Social movements and organization theory

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1 THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: RECURRING QUESTIONS, (PARTIALLY) CHANGING ANSWERS In the late 1960s, the world was apparently undergoing deep, dramatic transfor- mations – even a revolution, some thought. American civil rights and antiwar movements, the Mai 1968 revolt in France, students’ protests in Germany, Britain, or Mexico, the worker–student coalitions of the 1969 “Hot Autumn” in Italy, the pro-democracy mobilizations in locations as diverse as Francoist Madrid and communist Prague, the growth of critical Catholicism from South America to Rome, the early signs of the women’s and environmental movements that would shape the new politics of the 1970s: all these phenomena – and many more – suggested that deep changes were in the making. Accordingly, the study of social movements developed at an unpre- cedented pace into a major area of research. If, at the end of the 1940s, critics lamented the “crudely descriptive level of understanding and a relative lack of theory” (Strauss 1947: 352), and in the 1960s complained that “in the study of social changes, social movements have received relatively little emphasis” (Killian 1964: 426), by the mid-1970s, research into collective action was considered “one of the most vigorous areas of sociology” (Marx and Wood 1975). At the end of the 1980s commentators talked of “an explosion, in the last ten years, of theoretical and empirical writings on social move- ments and collective action (Morris and Herring 1987: 138; see also Rucht 1991a). Today, the study of social movements is solidly established, with specialized journals, book series, and professional associations. The excitement and opti- mism of the roaring 1960s may be long gone, but social and political events over the last four decades have hardly rendered the investigation of grassroots activism any less relevant or urgent. To the contrary, social movements, protest actions, and, more generally, political organizations unaligned with major political parties or trade unions have become a permanent component of Western democracies. It is no longer possible to describe protest politics, grassroots participation, and symbolic challenges as “unconventional.” Instead, references to a “movement2THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS society” seem increasingly plausible (Neidhhardt and Rucht 2002; Melucci 1996; Meyer and Tarrow 1998b). To be sure, there has been considerable fluctuation in the intensity of collec- tive action over this period, as there has been in its degree of radicalism, its spe- cific forms, and its capacity to influence the political process. However, forecasts that the wave of protest of the late 1960s would quickly subside, and that “busi- ness as usual,” as represented by interest-based politics, organized according to traditional political divisions, would return in its wake, have largely been proved wrong. In different ways, and with a wide range of goals and values, various forms of protest have continued to emerge in recent years (Kriesi et al. 1995; Beissinger 2002; Titarenko, McCarthy, McPhail, and Augustyn 2001; Smith and Johnston 2002; Fillieule and Bennani-Chraibi 2003; Giugni 2004). Not only that: at the start of the new millennium, possibly for the first time since 1968, the wave of mobilizations for a globalization from below (often identified as the global justice movement), seems to have the potential for a global, generalized chal- lenge, combining themes typical of class movements with themes typical of new social movements, like ecology or gender equality (Arrighi, Hopkins, and Waller- stein 1989; Fox and Brown 1998; Brecher, Costello, and Smith 2000; Walton and Seddon 1994; Pianta 2001b; Wieviorka 2003; della Porta, Andretta, Mosca, and Reiter 2005; Wood 2004; Tarrow 2005). In truth, associating expressions like “global justice movement” with unitary, homogeneous actors would be very misleading. The initiatives against neoliberal globalization are very heterogeneous, and not necessarily connected to each other. They address a range of issues, from child labor’s exploitation by global brands to deforestation, from human rights in developing countries to military interventions by Western powers. And they do so in a myriad of forms, from individual utterances of dissent and individual behavior to mass collective events, and from a variety of points of view. Looking at them well illustrates what doing “social movement analysis” actually means. In their research practice, most of the people who study social movements focus either on individuals, organiza- tions, or events, in the best instances trying to capture the interdependence between them. First, opposition to neoliberal globalization can be looked at as the ensemble of individuals expressing opinions about certain issues, advocating or opposing social change. Globalization has surely raised fears and hopes in equal measure, but the balance has distributed unequally across countries and socioeconomic areas. Repeatedly, public opinion surveys indicate diffuse worries about the impact of globalization on people’s lives, both economically and politically. Although this may be more diffused a concern in western Europe than the USA or even more so elsewhere, globalization is undoubtedly at the core of public opinion’s interest these days (Inglehart 1999; Grand and Kull 2002; Noland 2004). Those who are skeptical and often hostile to it represent a distinct and vocalTHE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS 3 sector of public opinion. Their views are forged and reinforced in dialogue with a range of prominent opinionmakers and public figures, exposing the costs and faults of globalization from a Western/Northern as well as an Eastern/ Southern perspective, such as Indian writer Arundhati Roy, Philippine sociolo- gist Walden Bello, Australian journalist John Pilger, or economist and Nobel lau- reate Josef Stieglitz. Books like Naomi Klein’s No Logo (1999) may be safely credited with the same impact that Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) or the Club of Rome’s report on The Limits to Growth (Meadows, Randers, and Behrens 1972) had on the spread of environmental concerns back in the 1960s and 1970s. Oftentimes, individual opinions and concerns turn into various forms of polit- ical and social participation. Moral and philosophical worldviews and deeply felt convictions are then paralleled by specific attempts by individuals to stop threat- ening developments, redress instances of injustice, promote alternative options to the managing of social life and economic activity. A possible way of looking at the global justice movement is, then, by focusing on those individuals who actively express their opposition to neoliberal control of global transformations. By signing petitions calling for the cancellation of developing countries’ debt, contributing money to the activities of organizations like Attac or Greenpeace, mobilizing to stop the building of dams in India or deforestation in Brazil, protesting at police behavior in Genoa in July 2001, attempting to stop ships exporting toxic waste to developing countries or trains carrying military equipment in preparation for the 2003 attack on Iraq, individual citizens may contribute to the campaigns against neoliberal globalization. They may do so, however, also through actions which affect individual lifestyles and private behav- ior as much – and possibly more – than the public sphere. Throughout the West, the recent years have seen the spread of fair-trade organizations and practices. By consuming certain products or choosing to do business only with banks com- mitted to uphold moral and ethical standards, individuals may try to affect the balance of economic power on a broad scale (Micheletti, Follesdal, and Stolle 2003; Forno and Ceccarini forthcoming). However, antiglobalization can hardly be reduced to sets of individuals with similar views and behavior. Rather than concentrating on individual characteris- tics, it may also be interesting to concentrate on the properties of events featur- ing conflictual interactions between powerholders and their opponents; as well as events in which individuals and organizations identifying with a cause meet to discuss strategies, to elaborate platforms, and to review their agendas. Global justice activists have been particularly good at staging events or disrupting oppo- nents’ events, with a strong emotional impact on public opinion and participants alike. Already before Seattle, periodical meetings by international bodies associ- ated with the neoliberal agenda, such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, or the G8, have provided the opportunity for a string of highly visible, very well-attended demonstrations4THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS trying to both disrupt the specific gatherings and draw people’s attention to alter- native agendas (Podobnik 2004). Events promoted by global justice activists, most notably the World Social Forum gatherings in Porto Alegre and in Mumbai, their European counterparts in Florence (2001), Paris (2003), or London (2004), the corresponding meetings in the South, such as the African Social Forum that met first in Bamako, Mali, in January 2002, have all confirmed the vitality and strength of the “movement of movements” (Pianta 2001a). On February 15, 2003, hun- dreds of antiwar events across the globe generated what has probably been the biggest coordinated political demonstration in history, with opponents of the attack on Iraq taking to the streets in millions across five continents (Walgrave and Rucht forthcoming). Below the global level, critics of globalization have pro- moted thousands of events, ranging from confrontational demonstrations to pre- sentations of reports or press releases, from religious vigils to squatting in military buildings. Located anywhere from the national to the very local levels, those events also support popular views about the existence of a distinctive antiglobalization movement. Other times, by “global justice movement” we mean, first and foremost, the organizations operating on those issues. The opposition to neoliberal globaliza- tion has been conducted by broad coalitions of organizations, usually with a transnational basis (Bystydzienski and Schacht 2001; Bandy and Smith 2004). Some – probably most – of them had a long history of political and social activism, well spread over the political spectrum. In Seattle as well as in Genoa or elsewhere, established political parties were involved in the demonstrations, mostly if not exclusively from the left; so were trade unions, farmers, and other workers’ organizations; ethnic organizations representing both native popula- tions and migrant groups; consumers associations challenging multinational companies; religious organizations and church groups; environmental groups; women’s associations; radical autonomous youth centers (Italy’s “centri sociali’); and the like. But the criticism of neoliberal globalization has also produced spe- cific organizations, among which Attac, who advocate the so-called Tobin tax to reduce financial gains in the international stock market; People’s Global Action, a coalition of hundreds of groups in the North and the South; or the Rete Lil- liput, a network of groups, associations, and individuals active in Italy on envi- ronmental, fair trade, and social justice issues. The role of organizations that are not directly political is particularly worth mentioning. The spread of fair-trade practices is facilitated by the existence of extended networks of cooperatives and small retail operators in the West, who try somehow to reach a balance between ethic-driven public action and market requirements. The reproduction of coun- tercultural networks linking radical activists from all over the place is likewise facilitated by the existence of alternative cafes, bookshops, social and cultural centers, offering meeting points – as well as at times accommodation – to people identifying with radical milieus. From a totally different perspective, the networkTHE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS 5 of Islamic schools, mosques, and other institutions offering support to funda- mentalist versions of Islam may also be regarded as providing the organizational infrastructure for the diffusion of that particular version of the opposition to Western globalization (Fillieule and Bennani-Chraibi 2003; Lubeck and Reifer 2004; Langman 2004). Whatever their specificity, organizations secure continuity to collective action even when the potential for spontaneous, unmediated par- ticipation somehow subsides. They also provide resources and opportunities for action to escalate when opportunities are more favorable; as well as sources for the creation and reproduction of loyalties and collective identities. While recog- nizing the importance of organizations operating within movements, we should not make the mistake of identifying the latter with the former. So far, the global justice movement has been less exposed to this risk than other movements, e.g., environmentalism, where big transnational organizations like Greenpeace, WWF, or Friends of the Earth have often ended up stealing the show – if perhaps unwillingly. 1.1 Four Core Questions for Social Movement Analysis As the example of global justice campaigning suggests, studying social move- ments means focusing on at least some of the dimensions we have just intro- duced, as well as, most importantly, on how ideas, individuals, events, and organizations are linked to each other in broader processes of collective action, with some continuity over time. Given their complex, multidimensional nature, it is no surprise that social movements may be approached in reference to very diverse intellectual questions. In this book, we shall focus on four sets of them, broadly articulated. We shall try to relate them to the broader theoretical and practical concerns that have inspired the analysis of grassroots political action and cultural resistance since the 1960s. The first set of questions refers to the relationship between structural change and transformations in patterns of social conflict. Can we see social movements as expressions of conflicts? And what conflicts? Have there been changes in the main conflicts addressed by social movements? And along what lines? Another set of questions has to do with the role of cultural representations in social conflict. How are social problems identified as potential objects of col- lective action? How do certain social actors come to develop a sense of com- monality and to identify with the same “collective we”? And how can specific protest events come to be perceived as part of the same conflict? Where do social movement cultures and values originate from? A third set of questions addresses the process through which values, interests, and ideas get turned into collective action. How does it become possible to 6THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS mobilize and face the risks and costs of protest activity? What are the roles of identities and symbols, emotions, organizations, and networks, in explaining the start and persistence of collective action? What forms do organizations take in their attempts to maximize the strength of collective challenges and their outcomes? Finally, it has frequently been asked how a certain social, political, and/or cul- tural context affects social movements’ chances of success, and the forms they take. What does explain the varying intensity over time of collective violence and other types of public challenges against powerholders? Do the traits of polit- ical systems and their attitudes towards citizens’ demands influence challengers’ impact in the political arena? How do protest tactics and strategies change over time, and why? While these questions certainly do not reflect entirely the richness of current debates on collective action and social movements, they have surely played a significant role in shaping discussions over the last decades. Indeed, the 1960s were important because they saw not only an increase in new forms of political participation, but also a change in the main conflictual issues. Traditionally, social movements had focused mainly on issues of labor and nations: since the 1960s, “new social movements” have emerged instead centered on concerns such as women’s liberation, environmental protection, etc. These changes in the quantity and quality of protest prompted significant innovations in social scientists’ approach to those questions. The principal theoretical models available at the time for the interpretation of social conflict – the Marxist model and the structural-functionalist model –both came to be regarded as largely inadequate. In Europe, scholars confronted with the new wave of protest often relied on Marxism. However, their attempts to explain developments in the forms of con- flict in the 1960s had encountered a number of problems. The social transfor- mations which occurred after the end of the Second World War had put the centrality of the capital–labor conflict into question. The widening of access to higher education or the entry en masse of women into the labor market had created new structural possibilities for conflict, and increased the relevance of other criteria of social stratification – such as gender relations. Indeed, even the most superficial observer of the 1960s could not help noticing that many of the actors engaged in those conflicts (youth, women, new professional groups) were only partially related to the class conflicts, which had constituted the principal component of political cleavages in industrial societies (Rokkan 1970; Tilly 2004a). Marxist interpretations were not, however, undermined only by doubts about the continued existence of the working-class in postindustrial society: the logic of the explanatory model was also under attack. Critics rejected the deter- ministic element of the Marxist tradition – the conviction that the evolution of social and political conflicts was conditioned largely by the level of development of productive forces and by the dynamics of class relations. They also espoused the tendency, particularly strong among orthodox Marxists, to deny the multi-THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS 7 plicity of concerns and conflicts within real movements, and to construct, in pref- erence, outlandish images of movements as homogeneous actors with a high level of strategic ability (see e.g. Touraine 1977, 1981). In contrast, American scholars often saw collective action as crisis behavior. Having reduced collective phenomena to the summary of individual behaviors, psychologically derived theories defined social movements as the manifestation of feelings of deprivation experienced by individuals in relation to other social subjects, and of feelings of aggression resulting from a wide range of frustrated expectations. Phenomena such as the rise of Nazism, the American Civil War, or the movement of black Americans, for example, were considered to be aggres- sive reactions resulting either from a rapid and unexpected end to periods of eco- nomic well-being and of increased expectations on a worldwide scale, or from status inconsistency mechanisms (Davies 1969; Gurr 1970). From a somewhat different but compatible point of view, the emergence of political extremism was also associated with the spread of mass society in which integrative social ties based in the family or the community tended to become fragmented (Korn- hauser 1959; Gusfield 1963). Isolation and displacement produced individuals with fewer intellectual, professional, and/or political resources, who were par- ticularly vulnerable to the appeal of antidemocratic movements of the right and 1 the left. To some extent, these problems were shared by the most famous version of structural-functionalist approach, that of Neil Smelser (1962), that saw social movements as the side-effects of overrapid social transformation. According to Smelser, in a system made up of balanced subsystems, collective behavior reveals tensions which homoeostatic rebalancing mechanisms cannot absorb in the short term. At times of rapid, large-scale transformations, the emergence of collective behaviors – religious cults, secret societies, political sects, economic Utopias – has a double meaning, reflecting on the one hand the inability of institutions and social control mechanisms to reproduce social cohesion; on the other, attempts by society to react to crisis situations through the development of shared beliefs on which to base new foundations for collective solidarity. Smelser’s value-added model of collective behavior consists of six steps: struc- tural conduciveness, i.e. a certain configuration of social structure that may facilitate or constrain the emergence of specific types of collective behavior; structural strain, i.e. the fact that at least some trait of the social system is expe- rienced by a collectivity as a source of tension and problems; growth and spread of generalized belief, i.e. the emergence of a shared interpretation by social actors of their situation and problems; precipitating factors, i.e. stressful events that induce actors to take action; mobilization, i.e. the network and organiza- tional activities that transform potential for action into real action; operation of social control, i.e. the role of social control agencies and other actors in shap- ing the evolution of collective behavior and its forms (Smelser 1962; see also Crossley 2002, ch. 2).8THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS Some scholars regard as unfortunate that Smelser’s work ended up being strongly associated with the crisis of the functionalist paradigm. Despite its prob- lems, his was a major attempt to connect in an integrated model different processes that would have later been treated disparately, and to firmly locate social movement analysis in the framework of general sociology (Crossley 2002: 53–5). However, given the dominant cultural climate in the years that followed its pub- lication, Smelser’s contribution came to be subsumed under the broader set of approaches viewing social movements as purely reactive responses to social crisis and as the outcome of mal-integration, and became the target for the same criti- cisms. Let us see now how the criticism of Marxist and functionalist approaches were elaborated in relation to the four questions we have identified earlier. 1.1.1 Is social change creating the conditions for the emergence of new movements? Given the importance of Marxism in European intellectual debates, it is no sur- prise that European social sciences were the most eager to explain the rise of the movements of the 1960s and the 1970s in explicit critique of the Marxist models of interpretation of social conflict. Criticism addressed both the most structural- ist currents of Marxist thinking, deriving class conflict directly from the mode of production, and those interested in the formation of class consciousness (or class in itself ). Certainly, scholars of the new movements were not the only ones to be aware of these problems. The same difficulties had been raised by those who had studied the labor movement with the aim of explaining the formation of a col- lective actor, challenging the widespread idea of an almost automatic transfor- mation of structural strains in conscious behavior (Thompson 1963). Often departing from a Marxist background, scholars associated with the so- 2 called “new social movements” approach made a decisive contribution to the development of the discussion of these issues by reflecting upon the innovation in the forms and contents of contemporary movements. Scholars of new move- ments agreed that conflict among the industrial classes is of decreasing relevance, and similarly that representation of movements as largely homogeneous subjects is no longer feasible. However, there were differences of emphasis in relation to the possibility of identifying the new central conflict which would characterize the model of the emerging society, defined at times as “postindustrial,” “post- Fordist,” “technocratic,” or “programmed.” An influential exponent of this approach, Alain Touraine, was the most explicit in upholding this position: “Social movements are not a marginal rejection of order, they are the central forces fighting one against the other to control the production of society by itself and the action of classes for the shaping of historicity i.e., the overall system of meaning which sets dominant rules in a given society” (Touraine 1981: 29). InTHE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS 9 the industrial society, the ruling class and the popular class oppose each other, as they did in the agrarian and the mercantile societies, and as they will do, accord- ing to Touraine, in the programmed society, where new social classes will replace 3 capitalists and the working class as the central actors of the conflict. The break between movements of the industrial society and new movements was also stressed in the 1980s by the German sociologist Claus Offe (1985). In his view, movements develop a fundamental, metapolitical critique of the social order and of representative democracy, challenging institutional assumptions regarding conventional ways of “doing politics,” in the name of a radical democ- racy. Among the principal innovations of the new movements, in contrast with the workers’ movement, are a critical ideology in relation to modernism and progress; decentralized and participatory organizational structures; defense of interpersonal solidarity against the great bureaucracies; and the reclamation of autonomous spaces, rather than material advantages. Another contribution to the definition of the characteristics of new move- ments in the programmed society came from Alberto Melucci (1982, 1989, 1996). Drawing upon the image proposed by Jürgen Habermas of a colonization of life- worlds, Melucci described contemporary societies as highly differentiated systems, which invest increasingly in the creation of individual autonomous centers of action, at the same time requiring closer integration and extending control over the motives for human action. In his view, new social movements try to oppose the intrusion of the state and the market into social life, reclaim- ing individuals’ right to define their identities and to determine their private and affective lives against the omnipresent and comprehensive manipulation of the system. Unlike the workers’ movement, new social movements do not, in Melucci’s view, limit themselves to seeking material gain, but challenge the diffuse notions of politics and of society themselves. New actors do not so much ask for an increase in state intervention, to guarantee security and well-being, but especially resist the expansion of political-administrative intervention in daily life and defend personal autonomy. It would be misleading to speak of the new social movements approach without acknowledging that its principal exponents have considerably modified their positions over time. Already in the late 1980s, Offe (1990) recognized the influence of traditional-style political action on the practices of the movements. Melucci increasingly concentrated on the mechanisms by which certain repre- sentations of the world and of individual and collective identities are produced and transformed over time (1989; on this point see Bartholomew and Mayer 1992). Moreover, he went as far as to declare the debate about the “newness” of contemporary movements to be outdated or irrelevant (see for example Melucci 1994). Nevertheless, this perspective had – and still has – several merits. First, it drew attention to the structural determinants of protest, reevaluating the importance10 THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS of conflict, at a time when nonclass conflicts were often ignored. Compared with Marxists, new social movement theorists had two specific advantages: they once again placed actors at the center of the stage; and they captured the innovative characteristics of movements which no longer defined themselves principally in relation to the system of production. Nor should we forget the existence of the notable area of research largely inspired by their original hypotheses (Maheu 1995). Despite the influence of the “new social movements” perspective, attention to the relationship between social structure and collective action is by no means restricted to it. Marxism has continued to inspire numerous analysts of collec- tive action who still assign the concept of social class a central role (see for example Barker and Dale 1999; Lavalette and Mooney 2000; Cleveland 2003). In many senses, structural approaches strongly influenced by Marxism can be regarded as the predecessors of the current thriving research on global justice phenomena. Broadly inspired by Immanuel Wallerstein’s “world system theory” (1974, 2004), scholars have attempted to locate the new wave of popular mobi- lization in developing countries as well as within the Western world in the context of much larger processes of economic restructuring on a global scale, and from a long-term historical perspective (Arrighi, Hopkins, and Wallerstein 1989; Silver and Slater 1999, ch. 3; Moody 1997; Reifer 2004). In explicit critique of analyses suggesting the demise of social conflict and its individualization, and most explicitly the end of conflict about distributive stakes, scholars from this perspective regard the crisis of the workers’ movement in the 1980s and 1990s, following financial restructuring at the global level, as a largely conjunctural phenomenon. Systemic failure to meet the expectations of the working class from developing countries will fuel a new wave of sustained class conflicts, that will also reflect the growing feminization of the labor force and its stronger ethnic dimension, following mass migration dynamics (Arrighi and Silver 1999). The increasing relevance of “global justice” as a central concern (Andretta, della Porta, Mosca, and Reiter 2002, 2003) seems to support these arguments. Moreover, and rather unexpectedly, social movements have devel- oped in the South, bridging frames and organizational structures with their Northern counterparts. Especially in some geographical areas (such as Latin America and the Far East), social movement research developed, often within a Gramscian approach, stressing the role of cultural hegemony. Another important attempt to relate social-structural change to mass collec- tive action has come from Manuel Castells (1983, 1996). In an earlier phase of his work, Castells has contributed to our understanding of the emergence of urban social movements by stressing the importance of consumption processes (in par- ticular of collective consumption of public services and public goods) for class relations, by moving the focus of class analysis from capitalist relations within the workplace to social relations in the urban community (Castells 1983). Later, Castells linked the growing relevance of conflicts on identity both in the West –THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS 11 e.g. the women’s movement – and in the South – e.g. Zapatistas, religious fundamentalisms, etc. – to the emergence of a “network society,” where new information technologies play a central role. Yet another original effort to link structural analysis and social movement analysis has been inspired by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. Researchers engaged in the analysis of cultural habits (or the cultural predispositions pro- duced by processes of socialization) as well as their structural determinants have used Bourdieu’s insights to explore specific instances of political conflicts, stress- ing their cultural meanings within the specific fields to which individuals belong. Going beyond economic interests, some scholars explained indeed social move- ment activism as following needs and desires that derive from values and norms that are typical of specific cultures (or fields). In this sense, action is not rational, but reasonable (Bourdieu 1980: 85–6; Eckstein 2001; Sommier 2003). From a dif- ferent angle, and with explicit reference to general theory à la Smelser, Crossley (2002) has used Bourdieu’s key concepts of habitus, structure, and agency to propose a new theoretical model, able to integrate the insights from European and American approaches over the years. In doing so he has proceeded in parallel with other theoretical work in the broader framework of structuration theory (Sewell 1992; Livesay 2003). A major criticism of new social movements theory has been that it took as foundational characteristics of new social movements certain traits that were not necessarily new and far from generalizable – such as activists’ middle-class origins, or loose organizational forms (D’Anieri, Ernst, and Kier 1990; Calhoun 1993; Rootes 1992; Rüdig 1990; Koopmans 1995; Tarrow 1994; della Porta 1996a: ch. 1). Structural approaches in general have also been faulted for failing to specify the mechanisms leading from structural tensions to action. In fairness, this criticism does not apply to Melucci’s work, and only partially to Touraine’s; while it is surely appropriate for scholars like Offe or Castells, or world-system theorists, whose focus is clearly not on micro or meso processes. Whatever the case, the approaches presented here must be regarded first of all as theories of social conflict; more specifically, of the impact of structural transformations on stakes and forms of conflict. And it is fair to say that the questions more directly related to the development of collective action have been more cogently addressed by other intellectual traditions. 1.1.2 How do we define issues as worthy objects, and actors as worthy subjects of collective action? In the 1950s and 1960s, students of collective behavior tended to classify under the same heading phenomena as diverse as crowds, movements, panics, manias, fashions, and so on. Two problems arose from this. On the one hand, although12 THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS many of them defined movements as purposeful phenomena, students of col- lective behavior placed more attention on unexpected dynamics – such as circu- lar reactions – rather than on deliberate organizational strategies or, more generally, on strategies devised by actors. As James Coleman recalled (1990: 479), the hypothesis that situations of frustration, rootlessness, deprivation, and social crisis automatically produce revolts reduces collective action to an agglomera- tion of individual behaviors. Functionalism ignores the dynamics by which feel- ings experienced at the (micro) level of the individual give rise to (macro) phenomena such as social movements or revolutions. One response to these theoretical gaps has come from symbolic interaction- ists close to the so-called “Chicago School,” credited with having developed the analysis of collective behavior as a specialist field within sociology. The concept of collective behavior – contrasted with that of collective psychology – indicated the shift of attention from the motivation of individuals to their observable actions. Already in the 1920s, the founders of this approach – among them Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess – had stressed that collective phenomena do not simply reflect social crisis but rather produce new norms and new solidarities, and viewed social movements as engines of change, primarily in relation to values systems. Subsequently, other students of collective behavior were to make reference to the tenets of the Chicago School, focusing their attention on situa- tions of rapid change in social structures and prescriptions (Blumer 1951; Turner 4 and Killian 19871957; Gusfield 1963). Tendencies towards large-scale organiza- tions, population mobility, technological innovation, mass communications, and the decline of traditional cultural forms were all considered to be emerging con- ditions pushing individuals to search for new patterns of social organization. Collective behavior was in fact defined as behavior concerned with change (for example, Blumer 1951: 199), and social movements as both an integral part of the normal functioning of society and the expression of a wider process of 5 transformation. Rooted in symbolic interactionism, the contemporary school of collective behavior sees particular relevance in the meaning actors attribute to social struc- tures; and the less structured the situations faced by the individual, the more rel- evant this aspect appears to be. When existing systems of meaning do not constitute a sufficient basis for social action, new norms emerge, defining the existing situation as unjust and providing a justification for action (Turner and Killian 1987: 259). As an activity born outside preestablished social definitions, collective behavior is located beyond existing norms and ordered social relations. The study of collective behavior thus concentrates on the transformation of institutional behaviors through the action of emergent normative definitions. These definitions appear when the traditional normative structure comes into 6 conflict with a continually evolving situation. Change, in fact, is conceived of as part of the physiological functioning of the system: social movements are accom-THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS 13 panied by the emergence of new rules and norms, and represent attempts to 7 transform existing norms. The genesis of social movements is in the co-existence of contrasting value systems and of groups in conflict with each other. These are regarded as dis- tinctive parts of social life (Killian 1964: 433). Changes in the social structure and in the normative order are interpreted within a process of cultural evolution through which new ideas emerge in the minds of individuals. When traditional norms no longer succeed in providing a satisfactory structure for behavior, the individual is forced to challenge the social order through various forms of non- conformity. A social movement develops when a feeling of dissatisfaction spreads, and insufficiently flexible institutions are unable to respond. The sociology of social movements owes many of its insights to students of the collective behavior school. For the first time, collective movements are defined as meaningful acts, driving often necessary and beneficial social change. Observations of processes of interaction determined by collective action more- over constitute important foundations for those who, in more recent times, have taken on the task of understanding movement dynamics. The emphasis on empirical research has led to experimentation with new techniques, providing through various methods of field research a valid integration of archive data. Since the 1980s, the interactionist version of the theory of collective behavior has stressed the processes of symbolic production and of construction of iden- tity, both of which are essential components of collective behavior. This has led to a lasting research program, as demonstrated by the work of scholars such as Joe Gusfield (1963, 1981, 1994), and which has become at the same time very influential and diversified (Snow, Rochford, Worden, and Benford 1986; Snow and Oliver 1995; Melucci 1989, 1996; Eyerman and Jamison 1991; McPhail 1991; Johnston and Klandermans 1995). In a parallel effort, Rochon (1998: 179) has shown how movements develop new ideas and values, working as agents of cultural change, with the “task of translating the chronic problem as described by the critical community into an acute problem that will attract media atten- 8 tion is the province of social an political movements.” In the 1990s, however, some researchers grew dissatisfied with a view of the role of culture in collective action that they regarded as too strategic and ratio- nalistic (in particular scholars like Snow and Benford 1988, 1992, who were con- versant with resource mobilization theory), and started to reemphasize again the part played by emotions in the production and reproduction of social move- ments. In their view, symbolic production is not only (or mainly) strategically oriented, but it involves more feelings and emotions. Moral shocks developing when deeply held rules and norms are broken are often the first step in individ- ual mobilization; and, indeed, protest organizations work at transforming fear into moral indignation and anger ( Jasper 1997: 107–14). Movements produce con- densing symbols and rhetoric oriented to raise various types of emotions in what14 THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS has been defined as a libidinal economy of movements. As Jasper (1997: 220) observes, “virtually all the pleasures that humans derive from social life are found in protest movements: a sense of community and identity; ongoing companion- ship and bonds with others; the variety and challenge of conversation, coopera- tion and competition. Some of the pleasures are not available in the routines of life.” It is worth noting at least two main problems generated by the collective behavior perspective. On the one hand, despite viewing movements as purpose- ful phenomena, many students of collective behavior placed most attention on unexpected dynamics – such as circular reactions – rather than on deliberate organizational strategies or, more generally, on strategies devised by rational, strategic actors. On the other hand, focusing on the empirical analysis of behav- ior, they were often limited to a description – albeit detailed – of reality, without devoting much attention to the structural origins of conflicts which subsequently well up in particular movements. While structuralist approaches like the new social movements dealt with the latter shortcoming, organizational perspectives like resource mobilization theory addressed the former. To its basic tenets we now turn. 1.1.3 How is collective action possible? In deliberate contrast to conceptualizations of social movements as irrational, largely reactive phenomena, American sociologists in the 1970s started to reflect on the processes by which the resources necessary for collective action are mobi- lized. In their view, collective movements constitute an extension of the con- ventional forms of political action; the actors engage in this act in a rational way, following their interests; organizations and movement “entrepreneurs” have an essential role in the mobilization of collective resources on which action is founded. Movements are therefore part of the normal political process. Stress- ing the external obstacles and incentives, numerous pieces of research have exam- ined the variety of resources to be mobilized, the links which social movements have with their allies, the tactics used by society to control or incorporate col- lective action, and its results. The basic questions addressed relate to the evalua- tion of costs and benefits of participation in social movement organizations. In early contributions in this vein, Mayer Zald (Zald and Ash 1966; McCarthy and Zald 1987a, 1987b), Anthony Oberschall (1973; 1980), and Charles Tilly (1978) defined social movements as rational, purposeful, and organized actions. Collective action derives, according to this perspective, from a calculation of the costs and benefits, influenced by the presence of resources – in particular by organization and by the strategic interactions necessary for the development of a social movement. In a historical situation in which feelings of unease, differ- ences of opinion, conflicts of interest, and opposing ideologies are alwaysTHE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS 15 present, the emergence of collective action cannot be explained simply as having been caused by these elements. It is not enough to discover the existence of ten- sions and structural conflicts: we also have to study the conditions which enable discontent to be transformed into mobilization. The capacity for mobilization depends on the material resources (work, money, concrete benefits, services) and/or nonmaterial resources (authority, moral engagement, faith, friendship) available to the group. These resources are distributed across multiple objectives according to a rational calculation of costs and benefits. Beyond the existence of tensions, mobilization derives from the way in which social movements are able to organize discontent, reduce the costs of action, utilize and create solidarity networks, share incentives among members, and achieve external consensus. The type and nature of the resources available explain the tactical choices made by movements and the consequences of collective action on the social and political system (McCarthy and Zald 1977; Edwards and McCarthy 2004). The existence of solidarity networks once again questioned a widely spread assumption at the time, namely, that movement recruits are mainly isolated and rootless individuals who seek to immerse themselves in the mass as a surrogate for their social marginalization. According to rational approaches, mobilization can thus be explained as being more than the gratification of pursuing a collec- tive good; it also promotes the existence of horizontal solidarity links, within the collective, and vertical links, integrating different collectives. On the basis of a wide range of empirical research, one can therefore foresee that “participants in popular disturbances and activists in opposition organizations will be recruited primarily from previously active and relatively well-integrated individuals within the collectivity, whereas socially isolated, atomized, and uprooted individuals will be underrepresented, at least until the movement has become substantial” (Oberschall 1973: 135). Accordingly, scholars of resource mobilization concen- trate their attention on how collective actors operate, how they acquire resources and mobilize support, both within and outside their adherents’ group. Recently, research on social movement organizations has extended its atten- tion to the relations between organizations and the dynamics going on in orga- nizational populations. Increasingly sophisticated network studies have looked at the interactions between the organizations and individuals identified with social movements (Diani and McAdam 2003), with a critical dialogue with research on social capital (Diani 1997), and an increasing attention for the transnational dimension and the connections between organizations operating at that level (Caniglia 2001; Smith 2004a). Concepts and methods borrowed from organiza- tional ecology have been applied to the study of the factors behind organizations’ chances of survival, again with reference to both the national (Minkoff 1993, 1999; Edwards and Marullo 1996) and the global spheres (Boli and Thomas 1999; Johnson and McCarthy 2005). The definition of social movements as conscious actors making rational choices is among the most important innovations of the resource mobilization16 THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS approach. However, critics have charged it with indifference to the structural sources of conflict and the specific stakes for the control of which social actors mobilize (Melucci 1982; Piven and Cloward 1992). Its emphasis on the resources controlled by a few political entrepreneurs, at the cost of overlooking the self- organization potential by the most dispossessed social groups, has also been crit- icized (Piven and Cloward 1992). Finally, it has been noted that in its explanation of collective action this approach overdoes the rationality of collective action, not taking the role of emotions adequately into account (Ferree 1992; Taylor and Whittier 1995; Jasper 1997). In fact, as some of the most influential proponents of this approach recently admitted, “early resource mobilization models exag- gerate the centrality of deliberative strategic decisions to social movements” (McAdam, Tarrow, and Tilly 2001: 7), overemphasizing similarities between social movements and interest politics. 1.1.4 What determines the forms and intensity of collective action? The most cogent and systematic response to this question has come from the perspective usually defined as “political process” (Tilly 1978; McAdam 1982). This approach shares with resource mobilization theory a rational view of action – so much so that they are sometimes treated as a unified perspective – but pays more systematic attention to the political and institutional environment in which social movements operate. The central focus of “political process” theories is the rela- tionship between institutional political actors and protest. In challenging a given political order, social movements interact with actors who enjoy a consolidated 9 position in the polity. The concept which has had the greatest success in defin- ing the properties of the external environment, relevant to the development of social movements, is that of “political opportunity structure.” Peter Eisinger (1973) used this concept in a comparison of the results of protest in different American cities, focusing on the degree of openness (or closure) of the local polit- ical system. Other empirical research indicated important new variables, such as electoral instability (Piven and Cloward 1977), the availability of influential allies (Gamson 1990 1975), and tolerance for protest among the elite (Jenkins and Perrow 1977). Sidney Tarrow integrated these empirical observations into a the- oretical framework for his study of protest cycles in Italy, singling out the degree of openness or closure of formal political access, the degree of stability or insta- bility of political alignments, the availability and strategic posture of potential allies (Tarrow 1983: 28), and political conflicts between and within elites (Tarrow 1989a: 35). To these variables others have been added, relating to the institutional condi- tions which regulate agenda-setting and decision-making processes. Characteris-THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS 17 tics relating to the functional division of power and also to geographical decen- tralization have been analyzed in order to understand the origins of protest and the forms it has taken. In general, the aim has been to observe which stable or “mobile” characteristics of the political system influence the growth of less- institutionalized political action in the course of what are defined as protest cycles (Tarrow 1989a), as well as the forms which these actions take in different historical contexts (Tilly 1978). Comparative analysis has improved our under- standing of the central theme represented by the relationship between social movements and the institutional political system (Kitschelt 1986; della Porta 1995; Kriesi et al. 1995; Rucht 1994; Giugni 2004). The “political process” approach has succeeded in shifting attention towards interactions between new and traditional actors, and between less conventional forms of action and institutionalized systems of interest representation. In this way, it is no longer possible to define movements as phenomena which are, of necessity, marginal and anti-institutional, expressions of dysfunctions of the system. A more fruitful route towards the interpretation of the political dimen- sion of contemporary movements has been established. One should not ignore, however, some persistent areas of difficulty. On the one hand, supporters of this perspective continue to debate delicate problems such as the choice of the most appropriate indicators to measure complex insti- tutional phenomena. First, the lack of consensus on the relevant dimensions of the concept of political opportunities (McAdam 1996) has resulted in their exponential growth (della Porta 1996c). Early studies of political opportunities focused on a small number of variables. Since the 1980s, however, a number of case studies and cross-national comparisons have added new variables to the orig- inal set (see, in particular, Brand 1985; Kitschelt 1986; Rucht 1989; Kriesi 1991). This has expanded the explanatory power of the concept, but reduced its speci- ficity. The concept runs the risk of becoming a “dustbin” for any and every vari- able relevant to the development of social movements. Most of the concept’s problems arise from the way in which it has been developed, picking up variables from a variety of studies on a variety of movements. This accumulation of het- erogeneous variables reflecting different authors’ concerns and ideas has resulted in a concept which, to quote Sartori (1970, but also 1990), denotes much but con- notes little. Particularly in international comparative studies, it is impossible to handle the large number of variables and properly assess their explanatory power. Focus on structural variables might shift attention away from how norms and values, referring in particular to movements goals (or discursive opportunities), influence movement strategies as well as their chances of success (Goodwin and Jasper 2004a). A second problem arises when we wish to distinguish between “objective” reality and its social construction (Berger and Luckmann 1966). Some changes in the political opportunity structure do not have any effect on a social movement18 THE STUDY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS unless they are perceived as important by the movement itself. Structural avail- ability must be filtered through a process of “cognitive liberation” in order to unleash turmoil (McAdam 1986). For protest to emerge, activists must believe that an opportunity exists, that they have the power to bring about change; and they must blame the system for the problem. Looking at structural opportuni- ties without considering the cognitive processes which intervene between struc- ture and action can be very misleading (Gamson and Meyer 1996, Diani 1996). It is important, therefore, to analyze activists’ understandings of available oppor- tunities, the lenses through which they view potential opportunities for their movements (McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald 1996). Perceptions of state response may be particularly influenced, for instance, by its more dramatic manifestations, such as repression, causing the less visible responses, such as negotiation, to be overlooked (della Porta 1996c). The political process approach has also been criticized externally, from various perspectives. Scholars like Piven and Cloward (1992) have criticized political process (and resource mobilization) theorists for dismissing mal-integration (or breakdown) theory for a claim it never made, namely, that rapid social change brought about by urbanization processes, large-scale economic crises, etc., gen- erates collective action. But, breakdown theory actually focused on collective violence and disruptive behavior, and not on the broader range of forms of con- tention that theorists like Tilly include in their studies (Piven and Cloward 1992). Political process theorists have also attracted criticism for their tendency to adopt a kind of “political reductionism” (Melucci 1987, 1989). In effect, its proponents have paid little attention to the fact that many contemporary movements (of youth, women, homosexuals, or minority ethnic groups) have been affected at least as much by their cultural context as by their political one (Melucci 1996; Rupp and Taylor 1987, 2003; Rochon 1998). Lastly – as we have already noted when introducing resource mobilization theories – rationalist approaches to the study of collective action have tended to neglect the structural origins of protest. Other scholars, often associated with the new movements approach, have explored this area. Faced with some relevant transformations in the two main sources of oppor- tunities for movements – the nation-state and the political parties – research developed in two main directions. On the one hand, and especially in Europe, attention focused on the role played by movements, not just within the political system, but also within the public sphere. In this direction, the discursive oppor- tunities – i.e., the presence of dominant public discourses on certain controver- sial issues, which are likely to affect movements’ chances of success – have been stressed (Koopmans and Statham 1999). Moreover, more and more attention has been paid to transnational opportunities, or, to put it a better way, to a multilevel opportunity structure for movements (della Porta and Tarrow 2005). The devel- opment of the European Union as an arena for movement demands has been