Archive for the ‘social movements’ Category
At Science of Us, New York Magazine’s blog about behavioral science, Jesse Singal has a lengthy feature on the topic of how to be effective at protest, especially in the Trump era (I still cringe when writing that):
Which raises some obvious questions: What is the best, most efficient way to channel this energy? What makes protests work, and what makes them backfire and solidify opinion against the protesters? The answers to these questions, drawn from the research of scholars who have dedicated their careers to in-depth interviews with activists, protesters, and organizers, can both offer guidance to those spearheading the movement against Trump, and offer some interesting glimpses into the surprising political psychology of resistance.
The article interviews a lot of sociologists who study protest such as Dana Fisher, Ziad Munson, Michael T. Heaney and myself. From the conclusion:
Taken together, then, all this research points to three general rules for the organizers of the D.C. protests, as well as the other protests that are likely to crop up in the days ahead:
1. Trump can be useful as a galvanizing force, but keep things focused on whatever your particular issue is. That issue will be around long after Trump is gone, and will, in many cases, require forms of activism and advocacy that have little to do with the man himself. The goal should be to give people ways to make progress on the specific issue threatened by Trump, not to protest the man himself endlessly.
2. Make everyone who is interested in your cause, or who exhibits curiosity about it, feel welcome. Other than wanting to help, there should be almost zero prerequisites. If someone doesn’t speak the lingo, or doesn’t know what intersectionality is, or anything else — it doesn’t matter — they can still contribute. And the more you can make activism part of their social life, the more of a meaningful role you can give them, the more likely they will be to stick around and to spread the word. Education on specific ideological issues can always come later.
3. Stay nonviolent. At a time when passions are high there is a real potential for backlash. There are times when disruptive protests can be strategically deployed, but nonviolence is key.
For those who are unhappy that Trump was elected, the easy part — the donations, the Facebook and Twitter posts, the initial broadcasting of outrage and solidarity — is over. Actual resistance, actual organizing, is harder. “I think that the evidence across the political spectrum is that you need to get people involved beyond just their computers and beyond just sending in money to have any impact,” said Fisher. And that takes difficult, careful, on-the-ground-work. Luckily, activists aren’t starting from square one. Anyone who does their homework will know which tactics are likely to work, and which are more likely to flame out.
It’s a nice article. Read the whole thing.
Hot off the press, a study about how interactions with law enforcement and prison impact political participation in the US:
Rory, from the home office in South Bend, sends me links to new social movement research. A major question in social movement research is how you measure contentious politics. A lot of our sources are notoriously incomplete, such as media accounts. Kriage Bayerln, Peter Barwis, Bryant Crubaugh, and Cole Carnesecca use hypernetwork sampling (asking a random sample of people to list their social ties) to attack this issue. From Sociological Methods and Research:
The National Study of Protest Events (NSPE) employed hypernetwork sampling to generate the first-ever nationally representative sample of protest events. Nearly complete information about various event characteristics was collected from participants in 1,037 unique protests across the United States in 2010 to 2011. The first part of this article reviews extant methodologies in protest-event research and discusses how the NSPE overcomes their recognized limitations. Next, we detail how the NSPE was conducted and present descriptive statistics for a number of important event characteristics. The hypernetwork sample is then compared to newspaper reports of protests. As expected, we find many differences in the types of events these sources capture. At the same time, the overall number and magnitude of the differences are likely to be surprising. By contrast, little variation is observed in how protesters and journalists described features of the same events. NSPE data have many potential applications in the field of contentious politics and social movements, and several possibilities for future research are outlined.
Readers in social network analysis and organization studies will recognize the importance of this technique. As long as you can sample people, you can sample social ties and the adjust the sample for repetition. Peter Marsden used this technique to sample organizational networks. In movements research, my hybrids paper used the technique to sample orgs that were involved in movement mobilization. It’s great to see this technique expand to sample large samples of events.See Bayerlin’s research project website for more. Recommended.
Mobilizing Ideas has a new forum where a scholars are discussing movements and elections. I’ll start with a few snippets from “Bernie Sanders and the Occupy Wall Street Wing of the Democratic Library,” written by my dear friend Michael T. Heaney:
While it is impossible to definitively establish what fraction of Occupy supporters also supported Sanders, it is possible to look to social media for clues of this support. To this end, I gathered a list of 374 Twitter handles and hashtags associated with the Occupy movement that were in operation between 2011 and 2013. From this list, I randomly selected 150 pages for the purpose of content analysis and coded Twitter feeds for these pages from April 2012 and April 2016. The purpose of this exercise was to understand the extent and nature of movement involvement in Democratic Party politics during two identical periods in the presidential election cycle.
The results of the content analysis reveal significant differences in the activities of the Occupy movement between the April 2012 and April 2016 periods. First, the sites examined became significantly less active over time. In April 2012, 59 percent of sites were active, while this fraction fell to 18 percent by 2016. Second, the level of engagement in electoral politics significantly increased from 2012 to 2016 on the Occupy sites that remained active. Third, the tweets shifted significantly from a more negative perspective on politics in 2012 to a more positive perspective in 2016. In 2012, each site had an average of 0.14 positive tweets about candidates/parties, in comparison to an average of 1.16 negative tweets. In 2016, however, tweets had become more balanced, with an average of 8.70 exhibiting positive valance and an average of 6.62 indicating negative valence.
Read the whole thing.
Earlier this week, we discussed the need to study failed movements, not just the successes. Here, I want to draw attention to the general issue of bias in social movement research. The way I see it is that movement research is shaped by the following biases:
- Survivor bias: We tend to focus only on movements that succeed in mobilizing.
- Success bias: We tend to focus only on movements that get what they want.
- Progressive bias: We tend to focus on movements that come from the left.
Of course, there are exceptions. For example, Rory McVeigh is a well known student of right wing populism and Kathleen Blee’s latest book looks at a random sample of Pittsburgh area movements.
But in general, the overall focus of movement scholarship reflects these tendencies. For every Ziad Munson who studies pro-life groups, we have five other scholars studying pro-choice groups. Collectively, movement scholars should supplement their individual case studies (including my own) with data sets like the NY Times/Doug McAdam/Stanford data set or Blee’s data that looks at larger samples.
Use the comments to discuss or praise research that works against these biases.
This is the last post responding to Professor Amenta’s lengthy, supportive and critical take on Party in the Street. We earlier discussed whether it was wise to group Afghanistan and Iraq and if our explanation of the anti-Vietnam War movement was valid. In the review, he asks, if the antiwar movement of the 2000s failed, what is the point of studying it?
Short answer: Don’t select on the dependent variable.
Long answer: In the social sciences, we often exhibit a bias toward success. We like to talk about Apple and Google, but not Pets.com.But that’s a bad thing, especially if you want to study the outcomes of social processes. Failures are just as important as successes in the social sciences. You need a random sample of events or a sample where you can model the bias. So, in movements, we shouldn’t study only those that succeed. We need comparisons. And detailed case studies of a movement are way to start.
Peace movements are a class of movements that are notoriously unsuccessful, as we note in the book. By studying one in detail, and comparing with others, we can develop a sense of why that might be the case and then ask about other movements. Note: If you want a highly meritorious study of a study that uses a random sample of successful and non-successful movement groups, see Kathleen Blee’s award winning Democracy in the Making.
In the most recent Contemporary Sociology, Irvine’s Edwin Amenta wrote an incredibly kind and generous review of Party in the Street (“Raising the Bar for Scholarship on Protest and Politics“). It’s really humbling to have such an accomplished researcher so deeply engage with our work and find so much value. Not only did Professor Amenta say nice things about the book, he also offered a number of carefully thought out critiques of the book. In this post, I’d like to summarize what Professor Amenta wrote and offer a few brief comments in response.
Amenta takes issue with a fundamental assumption of the book. Here is Amenta:
Specifically, I question the authors’ explanation for the contrast between the decline of the recent antiwar movement and the expansion of the anti-Vietnam War movement, the analytical conflation of antiwar protest and antiwar movements, and their empirical conflation of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Let’s start with what I think is a more amenable issue – the issue of the connection between the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Once again, Professor Amenta:
The authors’ most puzzling decision—to combine analytically the war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan—challenges their account of movement decline. This conflation of the two wars is central to their puzzle— why did the antiwar movement end while war kept going? But the contrast in opposition to the two wars answers this better than the rise to power of a Democratic president. The war in Afghanistan, beginning almost immediately after the September 11 attacks, drew the protest of only scattered anti-imperialist, anarchist, and other smallbore groups. That war was waged on a Taliban regime and its ward al Qaeda, which had planned the attacks, and generated public support. By contrast, even before the war in Iraq began, it drew extensive opposition from a broad coalition of organizations and participants; it was clear during its lengthy run-up that Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks and that the Bush administration claims of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were questionable. Without this war of choice, or ‘‘dumb war,’’ as Illinois state senator Barack Obama referred to it in 2002, it seems unlikely there would have been much antiwar activity or an antiwar movement. As president, Obama quickly wound down the Iraq war, the one that the movement opposed. And so it is not surprising that antiwar activity slowed and did not return, even after the 2009 surge in Afghanistan, as there was never any real movement against that war. The origin of the mass antiwar movement in opposition to the Iraq war—in its gratuitousness, deviousness in justification, and bungled execution—helps to explain the decline of this movement, as it ended as that war ended. The authors’ point is well taken that protest declined after partisan government changed, but the decline of movements is also typically related to their emergence and their influence; and thus any analysis of decline should address these influences.
A number of issues suggested to us that it would be useful to link the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in the narrative. First, the “kernel” of the antiwar movement emerged in the days after 9/11. Amenta calls these early groups “smallbore.” I would agree, but all movements need to start somewhere. The Afghanistan war was the event that pulled a lot of hard core activists into peace activism and these activists often went on to leadership positions. For example, one the leading groups during the Iraq War era was International A.N.S.W.E.R. From one perspective, it is a “smallbore” group – allied with the socialist left and operates with a pretty small staff. However, it was one of the groups that got in “on the ground floor” right after 9/11 (the early Afghanistan war era) and became a highly influential player during the peak of the antiwar movement (the Iraq War era). Therefore, it makes a lot of sense (to us) that both of these conflicts were important events that shaped the trajectory of the movement. The Afghanistan war “jump started” a core of activists who were previously working on other issues while Iraq allowed that core to grow into a truly mass movement.
But there is a deeper point. Much of the antiwar movement leadership said they were in the *peace* movement, not the anti-Iraq War movement. Also, it was the frame offered by the Bush 2 administration. They were both parts of the “War on Terror.” If you can accept this view, then a lot of public opinion makes sense. The public supported both Iraq and Afghanistan as responses to terrorism and only turned on Iraq once casualties mounted. Among activists, they were both wars to be opposed for similar reasons (e.g., pacifism or anti-imperialism). Only among the Democratic/liberal wing of the electorate do you see the split on Iraq and Afghanistan, which we attribute to the tension between partisan and movement identities. This overall pattern only makes sense if you consider Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a broader context, not completely independent events.
Later this week, we’ll delve more deeply into the comparison between peace activism in the Vietnam and Iraq War eras.