Category Archives: Coalition Building

Coalition Building II

In November we continue our focus on coalition building in a variety of social movement settings, as well as how movements include a variety of constituents and allies. For instance, the #BlackLivesMatter campaign has developed into a broad coalition of organizations that entails a diverse membership. This varied coalition brings with it new benefits as well as organizational challenges. Contributors are invited to consider the following questions and more: How can organizations diversify their memberships and include different stakeholders? How do movement targets act to preempt or disrupt coalition building? Is there room to bridge the insider/outsider divide in coalitions and member recruitment? When are coalitions likely to succeed or fail? What effects do coalition members have on each other? What difficulties and advantages does a diverse membership bring?

Thank you to all of our contributors, their essays are below.

Silke Roth, University of Southampton (essay)
Atalia Omer, University of Notre Dame (essay)
Mario Diani, University of Trento (essay)
David Meyer, University of California – Irvine (essay)
Suzanne Staggenborg, University of Pittsburgh (essay)
Rottem Sagi, University of California – Irvine (essay)

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

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Social movement politics IS coalition politics

By David S. Meyer

The call for some thoughts on social movements and coalitions came across my screen just as my course on Sociological Theory was starting, and just before the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives exercised sufficient muscle to stall the departure of one of its enemies. Somehow, I see the pedagogic and political events of the moment fitting together and speaking to the questions that the Mobilizing Ideas community cares about. Let me try to explain, and then to suggest some issues that we still need to figure out. Continue reading

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Inclusion, Exclusion, Solidarity – Intersectional Perspectives on Coalition Building

By Silke Roth

My long-standing interest in coalitions and the integration of diverse constituencies in social movement organizations has always been informed by an intersectional perspective. Intersectionality refers to the fact that individuals and groups experience multiple forms of privilege and discrimination which inform one another. This has significant implications for social movement scholars as it problematizes what is meant by gender inequality, class differences or racial privilege. How do race and class matter for women’s movements? How are gender and race addressed in the labour movement? And what role do gender and class play in civil rights movements? Of course, race, class and gender are only a few dimensions of inequality and difference. Intersectionality can be understood as a frame of analysis (Cho, Crenshaw and McCall 2013) or as structural or political intersectionality (Crenshaw 1991). These analytical approaches to intersectionality are of central interest to scholars of social movements as they concern the construction of collective identities (which experiences are put into the foreground, which are downplayed or excluded?), the framing of agendas and the choice of strategies. Crenshaw (1991) employs the notion of political intersectionality to highlight that women of colour sit at the intersection of potentially conflicting agendas of (white) women’s movements and (male dominated) civil rights movements and are potentially marginalised by both movements. Continue reading

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“When I see them, I see us”: Symbolisms, Analogies, and Cross-Movement Solidarity

By Atalia Omer

In a new video released by Black-Palestinian Solidarity on October 14, 2015, in the midst of intensified violence in Israel and Palestine, feminist scholar and activist Angela Davis was featured (along with more than 60 other prominent Black and Palestinian artists, activists, and scholars), holding a sign that read, “Racism is systemic. Its outbursts are not isolated incidents.” Other celebrities and activists (such as Cornel West, Alice Walker, Lauryn Hill, Danny Glover, Dream Defenders Co-founder Ahmad Abuznaid, and Yousef Erakat) held signs underscoring analogies and interconnections between the struggles. “When I see them, I see us” is the refrain. Continue reading

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Do broad coalitions lead to broad social movements?

By Mario Diani

Coalitions are usually strongly associated with social movements in both common sense and theoretical thinking. It is difficult to think of social movements if not in terms of “nested coalitions,” linking different campaigns into broader projects. At the same time, while social movements cannot exist without coalitions, the reverse does not always apply: coalitions occur regularly without growing into large scale movements. Many coalitions are indeed purely instrumental and strictly focused on specific, often very narrow, goals. That’s hardly exciting news: the analytic difference between coalitions and movements has been elaborated on several times in the past, including in my own work (Diani 2015; Diani and Bison 2004). Still, I am not sure we are really grasping the most important implications of such difference. Let us think in particular of the conditions for coalition building and success, which are central to the present exchange. Apart from explicitly mentioning movements, it is pretty obvious that these issues are crucial to the analysis of social movements too. But does this mean that the conditions that facilitate the emergence of coalitions are also conducive to the emergence of movements? I do not think this is necessarily the case. Not only that: I also suspect that some of the conditions that facilitate coalition building might actually discourage social movement formation. I refer in particular to the capacity to form broad, encompassing coalitions that include a variety of participants, stakeholders, etc., and to the widespread assumptions about the desirability of such coalition heterogeneity. Continue reading

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Building Coalitions and Movements

By Suzanne Staggenborg

Coalitions seem obviously important to social movements and social change: when activists and organizations with common goals join together, they are likely to be more effective in achieving those goals than if various individuals and groups act on their own. Yet we know that coalitions are difficult to organize and maintain due to ideological differences, organizational competition, lack of networks, and other problems. Diverse coalitions, which bring together people of different races and ethnicities, class backgrounds, ideologies, etc., are likely to have the most difficulty organizing. Much of the research on coalitions has focused on how and why coalitions organize and the various problems they encounter in doing so (see Van Dyke and McCammon 2010). Political opportunities and threats are among the environmental factors that affect coalition formation. Internal organizational dynamics, both of member organizations and of the coalition organization, affect the functioning and maintenance of coalitions. While we now have a strong body of empirical research on some aspects of coalitions, there are a number of ways in which we need to expand this work. Continue reading

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Diverse Coalitions: Reconciling Disparate Ideologies and Incongruent Collective Identities

By Rottem Sagi

“‘Politics makes strange bed fellows’ we say to express our bewilderment at some new coalition which belies our expectations from past knowledge of the participants” (Gamson 1961: p. 373).

In order to build and sustain a coalition, SMOs must share a common purpose and create an identity that can unite member groups (Rucht 2010; McCammon and Campbell 2002; Hirsch 1986). Conflicts over organizations’ grievances, goals, tactics, and organizational structure often lead to fragmentation (Cornfield and McCammon 2010; McCammon and Campbell 2002; Van Dyke 2003; Maney 2000; Lichterman 1995). Groups with conflicting ideologies or world views are likely to find it harder to identify shared interests and create a common identity. Even if groups share similar interests or are located in the same interest sector, varied conceptualizations of the same social problem can lead to divergent movement goals (Maney 2000). Furthermore, groups often link multiple topics together. Groups in a coalition may not agree upon other topics beyond the shared goal. Disagreements about peripheral issues can lead to disputes among member groups (Rucht 2010). In other words, member organizations must share sufficient common ground upon which to build a coalition. Divergent interests and conflicting world views can create divisions and fracture the coalition. Continue reading

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