By Erin M. Evans PhD
Kucinskas, Jaime (2019) The Mindful Elite: Mobilizing from the Inside Out, Oxford University Press: New York, NY.
Jaime Kucinskas’s first book, The Mindful Elite, offers an innovative contribution to social movements literature. Dr. Kucinskas and I met as participants in the Young Scholars of Social Movements conference, where I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with her early research on this topic, and it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to review it for Mobilizing Ideas. Her book explores what she conceptualizes as “the contemplative movement,” a group of individuals and organizations who set their sights on incorporating meditation into public life starting in about the 1970s. Using an historical qualitative approach, she describes how advocates for mindfulness used insider processes to spread meditation practices across institutional arenas, including business, education, and science. Her data includes over 100 interviews with early pioneers in the movement, participant observation at multiple large events for mindfulness advocates, and content analysis of media data. Kucinskas’s analytical strategies reflect an in-depth and rigorous exploration of how meditation and mindfulness was legitimized as cognitive behavioral treatment and, consequently, a practice that is now widely used beyond the previous enclaves of the new age community. Continue reading
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)
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
By Lyndi Hewitt
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown
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
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
Here is part two of our Great Books for Summer Reading series. Many thanks to our wonderful group of contributors.
Erin M. Evans, San Diego Mesa College — The Mindful Elite: Mobilizing from the Inside Out (essay)
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)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh
By Yuan Hsiao
How Behavior Spreads: The Science of Complex Contagions by Damon Centola
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
By Diego F. Leal
Afrodescendant Resistance to Deracination in Colombia by Aurora Vergara-Figueroa
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
By Todd Nicholas Fuist
Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity by Liliana Mason
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
By Marcos Perez
Socio-Political Dynamics within the Crisis of the Left. Edited by Juan Pablo Ferrero, Ana Natalucci, and Luciana Tatagiba
Over the past few years, political developments in South America have signaled the emergence of a new right-wing regional bloc of governments. There is a lot of good research on the role played by grassroots organizations in the “pink tide” of progressive administrations in the first decade and a half of the century. However, not much has been written about how mobilization processes contributed to the end of this wave. The edited volume by Ferrero, Natalucci and Tatagiba contributes to filling in this gap, and thus should be on the reading list of anyone interested in the region.
The different chapters make three crucial contributions. Continue reading
By Maria Mora
Latino Mass Mobilization, Immigration, Racialization, and Activism by Chris Zepeda-Millán
Latino Mass Mobilization, Immigration, Racialization, and Activism is a must-read book for the summer for any social movement scholar, immigration scholar, community organizer or labor activist. Chris Zepeda-Millán’s multiple award-winning book makes an important contribution by offering one of the first systematic analysis of the 2006 immigrant rights movement. Zepeda-Millán examines the emergence of one of the largest social movement campaigns in the 21st century for the working class and the various mechanisms that made the mobilizations possible with separate chapters focusing on coalitions, threats, racialization, and everyday organizations. Zepeda-Millán also incorporates geographical variation in his study by scrutinizing immigrant collective action in Los Angeles, New York City and Fort Myers (Florida) to better understand movement emergence and obstacles at the local level.
In his first chapter, Zepeda-Millán gives a brief history of the economic policies that led to migration to and within the US. Continue reading