Despite much activity within and around the institution of science, for scholars and activists alike a central question continues to linger: what else or who else do science-oriented movements target…and, increasingly, how should they go about doing it? I’ll draw from one familiar case, creationism, to speak to contemporary efforts to provoke social change in a way that surprised many.
With a well-known history dating back to the infamous Scopes Trial of 1925, the Creationist social movement draws upon both religion and science as sources of authority. While religion and science may not permanently or inherently be at odds with one another, at least since the late 19th century in the United States, the boundaries between the two have been fiercely contested. Continue reading
As the essays in this special symposium demonstrate, the relationship between law and social movements has become an increasingly vibrant area of focus for movement scholars, and for good reason. Focusing on legal institutions, such as the courts, raises many important questions that continue to guide movement scholarship, including the role of elites in movement processes, the difficult balance between institutional tactics and broader movement building, and the relationship between strategy and tactical choices. However, as these essays also suggest, much of movement scholarship appears centrally concerned about the utility of litigation for advancing movement goals—fundamentally a question about outcomes, rather than one about dynamics. Continue reading
Social movement scholars have increasingly broadened their view of the role of social movements vis-à-vis institutions and political outcomes– that is, beyond using direct action to challenge authority. The fact that you are reading a short essay about social movements and the courts is a testament to that. As movements became increasingly viewed as part of “everyday politics” and the use of institutionalized tactics more common, not surprisingly, legal mobilization emerged as an area of interest among political sociologists and social movement scholars. Continue reading
In December of last year, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear two cases involving same-sex marriage. One case challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 statute that defines marriage—for federal benefits purposes—as one man and one woman. The other case challenges the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 that prohibits same-sex marriage in the nation’s largest state, and which could result in a revolutionary, across-the-board ruling requiring all states to recognize same-sex unions.
Given where things stood just 10 to 12 years ago, the very possibility that the Supreme Court might consider legalizing same-sex marriage is nothing short of astounding. Continue reading
Is studying emotions in social movements a distinct agenda from studying movements’ interactions with institutions or the state? Are some movements oriented toward emotional change and others toward policy change? Are movements such as the one against child sexual abuse, which I have studied, fundamentally different from those that stick to topics where emotions are less apparent, or those that focus narrowly on policy demands? My own work, and that of others, suggests not.[i] Continue reading
Social movement scholars have often struggled with operationalizing movement success and/or failure, and rightfully so. What may be considered a failure to scholars may be perceived as success to activists. In addition, movements are not monoliths and therefore success for some activists or for some groups, may not be relevant to other aspects of a movement. Finally, talking about success and failure also rests on the assumption that we know about the intentions of movement actors – that there are clearly stated and known objectives and that the decisions actors make are in reference to achieving those goals and objectives. Often, we can only speculate about motivations and intent; presumably success can also come about unintentionally. I have written about how the Occupy movement has shifted the spotlight to scholars’ understanding of movement outcomes, but I suggest that the Tea Party also requires us to think about how we define movement success and failure. Continue reading
The 10-year anniversary for the movement that sprung up against the war in Iraq is on the horizon, and it presents an opportune time to reflect on its progress, and more importantly, the lessons that can be learned from its shortcomings.
While activists were busy organizing in the fall of 2002, the dramatic debut of the movement’s true size and global dimensions took place on February 15, 2003. On that historic date, millions took to the streets around the world in the largest antiwar protest in history. Two days later, Patrick Tyler wrote in The New York Times that there were now perhaps “two superpowers on the planet—the United States, and worldwide public opinion.” Continue reading
A recent, tear-inducing article in Slate covers an important aspect of social movements and their outcomes, particularly the important roles they play in changing institutional policies/structures and people’s lives. It covers the first gay wedding on a military installation and highlights the important role of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) in this historic moment.
Although the article doesn’t describe these trail-blazing men as activists per se, in the article you see glimpses of their connection to the wider movement for openness and equality in the military. Continue reading
The campaign against the war in Iraq was the largest, most intensive antiwar mobilization in history. On February 15, 2003 an estimated 10 million people demonstrated against the war in hundreds of cities across the globe, the largest single day of antiwar protest ever recorded. A month later another massive wave of global protest occurred, this time at the local level, as millions of people gathered in 6,000 candlelight vigils in more than one hundred countries in a last minute plea against war. People across the globe spoke out as never before in a unified voice against invading Iraq. Continue reading