Tag Archives: failure

Failed Movements and Movement Failures

By Rachel L. Einwohner

In my “Sociology of Protest” class, when we get to the section of the course that addresses social movement outcomes I always start off with a brief exercise. I put the following on the board: “A successful movement is one that ________________________” and then ask the students to complete the sentence. The students always come up with excellent responses and typically identify a variety of ways in which movements can be successful, including achieving lasting social change and increasing awareness of a particular cause or issue. We then use these responses to think about ways of operationalizing movement success, and move into a lecture and discussion of Gamson’s (1990) classic treatment of movement success in terms of acceptance and new advantages. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Failure

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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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Failure