Tag Archives: strategy

Informing Activists: What are the best tactics for my cause?

Catherine Corrigall-Brown

What are the best tactics for my cause?

Recommended Readings:


McAdam, Doug. 1983. “Tactical Innovation and the Pace of Insurgency.” American Sociological Review 48(6):735-54.


Taylor, Verta and Nella Van Dyke. 2004. “”Get up, Stand Up”: Tactical Repertoires of Social Movements.” Pp. 262-93 in The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, edited by D. A. Snow, S. A. Soule and H. Kriesi. Oxford: Blackwell Publisher.


Blee, K. 2013. “How Options Disappear: Causality and Emergence in Grassroots Activist Groups”. American Journal of Sociology 119(3):655-681.

We would like to thank the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for their support of the Youth Activism Project through the Youth and Participatory Politics Research Network.

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Informing Activists

Rethinking Strategic Action in Food Security Projects

Those of us who study—or attempt to organize—collective action in the 21st century know the process is fraught with obstacles. We tend to conceptualize these obstacles in terms of the high risks inherent with protest, such as arrest or violent state repression. Social protest continues to be a forceful, exciting means of creating social change.  But it’s a relatively rare one. In the United States, humbler forms of collective association—the nonprofit, the social movement group, the civic project—work quietly “behind the scenes” to run the engine of social progress, however progress is defined. And “obstacles” in these settings have different faces. Bureaucracy. Burnout. Limited resources.  Like the risks of protest, these obstacles constitute threats to success. And nobody likes threats, because nobody likes to fail, be they an activist occupying Wall Street or the executive director of a struggling nonprofit organization.

I propose that by studying how people respond to obstacles in the course of organizing for social change, we can enrich our theories about strategic action.   Continue reading

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Filed under Emerging Stars in Social Movement Research, Essay Dialogues

For a Relational Approach to Contentious Strategies, or “It Takes Two to Tango”

By Jeff Goodwin

Political violence and terrorism (violence against noncombatants) have received considerable attention from scholars of social movements and contentious politics since the events of 9/11. Several important books and dozens of articles have been published by such scholars on these topics. I recently had the privilege of editing a special issue of the journal Mobilization (March 2012) on political violence, and the recent essay dialogue on terrorism at the Mobilizing Ideas website continues this important conversation.

At the same time, we should not forget, scholars have also devoted growing attention to nonviolent civil resistance, exemplified by recent studies by Sharon Erickson Nepstad (2011) and Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan (2011). In fact, strategies and tactics of various types have received renewed attention from scholars of contentious politics in recent years in an effort to understand better their causes and efficacy (e.g., Jasper 2004, Amenta 2006, Ganz 2009, Maney et al. 2012). The recent scholarship on violent and nonviolent strategies promises to enrich this more general discussion of strategy (although strategies may of course be differentiated on many other analytic dimensions). Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Is Terrorism a Form of Activism?

OWS occupying foreclosed homes

A story on ABC News reports that Occupy Wall Street headed to Brooklyn yesterday, calling for more attention to foreclosures. Removed from public spaces (and with winter approaching), activists are taking on a new strategy through much of the nation: occupying vacant foreclosed homes to draw attention to the bailout of the banks and to the power they wield compared to middle-class Americans who have lost their homes. In Brooklyn, protestors occupied a vacant home whose former residents are now homeless due to a Bank of America foreclosure.

As most movement scholars and activists realize, while creativity is an important source of new strategy, the media often makes the use of new strategies seem like an unorganized, spontaneous decision by activists. Rather, the use of new strategies is typically organized and planned well in advance, however creative that strategy may be. For example, in NYC,  the group Organizing for Occupation (O4O) and its partners have been working for many months to develop a strategy to combat foreclosures, deciding to focus their efforts on occupying vacant homes and on disrupting auctions of foreclosed homes. See the video below of an O4O action that disrupted a Brooklyn foreclosure auction back in October. 

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Filed under Daily Disruption