This book is about ordinary people and the roles they come to play during times of rebellion and resistance against powerful regimes. How is violence against such regimes organized and sustained? How and why do individuals accept enormous risks in the process? On one hand, the subject matter is violence and killing. On the other hand, the subject matter is friendship groups, farming practices, religious and cultural norms – the stuff of the most basic social interactions of everyday life. Whether individuals come to act as rebels or collaborators, killers or victims, heroes or cowards during times of upheaval is largely determined by the nature of their everyday economic, social, and political life, both in the time of the upheaval and the period prior to it. The extraordinary is inextricably linked to the ordinary.
As the reader will discover, this book provides a very detailed theoretical treatment of the process that pushes and pulls individuals into rebellion. Among the most important issues, the work specifies how different social structures tend to change strategic frames and trigger varying sets of causal mechanisms. The book illustrates how variation in community size, homogeneity, and centralization may affect the existence and operation of norms; it examines the role and structural position of “first actors” or entrepreneurs in initiating and sustaining collective action through norms and use of threats; it attempts to identify the conditions when one type of mechanism (rational, normative, irrational) is most likely to prevail over another type of mechanism.
Another aspect of this book is perhaps more important than the development of theory. As much as possible, the work tries to present the story of farmers, students, and workers from their own standpoint. Although much of this work is built on archival and secondary sources, one major part of this project involved interviewing approximately forty elderly Lithuanians in an effort to reconstruct their experiences and the history of their communities