open problems in social movement research
Thank you Brayden, Omar and Teppo for the warm welcome. I’ll start my time guest blogging with a question for readers and my fellow bloggers: What are the important open questions in the social movement research? Please respond in the comments or email me. On Friday, I’ll write a post summarizing the main themes.
The social movement research area can seem intimidating to beginners. Not only is the literature quite large and scattered in multiple disciplines, but it seems like all the major obvious questions have been addressed. We have studies of recruitment, social revolutions, agenda setting/ framing/ problem definition, and the movement life cycle. We also have highly technical studies of intra-organizational networks in movements and the organizational demography of movements. We are also starting to see major studies of movement outcomes.
However, I still think that there are many obvious questions whose answer would consitute a real contribution to social science. So a few weeks ago, to collect my thoughts, I wrote a list of problems that I thought needed more attention. Here are some examples, with a “rating” indicating their difficulty:
6. Event scripting. Can you figure out the cultural script for certain types of movement events? What causes people to go off script? Rated G.
11. Christianity and social change. We all know that religion is important for movements, but I don’t think we have a terribly good theory of when it matters. What explains whether a social movement adopts Christianity, or any other major religion, as a framework? For example, socialist movements used to be Christian before 1880, then you got a bunch of atheist socialist movements like the Bolsheviks. Why? Rated R.
My hunch is that many of these questions have been addressed to some degree, but I don’t think we have a “definitive” answer in the same way we have the “definitive” artilce or book on framing or political process theory. So readers are invited to email or post what they think are open problems in this area and I’ll do a follow up post in a few days. Readers should feel free to point to research that addresses any questions raised by me or anyone else.