Author Archives: Mobilizing Ideas

Wrecked: How the American Automobile Industry Destroyed Its Capacity to Compete — A Review

By Juhi Tyagi

 

Wrecked: How the American Automobile Industry Destroyed Its Capacity to Compete. Joshua Murray and Michael Schwartz (2019, New York: Russel Sage Foundation)

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Wrecked tries to solve a puzzle. How did US Auto, once the largest, most prosperous industry in the richest, most powerful country in human history, fall to needing a 80.7 billion dollar bailout in 2008?

Unfolding the puzzle chapter by chapter, Murray and Schwartz’s book reads with the ease and grip of a very well written thriller. But it also opens the way for what I consider is one of the finest and closest analytical approximations to the dialectical ebb and flows that you will find mirrored only in our actual lived reality. The authors do not become stuck in instrumentalizing the role of economic structures. Nor do they, on the other end, fetishize cultural factors; staying removed of both economic and cultural determinism (both of which serve as popular explanations for the decline of US auto). Instead, they achieve a verisimilitude of the role of both structure and agency in our social world. Production structures (of the auto industry) limit and create possibilities for human agency (for both capitalists and workers), but human agency is often unpredictable. Human actions and decisions then determine how things play out. Wrecked beautifully walks us through this complex dialectical process.

The book begins with the common factual knowledge that Continue reading

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Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds — A Review

By Lyndi Hewitt

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown

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Detroit-based writer and trailblazing pleasure activist adrienne maree brown has been deeply engaged in organizing around black liberation, climate justice, and feminism for over two decades. Having previously served as a national coordinator for the 2010 U.S. Social Forum and as executive director of The Ruckus Society, brown is shaped by and remains a crucial voice in contemporary struggles for justice. Much to my good fortune, last year during an intersectional feminist faculty learning circle, a colleague* recommended brown’s Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (2017). Since then I’ve found myself returning to it again and again.

While Emergent Strategy was published 2 years ago and has since become wildly popular among activists of color, Continue reading

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OpEd Review: Stonewall and the Myth of Self-Deliverance

By Charles Seguin

Stonewall and the Myth of Self-Deliverance by Kwame Anthony Appiah

If you’re like me, you already have more summer reading goals than you can possibly finish. Therefore I’m recommending a fairly short OpEd: “Stonewall and the Myth of Self-Deliverance” by Kwame Anthony Appiah. Appiah argues that popular accounts of social change and liberation tend to overemphasize movements of oppressed people. Appiah does not dismiss such movements – they have clearly been important. He argues, however, that the narrative of self-deliverance has come to crowd out other important explanations of social and political change such as altruism from powerful outsiders. Movements of marginalized people need, as Appiah notes, “the help of other people who recognize the struggle for equality as a moral one, universally binding,” and that, “[o]nly those who need no rescuing can pick and choose among their rescuers.”

This is the reason I’m recommending Appiah’s OpEd instead of Continue reading

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Great Books for Summer Reading 2019 – Part 2

Here is part two of our Great Books for Summer Reading series.  Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.

Yuan Hsiao, University of Washington, PhD Candidate — Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions (essay)

Diego F. Leal, University of South Carolina — Afrodescendant Resistance to Deracination in Colombia (essay)

Lyndi Hewitt, University of North Carolina-Asheville — Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (essay)

Charles Seguin, Penn State University — Stonewall and the Myth of Self-Deliverance (essay)

Juhi Tyagi, Universität Erfurt — Wrecked: How the American Automobile Industry Destroyed its Capacity to Compete (essay)

Enjoy!

Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh

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How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions — A Review

By Yuan Hsiao

How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions by Damon Centola

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The role of social networks in mobilization processes has been a fundamental concern for both scholars and activists. How can connections between individuals facilitate or inhibit participation in collective action? Damon Centola’s book How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions draws from a decade’s research on behavioral diffusion, and is a significant theoretical and practical reference for anyone interested in network effects. While the book is not specifically about social movements, with a brief glance, one can find that Centola draws heavily from examples and literature in the field of social movements. What is particularly relevant is that Centola not only engages in scholarly dialogue with social theories, but also provides advice for practitioners who wish to boost participation in their organization. Furthermore, Centola writes in a style that transforms complex concepts into easily understandable sentences, and is suitable for a wide range of audiences.

This is a book about how network topologies (i.e., the configuration of how social networks are structured) affect participation. Continue reading

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Afrodescendant Resistance to Deracination in Colombia: A Review

By Diego F. Leal 

Afrodescendant Resistance to Deracination in Colombia by Aurora Vergara-Figueroa 

 

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Aurora Vergara-Figueroa’s Afrodescendant Resistance to Deracination in Colombia develops a theoretically and empirically rich portrait of one of the most violent episodes of Colombian armed conflict: the massacre at Bellavista-Bojayá-Chocó in 2002. The book takes the reader through a gripping yet deeply heartbreaking journey that clarifies the connections between centuries-long cycles of violence and uprooting endured by several afrodescendant communities in today’s department of Chocó, Colombia. By doing so, Vergara-Figueroa calls for the problematization of labels that try to denote these peoples as “mere” forced migrants or internally displaced peoples (IDPs). The book is based on an extended case study in which the author compiles historical and ethnographic evidence to show how 119 inhabitants of Bellavista-Bojayá were massacred, how those who survived this tragedy mourn their loved ones, and develop resistance strategies to reconstruct and dignify their lives. Continue reading

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Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity: A Review

By Todd Nicholas Fuist

Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity by Liliana Mason

 

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Scholars of social movements have long known that identity is a key factor in mobilization. Taylor and Whittier’s classic 1992 piece and Melucci’s 1989 and 1996 books highlighted the value of the concept for understanding movement action, and it has been theoretically central to the subfield ever since. A number of recent books, however, have demonstrated the usefulness of identity for thinking about politics more broadly. This includes the recent wave of ethnographies focusing on conservatives, such as Hochchild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, Gest’s The New Minority, Braunstein’s Prophets and Patriots, and Burke’s Race, Class, and Gender in the Tea Party, as well as work on voting behavior, like Achen and Bartels’ Democracy for Realists. These books demonstrate the degree to which identity underpins the entirety of our political behavior.

Liliana Mason’s Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, is a new and compelling entry in our ever-unfolding understanding of identity and politics.  … Continue reading

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