Kategorie Blog Series: Movements and Institutions
This blog series reflected on the interactions between social movements and institutions. These interactions have proven to be among the most complicated areas of social movement research, especially because causality is very hard to establish: (how) do movements influence formal political institutions – and vice versa? How to study, understand and explain the consequences of the institutionalization of social movements? The difficulties of addressing these questions are also related to definitional problems as social movements and institutions can be understood and defined in various ways. All authors contributing to this blog series highlight the importance of studying interactions between social movements from one perspective or another.
The ways in which political authorities respond to societal challenges is a key element in the interaction between social movements and state institutions. Two conceptual distinctions are important when studying such repertoires of counter-contention: authorities’ responses may (1) aim at either including or excluding challengers, and they may (2) either respect their autonomy or try to control them.
This article disputes the conceptualization of institutionalization as a one-way process. Instead, it argues that social movement organizations can make use of contentious tactics while being institutionalized. The environmental NGO Birdlife Malta provides an example to illustrate this argument.
Occupy Wall Street has disappeared from the public radar, yet it is worth a second look. Through its structure and identity, it has probably become the United States’ first post-modern movement. Outside of formal institutions, people created their own utopian spaces in the hope for political and social innovation.
Social movements challenge systems of rule and thus institutions. They are expressions of the non-identical, the gaps and fissures in today’s world. That’s what makes social movements interesting and relevant for a critical research agenda. Thus, more than applying ready-made concepts to cases, scholars should inquire into the interactions between social movements and institutions as relationships between rule and resistance. This article proposes one way to go about such a critical research agenda.
How is it that the actions of institutions come to be perceived as unjust by a critical mass? And how does this perception translate into collective action? Adopting a framing perspective, this article proposes to investigate the meanings that people attach to specific events as key for understanding interaction dynamics between social movement and institutions.
Ruin through formalization? Processes of social movement institutionalization: the example of the Interventionist Left
The article traces a formalization process within the Interventionist Left (IL). Against theoretical expectations that would assume a de-radicalization of aims and repertoires of protest, we find that due to the network’s multi-track strategy, and the claim to radicalize existing social debates, the IL did not de-radicalize despite a formalization process and a partial integration into established systems.
Between 2011 and 2012 many public spaces in global North were indefinitely occupied by people dissatisfied with the political system. The origin of this dissatisfaction, however, is not clear. This article rejects that the origin was either a popular longing for direct democracy or for an end to neoliberalism. It problematizes the frequent assumption that voting is a proper way to account for the will of the people: The manifestation of thousands of Indignados and Occupiers pointed to the idea that elections are not a sufficient method for expressing political will. This article goes further to suggest that voting is not a neutral method either.
The relationship of social movements and institutions should not just be seen as one where political demands can influence policy change in a targeted organization or political system. With a focus on instituting practices, instead of resulting institutions, we can understand all social institutions as institutionalizations, as constantly moving processes with the potential for radical change.
In studies of social mobilization, the distinction between institutions and organizations is often as blurry as the instant of time from which on we can actually speak of a proper movement. Using the idea of a `duality of structure’ as a starting point, this article suggests a way of fixing the boundaries: a brief analysis of the South African Landless People’s Movement demonstrates the merit of conceiving of movements as aggregate actors with shared common objectives and common norms, which institutionalize particular modes of cooperation by purposefully drawing on existing institutions in order to shape functioning internal structures.