Archive for the ‘social movements’ Category
My good friend and collaborator Michael T. Heaney has a nice article in the Monkey Cage, the political science blog of the Washington Post. He explains why we see small protests at the 2016 RNC:
In fact, the protests at this year’s RNC are considerably smaller than we’ve seen at recent conventions.
The answer is not a newfound love of Donald Trump among social activists. The story is about organization — or rather, the lack of it.
Here’s who was protesting in Cleveland
The groups interested in protest failed to forge a broad, unifying coalition that could bring together protesters in coordinated opposition. My survey research of activists on the ground at the convention (conducted with the assistance of students at the University of Michigan and Kent State University) shows that they were fragmented in a series of smaller coalitions that staged modestly sized events.
Earlier waves of protest were more organized:
By contrast, in 2004 and 2008, seasoned antiwar organizers brought together various elements of the left and staged impressive rallies outside the Republican conventions. As Fabio Rojas and I explain in our recent book, “Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11,” the antiwar movement was able to identify themes that unified various faction of the left, both locally and nationally. For example, hundreds of thousands of people marched past Madison Square Garden during the 2004 RNC with the theme of “the world says no to the Bush agenda.” Although this rally was planned byUnited for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) — an antiwar coalition founded in 2002 — it was able to work closely with leaders of many other left-leaning social movements.
Read the whole thing!
To be hosted at the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center
Date: November 3-5, 2016
We invite submissions for a workshop on the intersection of social movements and economic processes, to be held at the new UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center from Thursday November 3 to Saturday November 5, 2016.
This meeting extends the theme of “Social Movements and the Economy,” a workshop that was held last year at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. The goal of the earlier workshop was to bring scholarship on social movements and organizations into closer conversation with political economy scholarship focused on how economic forces and the dynamics of capitalism shape social movements.
For the present meeting, we hope to further develop this dialogue, continuing the focus on both movement effects on the economy as well as economic effects on movements and movement organizations. Although the conference will not at all be limited to these, welcome topics of investigation will include: links between social movements and financialization; changing or innovative organizational forms; the link between economic and technological change in contentious politics; labor organizing; connections between movements and political or economic elites; studies of relationships between movements and firms or trade associations including partnerships, funding, and/or cooptation; cross-national comparative or historical analyses of movements and economic forces.
We welcome scholars from sociology, management, political science, economics, communications, and related disciplines to submit abstracts for consideration as part of this call. As in the previous workshop, this meeting will seek to engage in a thorough reconsideration of both the economic sources and the economic outcomes of social movements, with careful attention to how states intermediate each of these processes.
The keynote speaker will be Neil Fligstein, Class of 1939 Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Sociology at UC-Berkeley.
The workshop is planned to start with a dinner in the evening on Thursday November 3, to conclude with morning sessions on Saturday November 5. Invited guests will be provided with domestic travel and accommodation support.
Submissions (PDF or DOC) should include:
– A cover sheet with title, name and affiliation, and email addresses for all authors
– An abstract of 200-300 words that describes the motivation, research questions, methods, and connection to the workshop theme
– Include the attachment in an email with the subject “Social Movements and the Economy”
Please send abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by August 21, 2016. Review and notification will occur shortly thereafter.
Contact Edward Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Brayden King (email@example.com) for more information.
In this post, I want to delve into a historical issue – how does Black Lives Matter compare with previous Black freedom movements? Aside from intrinsic interest, the question is important because it gives insights into what the future of BLM might be.
First, BLM openly uses a rhetoric and framing that is somewhat different than the classical civil rights organizations. For starters, the movement appears to be secular. This isn’t to say that BLM is completely separate from Black religious life, but it clearly doesn’t present itself in Christian terms. Rarely does one see BLM appeal to the Bible or forge strong ties to traditional Black churches, though obviously some religious people are involved. Instead, BLM uses an oppositional framing derived from the observation that Black citizens are more at risk in society and that there needs to be an affirmation and celebration of Blackness.
Second, BLM employs a lot of language associated with the Black power movement. As I noted last week, the official BLM website favorably quotes Huey Newton, among others. Also, the focus on the Black community is itself a legacy of Black power, which emphasized the need for respect, pride, and institutional autonomy. Thus, I think one might be justified in saying that the current manifestation of BLM is a revival of the ideals of Black Power, though not its organizational form or even its tactics.
Third, organizationally, BLM has adopted a fairly decentralized mode of operations that is more akin to Occupy Wall Street than the Black Panthers. This speaks to both a long term historical process and our own moment. Immediately, the issue is social media. BLM is a movement that literally spun out of social media discussions. One should not be surprised that a movement with these roots should operate in this manner. Historically, I sense a long term drift among progressives from the mass politics model of the classic civil rights movement. It could be the case that radical activists simply don’t want to deal with more mainstream constituencies of the Black community, such as the churches or the Democratic party.
To summarize, BLM is a movement that deals with long standing issues, ones that date to the civil rights era and before. It’s also a movement that employ many traditional protest tactics, like rallies and street protest. But the movement mixes in new elements. BLM presents as a modernized Black Power group instead of a sequel to civil rights groups. It combines Black autonomy and direction with use of social media and D.I.Y. ethos where each branch decides what it wants to be. Sociologists call identity based politics “new social movements,” but BLM might be described as the New Black Politics.
The attempted coup and subsequent counter-coup in Turkey has raised questions about the role of technology in collective behavior. Notably, the coup leaders attempted to assert control by seizing the media, while the president of Turkey re-asserted control by using Facebook. At his blog, Kieran comments:
The irony was immediately apparent, as all of this was a rather large departure from Erdoğan’s previous attitudes to both social media and public protest. It also set off a little side-debate about the role of these technologies in preventing the coup. That’s encapsulated by Zeynep Tufekci (who is in Antalya at the moment) and her exasperated response to a satirical tweet mocking the idea that tech mattered in any decisive way.
Here’e my take on the issue of technology and collective action. Having access to a technology doesn’t give a movement any advantage by itself. Rather, it’s about relative access to technology. Here’s some selected examples from the recent history of politics:
- In 2008, fund raising through Facebook gave Obama a financial advantage, but now everyone does it.
- In the 2009 Green Movement in Iran, Facebook played a key role, but now the Iranian government now tries to disrupt Facebook.
- In the Arab Spring, Twitter and Facebook were crucial as a coordinating mechanism but now it, too, is blocked or disrupted by states.
My argument is that technology can only give a group or movement a short term relative advantage. Otherwise, the strength and vitality of movements and insurrections on “fundamentals” like public opinion, political opportunities, and the support of elites. In the case of Turkey, the coup approached things in a traditional way – by seizing television and radio – and overlooked (?) Facebook, which allowed Erdogan to communicate that he was alive and in control. Ultimately though, I’ll side with commentators who point out that the Turkish military had already been de-funded, purged, and otherwise enervated by Erdogan and his political party. Facetime is a small, and incidental detail, to a larger picture.
As a scholarly observer of social movements and a person who thinks that African Americans are mistreated by the criminal justice system, I have been very interested in what Black Lives Matter will do in the days and months to follow. The shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling highlight multiple problems – police officers with bad records on the beat, racial violence, and the over policing of society. The consequent shooting at the Dallas rally, which resulted in five more victims, show us that people can exploit a genuine effort to reform society in order to inflict more violence on others.
These horrid events are part of a larger pattern that Black Lives Matters protests yet there is a rare window of opportunity here. Once the media has shifted attention away from the violence, Black Lives Matter has a chance to broaden its coalition and extend its impact. Some like, New York Times writers Michael Barbaro and Yamiche Alcindor, conclude that the Dallas shooting undermined the positive attention the movement received after the Sterling and Castile deaths.
The opposite is true. Black Lives Matter has a chance to emphasize that it is above violence and that justice is truly its major goal. In the social sciences, we call this the “radical flank effect” – a movement may gain prominence when contrasted with a radical or violent manifestation of the movement. At this moment, a lot of people will want a voice that can focus on the basic injustices in the criminal justice system and maintain a distance from the most virulent forms of nationalism.
As a movement firmly rooted in the left, Black Lives Matter has some challenges.It rightfully celebrates Blackness, but that same strength might pose problems if the movement needs a White majority to reform police policy. Another challenge is the focus of the message. Many, such as myself, see Black Lives as a reasonable response to violent police. Yet, that message is bundled with others such as being queer friendly and celebrating the global Black community. I affirm many of these values while noting that external audiences may not. Perhaps a decentralized structure may circumvent this issue. Each local chapter can develop its own indigenous solutions to police relations and thus not have to balance these different needs.
Maybe the most profound decision that Black Lives faces is whether it wants to be full fledged national movement aimed at political reform, like the NAACP in the 1950s or the SCLC in the 1960s, or whether it wants to be more of a community oriented organization like the Black Panthers of the late 1960s. The official Black Lives website quotes Huey Newton, among others, which suggests that the movement aspires to both functions. If that is a correct assessment, then police reform is an anchoring point for a more thorough discussion of Black lives in a larger White society. It may be the case that this is enough to resolve the proximate issue of deaths at the hands of police, but it may be the case that a more thorough effort to build community is not the most appropriate tool for policy change.
I suspect that ten or twenty years from now, observers will see this period as a pivot point for Black Lives. After three years of emergence, Black Lives has become the face of police reform, but one rooted in the Black community and one rooted in cultural politics. The question is whether this is enough to affect the policy problems that generated the movement or whether Black Lives Matter will be an intermediary phenomenon leading to a broader de-policing of sciety.
From Zhara Vrangalova, a study examining if LBGT student are more active than others in politics:
Student protest is often an engine of social change for sexual minorities and other oppressed groups. Through an analysis of college students in the Add Health survey (n = 2,534), we found that sexual minorities attend more political marches than heterosexuals. To understand why this sexuality difference occurs, we performed a logistic regression analysis to decipher the importance of four explanations: essentialism, selection, embeddedness, and conversion. We discovered that participation in political groups is the best explanation of the sexuality gap in activism, but racial attitudes were also important. Type of college major was generally connected to student activism, but educational attainment and disciplinary curriculums did not explain the increased activism of sexual minorities.
By Eric Swank and Breanne Fahs, in Sexuality Research and Social Policy.
Jamile Lartey of the Guardian wrote an article addressing campus protest at Harvard and what students of social movements have to say current activists (see my post earlier this week):
For 80 years the family crest of the brutal slaveholder Isaac Royall Jr served as the official seal of the prestigious Harvard Law School.
Royall, whose endowment founded HLS in 1817, once instructed that 77 enslaved Africans be burned alive at the stake for an insurrection on his family’s Antigua sugar plantation.
In March, student protesters at Harvard notched a decisive victory in their fight to “decolonize” their campus, when administrators announced they would retire the Royall family seal, citing “the prospect that its imagery might evoke associations with slavery”.
Two months later, many of the students who pushed for the change say the decision is bittersweet. The removal of the seal sends a message, they say, but it doesn’t do enough to address the currents of racism on campus.
The article has a nice overview of current protest. Lartey also discusses From Black Power to Black Studies in some detail:
In his book From Black Power to Black Studies he chronicles how black activism and demands in the late 1960s led to the creation of new academic departments and disciplines like black studies, and later Chicano and women’s studies that exist to this day.
“Students are so into the adrenaline of protests and screaming at people but then you have to know when there’s an opening, when do we have a moment to actually get something reasonable in. You have to be prepared with something that will really work in the context of that institution,” Rojas said. “Social movements do not win by merely being expressive, they have to have a plan.” This, Rojas said, is different from simply having demands.
Rojas cited the protests at San Francisco State College in 1968 as an example of the tenacity and organization required to effect meaningful change. A coalition of students of color demanded the school open a black studies department along with more ambitions demands like free tuition for all students of color. Students forced the issue with a “guerrilla campaign”, which included mass rallies spawning hundreds of arrests, physical intimidation and even small-scale bombings. They also threatened a strike. Ultimately administrators and students arrived at a compromise.
These demands were considered radical in 1968, but compared with the standard of some of last autumn’s student protests, they are comparatively mild. Students at the University of North Carolina, for example, demanded the “elimination of tuition and fees for all students” and the defunding and disarming of campus police.
Will today’s student protesters marshal the same leverage, patience and intensity to force these kinds of concessions? “Students can make change to these institutions,” Clayborne said. “It comes from small groups of committed people coming together and building it.”