Political sociologists and social movement scholars have often commented on the overly broad definition of “political opportunities.” Many have called for specifying the nature of political opportunities especially so as to better operationalize and link political opportunities to policy outcomes and social movement mobilization. Indeed, political opportunity structure has referred to the more static nature of a country’s institutional arrangements (for instance, type of political system, electoral representation, etc.), to the more dynamic kind focusing on the presence of sympathetic party elites, party control of government and agenda setting. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Harper
At the end of 2011, it seemed like social issues were making their way back onto the Canadian public agenda (“Has the abortion issue been reopened in Canada and what does this mean for social movements?”).” The beginning of the year saw what Lawrence Martin (Dec 27th Globe and Mail) called a “A banner year for the new conservative agenda.” This lead me in my Jan. 10th post (“The new conservative political opportunity in Canada and the Office of Religious Freedom“) to think about a new conservative political opportunity in Canada. We have seen key issues surface: the pipeline, abortion, gay marriage rights, and more recently, small government. But this new conservative public agenda has not gone without backlash . Indeed, the conservative political opportunity has also become an opportunity for a variety of activist mobilization: from environmentalists to more recently, senior citizens.
Recently, the Conservative Harper government unveiled its new budget which among other things, saw the firing of thousands of civil servants and the increase of the retirement age to 67. One Globe and Mail article (March 29, 2012) refers to “Minding the Gap” and a “generational battle brewing over the budget.” The article goes on to say that “Students are concerned about high tuition costs, and those in their late 20s and 30s worry about an impenetrable housing market and weak job prospects – which they blame, in part, on baby boomers. Seniors and those nearing retirement, on the other hand, were concerned about upcoming reforms to Old Age Security.” Continue reading
For those who study and teach about social movements and collective action, the last year has provided us with numerous cases. From OWS, environmental activism, the Arab Spring, and the Tea Party, we have compared and contrasted these cases, often seeking to find common themes across these, using existing theoretical frameworks to shed light on contemporary cases, or alternatively, use what’s going on out there as a way to reevaluate existing theories of social movements and collective action.
One important and emerging theme is the way in which people – from the public, to the media, to political elites – react to social movements. Scholars have shown how positive and negative reactions, especially by elites, have important consequences for subsequent mobilization. Of course, elite responses to protesters vary; by no means is government surveillance (as is the case with environmental groups in Canada) equivalent to the brutality faced by activists and bystanders in Syria. Yet, there is a common theme when it comes to elite framing of challenges as illegitimate and depicting challengers as radicals and terrorists. Continue reading