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Social movement organizations in Spain: Being partial as the prefigurative enactment of social change

Ruth Simsa (Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria)
Marion Totter (Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 13 November 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze how activists of the Spanish protest movement 15M conceptualize organizational practices in relation to the movement’s goals.

Design/methodology/approach

In order to theoretically understand social movement organizations (SMO), the concept of partial organization is placed within the context of the politics of prefiguration. Empirically, the paper is based on field research conducted in Spain in three consecutive years (2014-2016) that included 82 qualitative interviews and participant observation.

Findings

Activists consider the organizational practices as crucial means to achieve social change. They conceptualize SMO in a meaningful and systematic way as partial organizations, specifically, by aiming at open membership and non-hierarchical structures. As they do this to enact the movement’s goals prefiguratively in their daily organizational practices, the limits and restrictions of the practices of self-organization are widely accepted.

Research limitations/implications

The research focused on studying the relatively young and often very successful organizations of the Spanish movement. It remains open to what extent the prefigurative practices will survive organizational life cycles.

Practical implications

By contributing to a deeper understanding of the underlying philosophy of SMO, this paper is useful for social movement activists and scholars.

Originality/value

This is one of the first papers, which analyzes the organizations of the Spanish protest movement with respect to both empirical and theoretical aspects.

Keywords

Citation

Simsa, R. and Totter, M. (2017), "Social movement organizations in Spain: Being partial as the prefigurative enactment of social change", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 280-296. https://doi.org/10.1108/QROM-01-2017-1470

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited