Tag Archives: corporations

It’s Time to Study how Corporate Targets Influence Activists

By Brayden King

Social movement activists have numerous goals in mind when they choose a particular corporate target, including implementing a specific policy change, changing the norms or standards of an industry, and drawing attention to their cause. Choosing the optimal target can affect the activists’ abilities to accomplish these goals. As demonstrated through research by Tim Bartley and Curtis Child on anti-sweatshop campaigns and by Mary-Hunter McDonnell and myself on boycotts, activists do not choose corporate targets randomly. They frequently go after the largest, most dominant, and most prestigious companies in their respective industries. Continue reading


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Activism and the Contemporary Corporation

Sarah Soule. 2009. Contention and Corporate Responsibility. Cambridge University Press.

Sarah Soule. 2009. Contention and Corporate Responsibility. Cambridge University Press.

By Paul-Brian McInerney

My suggestion for great summer reading is Contention and Corporate Social Responsibility by Sarah A. Soule (2009, Cambridge University Press). I recommend it to scholars of social movements and collective behavior because of its focus on anticorporate activism. Much of the work in social movement research focuses on activism against the state. Historically, scholars defined social movements by that very feature (Tarrow, 2011). However, social movements are increasingly targeting nonstate actors. Soule’s book helps us understand how and why this happens and to what ends.

Soule begins by providing a broad overview of social movement theories, especially as they relate to actions against corporations. She distinguishes between contentious politics, in which activists target states, and private politics, in which activists do not target or involve the state in their actions. Soule rightly acknowledges that the scene on the ground often involves complex combinations of private and contentious politics, as is the case when the state is drawn into conflicts between activists and corporations. She illustrates the complexity of maintaining this analytical distinction throughout the book. Continue reading

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Google doodle draws attention to gay rights and the 2014 Olympics

Google doodle highlighting gay rights and the 2014 Olympics

Google doodle highlighting gay rights and the 2014 Olympics

As a follow up to Lisa Leitz’s post about the same sex marriages featured at the 2014 Grammy Awards, I want to draw attention to Google’s homepage “doodle” which “honors” the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The doodle highlights six winter sports and, critically, is set against a rainbow background. Below the search bar is a quote from the Olympic Charter: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Anyone who has been following politics around this year’s Olympic games will recognize this as a not so subtle dig at Russia’s anti-gay laws and the general treatment of gay athletes leading up to the games. The political nature of the Google doodle has been picked up by a number of news sources, and one news source noted that the doodle was on the Google Russia homepage.

I think this, as with the same sex marriage event at the Grammy Awards, is a sign of the mainstreaming of LGB rights, but is also a sign that the protests against Russia’s anti-gay laws have been successful at drawing attention to the issue. Even Bob Costas mentioned the controversy around these laws on the first night of Olympic coverage, Thursday night. While the Google doodle will do little to concretely change the situation in Russia, I think it should be celebrated, and certainly should be seen as a win for gay rights advocates. But, I’m open to other interpretations. Thoughts? 

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Mayer Zald: The Johnny Appleseed of Organization Sociology

By Huggy Rao

Johnny Appleseed or John Chapman, as his recent biographer, Howard Means (2011:9) notes was unique among his contemporaries because “he had an uncanny sense of where the frontier would migrate next. He would load up with seeds each winter at cider presses in southwestern Pennsylvania. Then, as the spring thaw came on, he would follow waterways and Indian trails into unclaimed land, make a clearing of a few acres, plant his seeds, and surround the nursery with a brush fence to keep the deer out. When the settlers arrived a few years later, his seedlings would be waiting for them”.[i]

Like Appleseed, Mayer Zald was unique, because he was blessed with an uncanny nose for interesting problems and phenomena. Continue reading

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Mayer Zald’s influence on the study of social movements and organizations

All of us who knew Mayer Zald were deeply saddened by his passing on August 7, 2012.  I am fortunate to count myself as one of Mayer’s students, proteges, colleagues, collaborators, and friends.  Mayer was an enormously influential scholar of social movements, and he was a central contributor to the study of organizations.  He also helped engineer a friendly merger between these two domains, although it took much longer than he expected, as I describe below.

Mayer was a pioneer in the study of social movements as organizational phenomena.  In an organizational society, social movement activity typically takes place through social movement organizations, which in turn can comprise a social movement industry. Continue reading

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Indivisible?: Money & Politics

photo by author

Want a side of bland, vague politics with your coffee? Then please visit Starbucks!! You can also get a free cup of coffee today (July 4) if you tweet the hashtag “indivisible.” (Something tells me your local barista won’t know whether you actually tweeted it…) While editing this morning I was introduced to their new campaign to stop the partisan bickering via their bulletin board and their bags of coffee.

No stranger to politics, this is Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s latest attempt to enter into politics in an uncontroversial way. He made statements and has done some work to get corporate leaders to end their financial contributions to politics and create jobs in the United States. In an interview with CNN he described some success in this work.

photo by authorWhat do you think about this latest foray into politics by a large corporation? Is it a way to sell more (as Jim Edwards suggests) and tap into public sentiments about political topics, ala Miley Cirus’s Occupy song?

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Verizon falls prey to Digitally Enabled Social Change

Only one day after announcing that it would charge customers a $2 fee for paying bills through their online service, Verizon dropped this fee. According to the Chicago Tribune, in that one day a petition using the online petition site, change.org, garnered over 100,000 signatures and sparked an inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission. The petition was started by the same woman, Molly Katchpole, who began a successful online campaign to get Bank of America to retract a debit card fee. Other petitions aimed at ending this fee were also started on that site and others. This impressively quick turnaround provides further support for what Earl & Kimport term “Digitally Enabled Social Change” (DESC).

Is the digital age simply making protest (and its results) faster or are we seeing broader fundamental shifts in who participates and how much pressure people can apply to various targets?

For more on this topic see posts by Kevin Matthews and Amy Jonason.


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