As the 2020 presidential election heats up, so does discussion about the political behavior of young people. Students in particular – their votes and their activism – are often depicted as necessary to democracy, but challenging to mobilize. On the other hand, older Americans are more likely to vote, and their voting patterns, as well as their leadership in many activist organizations, can give them an outsized voice in American politics. Furthermore, the political concerns of young and older people, as well as the strategies and tactics that they prefer, often diverge. How might generational divides influence activism, and with what consequences for politics in the U.S. and elsewhere? How might generational divides inhibit coalition-building that could effectively mobilize the youth vote?
This month, we have five outstanding contributors. Many thanks for their contributions on this topic:
Editors in Chief,
Rory McVeigh, David Ortiz, Guillermo Trejo, and Grace Yukich
Generational divides are not new, though perhaps every generation thinks it is the first to experience one. In the 1960s, the saying was “Don’t trust anybody over 30;” today, the generation that did not trust even the middle aged recoils when younger folks say “OK, Boomer.” These divides reflect both cohort effects and age effects: older people have had years to refine their perspectives on activism and politics, perspectives forged through experiences in movements ranging from anti-War to second-wave feminism, from gay rights to anti-nuclear power, while younger people are filled with energy and enthusiasm and sometimes have little perspective on how their vital work fits into the histories of activism they encounter. So how do these divides matter for the work of political activism today? And what might activists do to bridge them? My answers to these questions draw on both my scholarship in the sociology of social movements and my experience as part of coalitional work in activism and local politics.
Emma Gonzalez tweeted out a picture of herself after she voted in Florida’s primary election. Along with 1.5 million other followers, I saw Emma smiling, displaying the “I voted” sticker that came with her first in-person vote. Emma started on Twitter when she and some of her classmates organized March for Our Lives in response to the horrific mass shooting at their high school. The Parkland kids brought a new energy and visibility to a growing movement for gun safety regulation, running through a full range of social movement tactics: a local demonstration where Emma gave a stirring “We Call BS” speech; a bus trip to lobby Florida legislators in Tallahassee; a national demonstration in Washington, DC, that drew more than one million people — and featured no speaker over the age of 19; a coordinated series of school walk-outs across the country; and a speaking tour in the summer of 2018 to encourage young people to vote.
Contemporary Chile provides a fascinating setting for studying youth politics. As I write these lines on a Friday evening, hundreds of young people are protesting around metro stations in Santiago – Chile’s capital – and all across the country. This is just one snapshot of the so-called “Chilean Spring” (Somma et al. 2020), the gravest sociopolitical crisis in Chile in the last four decades. Since its start last October, this contentious episode combines massive peaceful protests, violent riots, police repression, and states of siege. Add to this an erratic government with the lowest presidential approval in decades (6%) and a widely delegitimated political class – from right to left – which is routinely intimidated by angry mobs and pontifying twitterers.
What kinds of repression should I anticipate when I am active in a democratic country?
Recent work by the author:
Chang, Paul. 2015. Protest Dialectics: State Repression and South Korea’s Democracy Movement, 1970-1979. Stanford University Press
Koopmans, Ruud. “Dynamics of repression and mobilization: The German extreme right in the 1990s.” Mobilization: An International Quarterly 2.2 (1997): 149-164.
Earl, Jennifer. 2011. “Political repression: Iron fists, velvet gloves, and diffuse control.” Annual Review of Sociology 37: 261-284.
Suh, Chan S., Ion Bogdan Vasi, and Paul Y. Chang. “How social media matter: Repression and the diffusion of the Occupy Wall Street movement.” Social Science Research 65 (2017): 282-293.
Is Moby only 25 years old? It so quickly established itself as the house organ for social movement research and theorizing that one might be forgiven for thinking that it had been around for much longer. As a newly-minted PhD in 1995, I certainly was under that impression. Nor did I realize at the time how influential Mobilization was in bringing the study of ideas, beliefs, values—culture—firmly into the study of social movements. I lucked out, though, since that was exactly what I was interested in.
I recently participated in a closing event for an exciting European project examining youth participation in politics, with a special focus on inequalities. My involvement in that project as an External Advisor built on prior participation in a MacArthur Foundation funded research network, Youth and Participatory Politics. At the closing event, I was asked to assemble a list of a handful of findings from research on youth political engagement that I considered important. I decided to share those notes here. In the interest of getting this posted quickly, I have not (yet) embedded citations for the points below, but if you want citations to any specific point, feel free to reach out and as people do, I will amend the post by adding citations.
I’d like to take this occasion to celebrate one of the most interesting and, it turns out, unusual articles published in Mobilization over the past quarter century. It is not, alas, one of the more highly cited articles published in Mobilization. But I think that says more about us readers of Mobilization than about the article. And what it says about us is not very flattering.
It is an honor to be asked to reflect on Celebrating 25 Years of Mobilization. As a scholar of gender and social movements in the Middle East, I appreciate that Mobilization is not only one of the top journals for publishing in this field but that its goal “…is to provide a forum for global, scholarly dialogue”. In particular, Mobilization has been instrumental in bringing scholarship on social movements and uprisings in the Middle East to the attention of the global social science community. I am grateful to Mobilization for not only publishing our co-authored article on anti-harassment activism in Egypt (Rizzo, Price, and Meyer 2012) but for adding our article to the 2012 special issue on “Understanding The Middle East Uprisings” with Charles Kurzman as guest editor. Mobilization was one of the first to have a special issue focusing on the uprisings in the Middle East. It included several articles on Egypt looking at the interplay of structure and agency through the Tahrir protests (Holmes 2012), the Ultra soccer fans (Dorsey 2012), and our article on the anti-sexual harassment campaign (Rizzo et al. 2012) as well as an article on the onset of Syria’s popular uprising (Leenders 2012) and Iran’s 2009 Green Movement (Harris 2012).
This year, the journal Mobilization is turning 25. The first issue of Mobilization was published in 1996 at a time when social movement researchers had a lot of great ideas, but limited options for publishing cutting edge research papers in a journal that directly targeted the growing community of social movement scholars. Mobilization is unusual, too, in that it was founded and is still owned and operated by a leading social movement scholar, Hank Johnston (currently at San Diego State University)—rather than some large publishing corporation. It is currently edited by Neal Caren and Marco Giugni and Maria Grasso serve as the European editors.
This month, we have ten outstanding contributors. Many thanks for their contributions on this topic:
- María Inclán, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) (essay).
- Suzanne Staggenborg, University of Pittsburgh (essay).
- Sarah Gaby, Washington University in St. Louis (essay).
- Fabio Rojas, Indiana University (essay).
- Greg Prieto, University of San Diego (video).
- Chandra Russo, Colgate University (essay).
- Jeff Goodwin, New York University (essay).
- Helen Mary Rizzo, American University in Cairo (essay).
- Michael T. Heaney, University of Glasgow and University of Michigan (essay).
- Francesca Polletta, University of California Irvine (essay).
We also have some other contributors on this topic, please check Vol.I last month.
Editors in Chief,
Rory McVeigh, David Ortiz, Guillermo Trejo, and Grace Yukich