Tag Archives: Social Movements

Informing Activists: “How can movements work inside of religious communities to make change?”

Jonathan Coley

“How can movements work inside of religious communities to make change?”

Classic Reading:

Wood, Richard L. 1999. “Religious culture and political action.” Sociological Theory 17.3: 307-332.


Snow, David A. and Kraig Beyerlein. 2019. Bringing the Study of Religion and Social Movements Together: Toward an Analytically Productive Intersection. in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social Movements Edited by David Snow, Sarah Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi, and Holly McCammon: 2nd ed. p. 571-585.


Coley, Jonathan S. 2018. Gay on God’s Campus: Mobilizing for LGBT Equality at Christian Colleges and Universities. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.

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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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Reviewing the Field: What movements have we studied?

In beginning to write a book chapter on movements and social problems, I’ve realized the connections between these two areas are not nearly as developed as I had assumed. It is clear that movements matter because they raise consciousness about social problems and collectively try to address them.

Yet, I can’t seem to find much research explicitly connecting these two areas.

In particular, I am left wondering several questions about bridges, or the lack there of, between scholarship on movements and social problems.

 What movement cases have we studied over the past hundred years, and how does that compare to the field of social problems over that time period?

This seems like a basic question but is quite difficult to answer.

Several very good overviews of social movement theory (Morris and Herring 1984; Moss and Snow (forthcoming); Weber and King 2014) and scholarship (Snow, Soule and Kriesi 2004) hint at the types of movements scholars have focused on under different theoretical paradigms. Most reviews give excellent overviews of the common dimensions of movements and important contextual factors in mobilization. However, there is less direct attention to the kinds of movements studied and what their targets were.

Very generally, reviews of movement scholarship discuss how there was a shift from examining Marxist labor/poor people’s movements in early movement scholarship to the movements of the 1960s and 1970s (e.g. Civil Rights, women’s movement, anti-war movement, environmental movement, new social movements). In the past decade we have shifted to study more broadly movements targeting multiple institutions (Armstrong and Bernstein 2008; Rojas 2007; Soule 2009; Van Dyke et al. (2004)) and various kinds of structural, cultural, and individual outcomes.*

Is there a comprehensive review or meta-study of the movement targets studied in major publications over the last fifty or seventy-five years?

From there, it would be interesting to compare the field of movement scholarship to scholarship on social problems.

     Are there kinds of social problems that movement scholarship, or movements more generally, have tended to neglect?

In addition,

 Are movements better at initiating change for some kinds of social problems than others?

These are important questions and I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.


*Jennifer Earl’s website and database provide a useful overview and suggested readings on movement outcomes.


After this post, colleagues recommended the following very helpful resources on the field of movements at different points in time, changes in civic collective action tactics over time, biases and gaps in movement scholarship, and causality in the relationship between movements and social problems:

Bartley, Tim and Curtis Child. 2007. “Shaming the Corporation: Globalization, Reputation, and the Dynamics of Anti-Corporate Movements.” in annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York. Available at http://www. allacademic. com/meta/p184737_index. html.(Accessed March 1, 2009.): Citeseer.

Caren, N., Ghoshal, R. A., & Ribas, V. 2011. “A social movement generation cohort and period trends in protest attendance and petition signing.” American Sociological Review, 76(1), 125-151.

Gamson, William A. 1975. The Strategy of Social Protest: Dorsey Press Homewood, IL.

Klandermans, Bert and Nonna Mayer. 2005. Extreme Right Activists in Europe: Through the Magnifying Glass: Routledge.

Linden, Annette and Bert Klandermans. 2007. “Revolutionaries, Wanderers, Converts, and Compliants Life Histories of Extreme Right Activists.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 36(2):184-201.

McAdam, Doug, Robert Sampson, Simon Weffer and Heather MacIndoe. 2005. “” There Will Be Fighting in the Streets”: The Distorting Lens of Social Movement Theory.” Mobilization: an international quarterly 10(1):1-18.

Sampson, Robert J, Doug McAdam, Heather MacIndoe and Simón Weffer‐Elizondo. 2005. “Civil Society Reconsidered: The Durable Nature and Community Structure of Collective Civic Action1.” American Journal of Sociology 111(3):673-714.


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Studying Social Movements in the South

I am very grateful for this invitation to present my research in Mobilizing Ideas. As a young scholar, I have been studying social movements, trade unions and other forms of political participation using a variety of methods depending on the research question I needed to answer. Ethnography, life stories and process tracing are the ones I used the most. In this short text, I will focus on the following topics of my scholarly production: 1. Public deliberation and urban movements; 2. The youth condition and political participation; 3. The role of social movements, trade unions and protest on democratization; 4. The struggle of the poor for their socio-political reincorporation; and 5. The multiple scales in the resistance to the globalization of neoliberalism. My aim is to very briefly introduce the core questions and answers I have researched.


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The Scaffolding of Citizenship: Assembling a Nation from the Inside, Out

Social scientists, and particularly those interested in American political development, have long studied the legacies of citizenship policy on individuals. These studies interrogate such impacts from a broad range of theoretical foci and engage shifting and overlapping orienting questions. In her 2010 ASA Presidential Address, Evelyn Nakano Glenn (2011) calls for the development of a sociological conception of citizenship and, in doing so, outlines what sociology can contribute and how extant scholarship can be buoyed by an injection of sociologically-grounded theoretical insight. While political scientists and legal scholars tend to focus on the formal status of citizenship as codified by legal documents and investigate policy implementation in light of political institutional structures, historians and anthropologists focus on the textual and cultural meanings of citizenship and the processes by which these symbols and representations are discursively shaped. In this respect, sociology can augment these perspectives by illuminating that, at the core, citizenship is a process of boundary making through habituated interaction that takes place within a larger socio-political context. Yet, I’d like to push this a bit further and broaden the scope of how sociologists and social scientists, more generally, have historically conceptualized the topic. In doing so, I’ll attempt to underscore the theoretic payoffs associated with reframing sociological studies of citizenship in relation to my own dissertation research that investigates how varying modes of incorporation for pre-colonial populations in the U.S. shaped subsequent possibilities for collective action and consequent outcomes. Continue reading


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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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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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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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Subcultures, Style, and the Power of Social Movement Symbols

While I am loathe to begin a Daily Disruption by linking to notorious clickbait website Buzzfeed, this recent list of reasons why “punk is dead” popped up a number of times in my social media circles and it got me thinking about the intersections between subcultures and social movements, as well as what social movement theory could draw from contemporary work on audience studies.

The obvious message throughout the piece, and the reason the list was making the rounds on my social network feeds, is that punk is “dead” when it becomes institutionalized, mainstreamed, commodified, or popularized. In fact, while at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York this past summer, I did actually stop by the Met’s “Punk” exhibit, a loud, gaudy pastiche of lights, colors, and music, featuring punk fashions created by famous designers. Continue reading

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Operation Dixie at the DNC

While the Obama sign waving and t-shirt wearing union members at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) creates a picture of a giant love-fest between unions and the Democratic Party, underneath this façade is a burgeoning labor movement in the South that is shaking the foundation of this relationship.

On September 3, on the eve of the DNC at an overpacked church 7 miles from the convention, 300 labor and community activists held a Southern Workers Assembly. Continue reading


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