Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change: Volume 28


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

The scholarship on social movements has focused attention recently on the strategic dimensions of decision-making by movement actors. Much of this work has been rooted in detailed case studies that offer useful analytical windows through which we can view the strategic choices made by individual movement organizations. As valuable as this work is in its own right, equally if not more important questions remain with regard to how the position a movement organization occupies in the broader social movement field impacts strategic decision-making of that organization and those other organizations with which it interacts. In fact, the coalition politics of a social movement is often a key variable in the degree to which a movement succeeds in its goals. Coalition conflicts and politics matter. Today's so-called anti-globalization movement, the peace movement opposing the Iraq War, and the contemporary global environmental movement with its focus on global warming each demonstrate that coalitions are important for social movements.

The renascent focus on strategy in social movement research has made important contributions to our understanding of organizational dynamics, but has not been systematically applied to relational dynamics within movements as a whole. We begin to bridge that gap by presenting a framework for mapping the relative strategic positions of multiple collective actors along two dimensions of strategic orientation: the depth of challenge promoted and the breadth of appeal cultivated. This framework integrates a wider range of collective actors into analyses, and identifies distinct movement roles and contributions associated with different strategic positions. More importantly, the framework facilitates analysis of the overall distribution of actors across a movement and the nature and extent of linkages among them – what we refer to as strategic articulation. Drawing on a breadth of secondary research, we identify characteristics of movement distributions that facilitate stronger articulation and draw out their implications for intramovement relational dynamics – such as the balance between cooperation and competition, and the extent to which flanks are integrated or isolated.

Coalition formation and dissolution are integral parts of social movement politics. This article addresses two questions about the effect of coalition politics on organizational processes within social movements. First, how does coalition leadership influence who attends mass demonstrations? Second, how does the dissolution of a coalition affect the locations of organizations in activist networks? The case of schism between United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) in the contemporary American antiwar movement (2001–2007) is examined. Survey results demonstrate that variations in coalition leadership do not significantly affect protest demographics, though they do attract supporters with different political attitudes, levels of commitment, and organizational affiliations. Further, network analysis establishes that coalition dissolution weakens the ties between previous coalition partners and creates opportunities for actors uninvolved in the split to reaffirm and improve brokerage opportunities. The end result is that preexisting network structures serve to mitigate the effects of coalition dissolution on social movements.

Why are some social movement organizations (SMOs) more likely to participate in coalitions than other SMOs? Drawing on findings from a comparative study of 47 organizations in the women's movement in Buenos Aires, Argentina that were active during the first 20 years of the contemporary democratic period (1983–2003), I examine factors related to participation in coalitions. Using qualitative comparative analysis, I identify three paths for coalition participation that account for 90% of the cases where SMOs participated in coalitions. I find that SMOs cooperated with other groups when they engaged in confrontational protest, when they had broad goals and involved non-members in their work, or when they were inclusive and had a formal division of labor that made it possible to send representatives, as is often necessary in formal coalition work. Along with ethnographic evidence, these findings suggest that scholars should pay more attention to the combinations of organizational factors that influence coalition participation, and the strategic motivations, structural features, and cultural aspects of movement organizations that facilitate cooperation between SMOs.

Mesomobilization actors perform important structural and ideological roles for social movements. This paper examines the dilemmas confronting one such meso-level organization – the First Nations Summit – currently engaged in tri-partite treaty negotiations with the governments of British Columbia and Canada. Asymmetrical power relations between the negotiating parties leave the First Nations vulnerable to government strategies aimed at achieving “certainty” with minimal concessions on key issues such as Aboriginal Title, compensation, and governance. The paper considers the Summit's options for mobilizing its diverse and often reluctant constituents in order to gain leverage in the treaty process.

Social movement scholars have profitably used framing theory to understand how movement demands resonate within different political and cultural climates. To be more useful, however, the theory's analytic vocabulary needs to be sharpened and clarified. To that end, this paper specifies the relationships between collective action frames, master frames, and ideology through a case study of the living wage movement. While concepts such as frame-bridging are critical in understanding how social movement demands resonate, these ideas need to be broadened to show how movements go beyond “fit” in negotiating the tension between their aspirations and the sobering realities of politics. I use the term economics of morality to convey the difficulty inherent in translating moral demands into policy solutions. A successful framing strategy must be pragmatic enough to compromise for short-term goals, but only in a manner that does not undermine the integrity of a movement's ideals and its long-term vision.

This paper examines whether affiliation strategies used by social movement organizations to establish institutional linkages assure survival. Several streams within both social movement and organization theories suggest contrasting expectations. Two core research questions are proposed: how does strategic affiliation, as well as increasing legitimation, alter social movement organizations’ longevity, and how does the evolution of the movement condition these dynamics? Our answer focuses on the self-help/mutual-aid movement and the institutionalization of national self-help/mutual-aid organizations. Analyses comparing economic, political and symbolic means of survival at the population-of-organizations level and organizational level, and across the history of the movement, show that professional and political alliances and legitimation impact the longevity of self-help/mutual-aid organizations in unexpected ways. For instance, as the number of political alliances at the population level increases, the likelihood of organizational survival declines, although political alliances at the individual organizational level are beneficial for an organization. These relationships change dramatically as the movement matures. Implications for integrating social movement and organizations theories are discussed.

Activists make strategic decisions about how to pursue their claims, but strategy is hard to study and the topic is underdeveloped theoretically. Here, we contribute to the developing academic literature on social movement strategy by offering a theoretical framework that emphasizes three distinct, albeit interrelated, movement choices: arenas of action, advocacy tactics, and demands. This framework allows us to infer strategy at the movement level through the analysis of events data. Using events data from the New York Times from 1959 to 1996, in conjunction with historical accounts of abortion politics in the United States, we analyze the development of the strategies of the anti-abortion and abortion rights movements. We demonstrate the utility of this framework, and show how movement strategies are affected by both political opportunities and the actions of countermovements, whose activists respond to the same political opportunities. We conclude with a discussion of the complications of assessing movement strategy and call for more research on the topic.

This article analyzes the decline of the Amsterdam squatters’ movement, examining not why the movement declined, but how. I argue decline is a critical moment for activists, one full of creative action. Decline is a defining moment through which the present, past, and future are interpreted. Narratives are key to understanding this process. As the movement emergence narrative declined, competing narratives of decline emerged. The widening chasm between the initial story and the movement's status compelled activists to choose between saving the movement or the narrative. I identify four critical moments during the movement's response to decline: they initially deny decline; after admitting decline, they debate tactics, followed by debating identities; and finally they demand decline as the only solution for the movement's problem. The movement moves through a process of increasing exclusion, working to resolve internal contradictions defined by the original narrative and identity.

Hunger strikes have a long history in efforts to achieve social change but scholars have made few comparative, empirical, or theoretical contributions to understanding their dynamics and connections in the social movement and nonviolent action literature. We examine hunger strikes from 1906 to 2004 with a comparative perspective, elaborating on its use as a tactic of nonviolent change. Using data assembled from the New York Times, Keesing's Worldwide Online, and The Economist we analyze how, when, where, and why hunger strikes occur, and by whom they have been utilized to seek change. In general, findings reveal that hunger strikes over the last century have been widespread phenomena that are typically small, brief, and relatively successful tactics against the state. Several themes emerge regarding hunger strikes including their appeal to the powerless and emergence when few political opportunities exist, their significance for third-party mobilization, and the role of emotions in the protest dynamics. Taken together, the power struggle involving the hunger strike is an important example and extension of “political jiu-jitsu” as presented by Sharp (1973).

In this paper, we examine the effects of different types of political discrimination on interethnic conflict using data on over 200 ethnic groups within over 100 countries. Our results show that political restrictions, in general, significantly increase the likelihood of interethnic conflict. Additionally, our results demonstrate that restrictions on migration and voting rights, in particular, are highly salient predictors of conflict. Our findings suggest that future research on interethnic conflict should further examine the impact of political discrimination. The practical implication of our findings is that policymakers worldwide should seriously consider the potentially deadly ramifications of discriminatory policies.

Matthew E. Archibald is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Emory University and studies health movements and health care organizations. His book, The Evolution of Self-Help (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), uses social movement and organizational theories to examine the sociopolitical and economic conditions promoting this unique form of healthcare delivery in the U.S. His most recent work combines these frameworks with social epidemiology to answer questions about community disadvantage and the provision of substance abuse treatment services.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN