Tag Archives: activism

Klan Activism, Political Polarization, and Party Alignment in Southern Counties

We want to highlight that Rory McVeigh, one of Mobilizing Ideas’ Editors in Chief, wrote a post for the London School of Economics blog on American Politics and Policy about Ku Klux Klan activism and voting in Southern counties.

Motivated by the questions about whether social movement activism can bring about change, the research shows that counties that experienced Klan activism in the 60s also show a higher percentage increase in Republican voting from 1960 to 2000, leading to an underrepresentation of the Democratic Party in Southern counties today.

You can read his post here.

His blog post is based on his ASR paper “Political Polarization as a Social Movement Outcome: 1960s Klan Activism and Its Enduring Impact on Political Realignment in Southern Counties, 1960 to 2000” with David Cunningham and Justin Farrell.

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Social Movements, Institutions and Policy Outcomes

In light of the recent proliferation of mass mobilization events like Occupy/99%, immigrant rights, the Arab Spring, and the Ukrainian protests, many interested in social movements have turned their attention to protest participation. No doubt, this new wave of protest research has provided important theoretical insights on mobilization as well as methodological advancements.

However, scholars have also recently pointed to important organizational and institutional aspects of social movements and social change that should not be overlooked. In fact, the two recent Charles Tilly Book Award winners, Drew Halfmann and Kathleen Blee, address these very aspects of mobilization.

When I began studying the disability rights movement, it became apparent that understanding mobilization, social change and policy outcomes required looking beyond grassroots protest and other forms of direct action to understand America’s disability rights revolution. Indeed, the disability rights movement shines light on several important themes in political sociology, which my work seeks to address, including a current book project I am developing. Continue reading

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What do the ALS ice bucket challenge, Alberta oil, and Leonardo DiCaprio have in common?

10142156Hollywood star, Leonardo DiCaprio, was in Alberta for a new documentary about the environmental impacts of the oilsands (a.k.a. tar sands). He met with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations who have been protesting against developing the oilsands. DiCaprio is among a host of celebrities speaking out against the oilsands. Others include Desmond Tutu, Neil Young and James Cameron. They join other celebrities who have been vocal opponents of the Keystone pipeline including Mark Ruffalo, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Kevin Bacon.

Proponents of the oilsands and the pipeline, including the Prime Minister’s office, have dismissed celebrity involvement in Alberta’s oil industry. According to Yahoo Canada News, the Prime Minister’s Office has commented in the past about “the energy-demanding lifestyle often afforded to such celebrities” and Tim Moen, leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, referred to it as celebrity cheap talk demonizing Alberta’s oilsands. Moen told Yahoo Canada News that “The people I take seriously are people who actually create solutions. People that find ways to get cheap clean energy into the hands of people who want it.”  Continue reading

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Planet of the Apes: Pop Culture and Changing Social Consciousness

The 8th edition to the Planet of the Apes franchise was released this Summer. The most recent revival started in 2011 with “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” picked up where “Rise” left off. I won’t go into detail about the storyline since it is such an iconic movie, but the latest two explore the ethical concerns underlying human exploitation of animals, specifically in terms of animal research.

(Spoiler Alert for “Rise.”)

I watched “Rise” about a year ago with my family. During the scene where Caesar leads a revolt against an abusive so-called primate sanctuary, my cousins emphatically rooted for Caesar. They don’t have any strong beliefs in favor of animal advocacy; they were just rooting for the underdog protagonist. The factors that go into a person’s shift towards caring about a social justice issue are multi-faceted, but I think these kinds of popular media cues have an effect that scholars are just starting to examine. Continue reading

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Direct and Indirect Challenges to the Pipeline

pipeline_protest1Over the course of the last two years, two pipeline projects – Northern Gateway and Keystone – have generated opposition from environmental groups in both the U.S. and Canada. As Rennie of the Canadian Press (June 17) notes, the pipelines have become highly political in both countries. In an article I wrote for Critical Mass, I mentioned that in the U.S., the Keystone pipeline project has posed a problem for President Obama and the Democrats given that environmentalists are against its construction while many others see it as creating jobs. There has been a tremendous push in Congress to get Obama to sign legislation that would allow for Keystone’s construction on the one hand, and Democrats hoping that Obama would veto such a bill on the other. Nonetheless, policy experts seem to believe that the Keystone project would inevitably move forward – if Canada is building a pipeline anyway, why shouldn’t Americans benefit from it? In fact, earlier polls did show that the American public thought energy security was a more important issue than greenhouse gases and a majority favored the pipeline’s construction (although the saliency of the issue among the public has likely varied greatly over the last year). Continue reading

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Movement InFighting: Can it serve a purpose?

The Animal Rights National Conference 2014 (ARNC) will be held in Los Angeles on July 10th-13th. An organization called the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) organizes the conference. As the organization says on its website, the conference is “the world’s largest & longest-running event dedicated to the liberation of animals from all forms of human exploitation and use.” Even with this clear declaration of “liberation,” and FARM’s history of not participating in politically reformist tactics, FARM’s conference is attacked virtually every year for not being abolitionist, or radical, enough. Prominent figures in the movement, such as Gary L. Francione, accuse the organizers of not adhering to strictly to all-or-nothing vegan advocacy on behalf of animals. Francione is a law professor, author, and a major figurehead in the movement. Most of his current work contains little outside of bashing activists who use anything except educational outreach about veganism. Continue reading

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Inside the Minds of Activists: Why Their Views of Repression Matter

By Sharon Erickson Nepstad

After decades of research on social movement repression, we know that states’ punitive actions do not always have the intended effect. Movements have survived harsh crackdowns and, under the right circumstances, they may even expand when regime brutality provokes outrage. There is a growing literature on the conditions that increase this type of “backfire” (see, for instance, Hess and Martin, 2006 and Chenoweth and Stephan, 2011). Yet these studies primarily focus on factors such as the extent of diversity within the movement, the presence of alternative media, the degree of global attention, and the strategic efforts of political leaders and resisters to spin the repressive event in their favor. While these studies have significantly advanced our knowledge, what is still lacking is an examination of protesters’ own attitudes toward repression. I propose that this can have an important influence on whether they persist in the face of potentially dangerous sanctions. Continue reading

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“Live at the People’s House”: Wisconsin’s Solidarity Sing Along

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Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Solidarity Sing Along in Madison, Wisconsin.  The Sing Along began in March 2011 in protest of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, Act 10, which (among other controversial provisions) stripped collective bargaining rights from many of Wisconsin’s public sector workers.

Despite the frigid January weather, a group of about thirty singers met outside the state Capitol building.  Continue reading

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Practice Meets Theory?

An activist who follows Mobilizing Ideas recently brought to our attention a TEDx talk by the social and environmental activist, Eran Ben-Yemini. Eran Ben-Yemini is a well-known figure in the Israeli environmental movement. During the 1990s, he played an important role in the Israeli student movement, helping to found Green Course, a national student environmental organization and the largest volunteer environmental organization in Israel. In the 2008, Ben-Yemini entered the Israeli political scene by working with Alon Tal to establish the Green Movement, a political party that gained some notice in the 2009 elections.

In this TEDx talk, Ben-Yemini shares insights from his work as a grassroots organizer and presents a strategy for mobilizing for social change. The central message is that it is possible to build a movement and make a change with a relatively simple formula: Story + Way + Setting = Change. Come with a story, discuss the way together, set an organization, and change will follow.

Social movement scholars may find it interesting to consider Ben-Yemini’s formula in relation to what we know from research and theory in our field. For example, he suggests that a story based on “big” ideas will attract and inspire people. Developing a way forward involves research, strategy, tools, and milestones. It is necessary to research the problem, offer solutions, and know the political environment (e.g., who is friend or foe). Strategy involves focusing on specific issues and creating the right message. Movements should draw upon many different tools, such as educating the public, legal actions, and civil disobedience. Finally, it is necessary to have milestones that measure progress and highlight successes.

Some of what Ben-Yemini presents relates to ideas found in social movement theories of framing and political opportunities. He offers an approach for diagnostic, prognostic and motivational framing and hints at the role of political allies and opportunities. Do his ideas mesh with what we know from research on social movements?

For example, resources are noticeably absent from the discussion. Yet, we know that resources are necessary to maintain large-scale mobilizations for social change. What kinds of resources are needed? How do activists get them? A 2011 survey of Israeli environmental organizations shows that Green Course received 96% of its funding from foundations. Ben-Yemini’s talk is instructive, inspirational, and perhaps revealing. Is the failure to discuss resources an oversight? Or does it indicate a potential conflict between the norms and effective practice of grassroots organizing?

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Failure Is Not an Option

By Edwin Amenta

Asking why social movements fail is a little like asking why children do not have backyards full of ponies. Most social movements fail most of the time because they embody a recipe for failure: they combine ambitious goals with severe power deficits. In U.S. history alone, think about the communist, nativist, gun control, anti-alcohol, and prison-reform movements—failure, failure, failure, failure, and failure. With global warming continuing unchecked, a good case could be made, too, for the environmental movement as a failure. Even movements widely considered the most influential of the twentieth century—the labor, African-American civil rights, and feminist movements—have been so only partially or intermittently. Continue reading

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