated in the center of the structure. In the center of events we find the craftsmen, the clerks, the merchants, and the educated bourgeoisie, whereas the vintners and the workers are basically linked to the periphery of the system.

Structured Deviations from the Overall Model

Having identified these different social groups within the structure we can now move on to determine to which extend the general model adequately describes the behavior for each of these sub-populations. Deviation and adequacy of the overall model can be judged by analyzing the amount of activity any social group shows at a any given point of time and by comparing the observed activity to the activity that would be predicted under the assumptions of the general model. In a technical sense the difference between the expected and predicted values are the residuals from the regression analysis reported above. Substantively our analysis of the error terms tests to what degree the overall model that explains mobilization through the existing social structure adequately fits the behavior of the distinct groups. The focus on the aggregated residuals for each of the social classes combines the structural perspective on mobilization with a perspective viewing the mobilization of protest as resulting from an equivalent position in society and therefore from the claims made by different social groups during a revolution where power and privileges are newly distributed.

The following guidelines apply in the interpretation of the residual: Where the residuals are relatively small or even approach zero, the overall model applies, in other words protest is well explained within the structural model of mobilization. If otherwise the residuals are positive, it means the specific group showed more activity than expected under the assumption of the general model. On the opposite, if the residuals are negative, the amount of activity is less than assumed from their degree of exposure. Both cases of positive and negative deviations indicate phenomena that are not adequately explained within the model and ask for further, historical explanations.

Table 3:





























The more differentiated view on the mobilization process that took place during the first time period is shown in Table 3. The first column in the table reports on the average exposure measure for the distinct groups, the second column gives the average activity level, and the third the averaged residuals values. The results reported in Table 3 clearly indicate a very different level of participation among the six social strata. At the outbreak of the revolution the merchants showed the highest amount of activity, followed by craftsmen and educated bourgeoisie. On the opposite side vintners and workers show only a minimum amount of participation. A look at the residual values reveals that merchants are not only the most active group but that their activity is by far higher than expected under the assumptions of the general relationship. In contrast, vintners and craftsmen have negative residuals: their activity is much lower than would be expected from the exposure that they are experiencing.

How do these findings fit into the wider historical context? Clearly, the protest was largely initiated by the merchants who were well anchored in the social structure of the city. In the early phase of the revolution it is the established class in an economical and social sense that most actively calls for the installation of democratic principles including the right to form association, freedom of press, freedom of trade, and a new judicature. Within the city the revolution is initiated by the group that is economically emancipated and has the most social, political, and institutional experiences. This is not only reflected by their position within the web of relations but it gets additional evidence if one more closely examines the specific functions they had within the central institutions of the city (Lipp 1998: 239-42). The contribution of the other groups is only marginal during the early outbreak and initialization of the revolution. Let us now turn to the second stage of the revolution with these findings in mind.

Table 4:





























Table 4 shows that the level of exposure rose across all groups during the second phase of the revolution. Apart from this general tendency a look at the activity levels reveals that workers and vintners are the most active groups at this stage of the revolution. This activity is, as the residuals show, not accounted for by the exposure they are experiencing. Clearly, among these people recruitment did not take place within and through the structures of the city. Both groups, vintners and workers, are much more active than we would expect from these considerations. In contrast, all the rest of the population is much less active than would be expected from the exposure they are experiencing.

In the second phase of the revolution, where a government had been established in Frankfurt, a wider spectrum of social groups entered the revolutionary stage. Participation of craftsmen, workers and vintners dominated the picture. While the craftsmen acted according to the general model that postulates a spread within the structure, vintners and workers showed by far more activity than expected from their exposure. In the situation where a new constitution is written in Frankfurt and privileges such as those for the churches, the tradesmen, and the working class are newly negotiated other groups, namely the vintners and the workers, are mobilized to formulate their interests. Among these socially marginal groups we observe effective, yet external, mechanisms of mobilization. Here mobilization does not take place through the structure but through an equivalent position within the larger society that drives members of these groups to formulate their interests.

Table 5:





























The last stage of the revolution shows a picture very similar to the one that characterized its beginning. While the rise of contacts for the merchants and craftsmen continues, their activities almost double. For the educated bourgeoisie as well as for the clerks we find less activity than expected. The workers and the vintners, only peripherally connected to the whole system, still experience little exposure. Nonetheless, both groups continue to be active though their activity drops slightly: from a = .73 to a = .71 for the vintners and from a = .55 to a= .51 for the workers.

In the third phase of the revolution, it is again the merchants who play the most prominent role. At that point it was clear that the revolution in large had failed and a final battle for some of the revolutionary achievements broke out. Craftsmen and vintners are much more active than we would expect. In contrast the academics and the clerks have left the revolutionary arena and are only marginally active. There is a simple explanation for this behavior. Most of these people were employed by either the city or the state and at a time where its was clear that the revolution would fail most heavily feared sanctions against themselves.


The innovation of this study is twofold: one in the area of theory and conceptualization of mobilization processes, the other in the substantive analysis of rich historical data. In the remaining of the paper we will briefly wrap up our findings in both areas.

Methodologically and theoretically we have developed and tested a model of mobilization that takes simultaneously into account structural and other parameters. The advantage of such an abstract model is its openness to many empirical questions and the generality that lets the specific case determine the importance of the parameters. In operationalizing the structural component of the model we have adopted a concept developed in diffusion research: the concept of exposure. This concept has proven to be an adequate analytical tool for the analysis of mobilization processes. A more detailed examination of the residuals that we obtained from the general regression model was the second methodological innovation. The residuals clearly showed that there is structure in the error terms. Their analysis lead to substantially important interpretations.

We were able to demonstrate that mobilization takes place within the existing social fabric. The overall model explaining mobilization as the result of contacts to activists adequately fits the data and explains a large amount of the phenomena. A closer view on the separate stages of the process and the behavior of different social groups yielded an even more differentiated picture. Within the whole process of mass mobilization the merchants hold the central position. They not only initiate the protest, but they stay highly active throughout the whole revolution. The group that fits best with our model of diffusion are the craftsmen. Their degree of participation rose drastically (a1 = 0.19, a2 = 0.46, a3 = 0.86). This exponential growth is of fundamental importance to the whole process since they are the numerically biggest group. Their mobilization was a process that by and large took place within the structure. In contrast, workers and vintners are the two groups that entered the revolution in the second phase for reasons only partly understood from structural considerations. They entered the revolutionary stage when the new social contract (constitution) was negotiated in Frankfurt presenting then specific interests that they hoped would be considered.


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About this document ...
Exposure, Networks, and Mobilization: The Petition Movement during the  1848/49 Revolution

in a German Town1 2

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... Town1
This paper originates out of our cooperation in the DFG research project: "Political Culture during the 'Vormärz' and the Revolution 1848/1849 in Esslingen" directed by Prof. Dr. Carola Lipp, Institute for European Ethnology (Volkskunde) at the University of Göttingen, Germany. We thank Prof. Dr. Carola Lipp for sharing part of her data with us.
Version 2.1, April, 21th 1999 of a paper presented at the Sunbelt XVIII and Fifth European International Social Networks Conference, Sitges, Spain, May 1998. Special thanks to Johanne St. Charles who has revised our preliminary english version. An online version of this paper is available from
... Krempel 3
Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne.
... Schnegg 4
Department of Anthropology, University of Cologne. email:
... 41).5
In his analysis of the Dutch petition movement against the deployment of cruise missiles, he found a convincing relationship between the likeliness of an individual to sign a petition and his or her integration into "counter-cultural networks". Kriesi defined counter-cultural networks as social circles of people who are in the core of this particular petition movement or any other of the so called "New Social Movements" (NSMs) (the women's movement and the homosexual movement are other examples) (Kriesi 1988: 50-54).

Lothar Krempel