Tag Archives: resource mobilization

Mobilization in the Trump Era

Over the course of this last year, I worked on a paper titled “Elites, Policy and Social Movements” now published in Research in Political Sociology. In short, the paper is about how challengers, over the long run, develop ties to political elites and political entrepreneurs and how the networks they create shape policy change. Like some of my other work, I focus on the insider-outsider relationship among actors working on similar social change projects.

I started writing this paper during the heated Democratic primaries when Hillary Clinton was fighting to secure her place with Democratic voters and seeking to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters. A particular exchange between Clinton and a BlackLivesMatter activist left a lasting impression. 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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Finding Religion in Movement Activism

By Ziad Munson

In a televised debate last week, Indiana Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Richard Mourdock explained why he opposes access to legal abortion for women, even in cases when women are raped: “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”  Mourdock’s comments set off a political firestorm.  Although they reflected an almost universally held view among activists in the U.S. pro-life movement, they are at odds with the views of most Americans.  And the incident reinforces the most common way most people view the relationship between religion and social movements: Mourdock roots his political beliefs in religious ones.  His comments are a prime example of how religion can act as a source of beliefs and justifications within a social movement. Continue reading

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Mayer Zald: A Mensch Ahead of His Time

By Calvin Morrill

With a twinkle in his eye and a couple of questions, Mayer Zald appeared in the doorway of my office in the Sociology Department at the University of Arizona late one afternoon in 1997 during one of his many winters teaching in Tucson.  His questions?  When can you have lunch and could he borrow a copy of a book I had written on organizational conflict.[i]  He also suggested that I read his 1978 AJS piece[ii] on social movements in organizations since we had mutual interests in social conflict.  A week or so later at lunch, we talked about what he found most intriguing about my book – the near absence of collective action among managers across the thirteen organizations in the study.  He then pivoted the conversation to a sociology-of-knowledge puzzle about his own career: the dramatically different trajectories of his most famous piece, his and John McCarthy’s 1977 ASR[iii] article on resource mobilization and social movements, and the 1978 social movements in organizations piece. While the resource mobilization piece became a near-instant classic upon its publication (and continues to enjoy iconic status to the present), the 1978 article, as Mayer put it, “fell into an intellectual black hole” and was cited less than a dozen times over the next decade.  The puzzle was why? Continue reading

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In Appreciation of Mayer Zald

By Elisabeth Clemens

In the classic model, the five stages of grief end with acceptance.  In remembering Mayer Zald, however, appreciation seems much more possible, indeed necessary.  In the weeks since his death, stories and expressions of gratitude for his enormous generosity have tumbled out in conversations, in print, and in pixels.  But his so-unexpected absence also forecloses the opportunity to reciprocate directly, to thank him fully for everything.    It leaves only the possibility of generalized exchange, sharing with others what we received from Mayer.  In that spirit, let me contribute one lesson that Mayer taught me, namely how to make our work both a craft and a calling, rather than simply a job-to-be-done or an idea-to-be-thought in solitary brilliance.  This lesson came in many forms, but perhaps most clearly over the course of a pair of Mayer and Joan’s spring visits to Arizona in the late 1990s, when Mayer and I co-taught Contemporary Sociological Theory, then Organization Theory and History.  My notes for an early session that I led in that second seminar capture the flavor of a teaching apprenticeship with Mayer: Continue reading

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