Archive for the ‘social movements’ Category
I’ve been overwhelmed by snow, children, work, Mario Kart, exercise, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I’ll post new stuff in about a week or so. But, for now, I wanted to tell you about my upcoming talk at the University of Central Arkansas. The Arkansas Center for Research in Economics is hosting a series of events relating to Black History month. This Thursday evening, I will give a talk on the topic of what modern activism can learn from the civil rights movement. Click here for details. Later this week, we’ll have another guest post by Raj Ghoshal and an announcement of two talks about Party in the Street. And, as usual, if you want the “mic” while I am on blogcation, send us a guest post.
My friend and co-author Michael Heaney has a post about our work at Popular Resistance, a web site dedicated to contemporary activism. A key quote:
So what would genuine independence from a political party look like for a social movement? My view is that independence means choosing allies regardless of their partisan affiliation. An independent movement should have allies that are Democrats, Republicans, members of other political parties, and nonpartisans. Independence means educating activists that parties are neither the enemy nor the savior; rather, they are one more political structure that can be used for good or ill. An independent movement should embrace working with allies on one issue if there is agreement on one issue, even if there is disagreement on a multitude of other issues. Independent movements should advance the best arguments supporting their cause, regardless of whether these arguments are typically classified as conservative, liberal, socialist, or using some other label. They should socialize their supporters to learn about and care about their cause above achieving electoral victories. Elections are a potential means of achieving social and political change, but they are neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for doing so.
I concur. There needs to be a discussion within modern movements about learning to work cross-party and often independently from parties. Read the whole piece.
At the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, Andrew Gelman wrote a very gracious review of Party in the Street, but he had one criticism:
The only place it seemed weak–and this weakness occurs in many treatments of politics, including much of my own work–is in its glancing treatment of money in politics. It is perhaps no surprise that the Tea Party found ample funding from some rich people, given that one of its central goals is to keep down taxes on the rich. Raising funds for an antiwar or anti-corporate movement proved to be more of a challenge (in the words of Heaney and Rojas, “the antiwar movement had few financial resources and ran on a shoestring budget”). Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has needed to keep an eye on wealthy individuals and corporations (not just labor unions) to keep itself going. These financial imperatives formed much of the background to the individual choices that are detailed in this book.
Here are a few comments on money and social movement politics. First, unlike electoral politics, money is a bit harder to track in social movements because so many groups are informal and do not register as 501(c) groups. So there is no paper trail for us to work with, although a few groups have IRS forms you can examine. Second, compared to other types of political action, protest is relatively cheap. In my personal judgment, one only needs about one or two million dollars per year to run a nation wide movement of this sort. This is about what a single prominent lobbying group or political consulting firm might charge to a prominent client. It is also an amount that a single “angel” could donate if they really wanted to.
This leads me to believe that money is only a partial explanation for the movement’s decline. It is true that donors stopped giving to the antiwar movement, but that’s not the ultimate explanation. Protesting Obama certainly would turn off some well heeled donors, but the fact that there was not an angel, or a swell of grass roots fund raising for a relatively modest sum, indicates to me that the drop in support was wide spread and not just a function of a few party elites.
One of the issues that we draw attention to in Party in the Street is that there was a great deal of continuity in war policy between the Bush and Obama administrations. This is an example of a broader theme in American government: domestic disputes are not brought into foreign policy. The phrase for this is “politics ends at the water’s edge.”
The water’s edge idea has important implications for social movements, especially progressive movements that are often participating in anti-war activism. Normally, we think of movements responding to some sort of stark contrast in policy and they expect different political actors to have distinct views on policy. For example, it is pretty safe to say that Democrats and Republican leaders promote very different abortion policies.
In contrast, the “water’s edge” theory suggests that there will be a fair amount of continuity between administrations in terms of foreign policy. It doesn’t mean total similarity, but a great deal of overlap. For example, the Iraq withdrawal was initially negotiated by the Bush administration and then carried out by Obama’s administration. Similarly, both the Bush and Obama administrations, at various times, sought to extend US involvement in Iraq. Did both administrations have identical policy? Definitely not, but there is a lot of continuity and overlap.
If you believe that movements closely follow policy, then the overall path of the antiwar movement might seem puzzling. When Bush surged, the movement began its decline. As Obama sought extensions in Iraq, there was little protest. Antiwar activists did not focus on the main instrument of withdrawal, the Status of Forces Agreement, initiated by Bush. The War on Terror involved over 100,000 troops “on the ground” from 2003 till about 2010.
We argue in Party in the Street that the overall growth and decline of the antiwar movement can be better explained by the tension of activism and partisanship instead of policy shifts. Early on, the antiwar movement’s identity did not conflict with its ally, the Democratic Party. So the movement could draw partisans and grow during the early stages of the Iraq War. As elections changed the landscape, partisanship asserted itself and the movement ebbed. And that is how we get a declining movement as the US intervention in Iraq is sustained, then incrementally reduced during a multi-year withdrawal phase and the vastly expanded in Afghanistan.
Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com and ESPN have produced a film series called “The Collectors,” which features people who collect data. The second film is about Dana Fisher, a social movement scholar who conducts surveys of protestors. She is the author of two books on politics, Activism, Inc. and National Governance the Global Climate Change Regime. Recommended!
New Books in Political Science has dedicated their first podcast of the year to Party in the Street:
Heaney and Rojas take on the interdisciplinary challenge at the heart of studies of interest groups and social movements, two related subjects that political scientists and sociologists have tended to examine separately from one another. What results is a needed effort to synthesize the two social science traditions and advance a common interest in studying how people come together to influence policy outcomes. The particular focus of this work is on how the antiwar movement that grew in the mid-2000s interacted with the Democratic Party. They ponder a paradox of activism that just as activists are most successful – in this case supporting a new Democrat controlled House and Senate in 2006 – the energy and dynamism of the movement often fades away. Heaney and Rojas look to the relationship between antiwar activists and the Democratic Party for answers. They find that in a highly polarized partisan environment, party affiliations come first and social movement affiliations second, thereby slowing the momentum movements generate in their ascendency.
Please click on the link for the podcast.
Managment INK, the blog about management research links to my recent book of review of Missing Class by Betsy Leondar-Wright. The book is about the cultural differences between working class, middle class and wealthy activists. Overall, I liked it. One thing that I would like to see if more of a focus on group outcomes, similar to Kathleen Blee’s work. Did the cultural differences make a difference in mobilizing? But aside from that point, it’s a good review of how mobilizing occurs in the North American left. Recommended.