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Article

Transnational Social Movements  

Kenneth A. Gould and Tammy L. Lewis

Transnational social movements are defined as movements wherein members in at least two nations cooperatively engage in efforts to promote or resist change beyond the bounds of their nation. Over the last 20 years, research on transnational social movements has proliferated in tandem with rapid globalization. The scholarship draws upon research conducted by sociologists and political scientists on national social movements and extends it to a global level. Similar questions and concepts applied to national or subnational movements are now applied to transnational movements: Why do they emerge? What are their processes? What are their consequences? Concepts such as political opportunity structure, which have been used to analyze the timing and outcomes of national social movement organizations’ actions, are being extended to understand how the international political arena shapes movements. The majority of work has been case specific and focused on a handful of movements: the human and indigenous rights movements, the women’s movement, the labor movement, and the environmental movement. Over time, this theorizing moved beyond borrowing concepts intended to explain local and national movements to generate concepts and propositions unique to the particularities of local-global/transnational movements. One of the limitations of the work to date is the lack of comparative work and theoretical development. The next stage of research should build upon the empirical work that has been generated by assessing propositions comparatively.

Article

Nationalism as a Social Movement  

James Goodman

Since the late eighteenth century, nationalist movements have been one of the world’s most powerful agents of social change. As a social movement, nationalism serves as a primary instrument both for popular aspiration and for ruling ideology. It is embedded in political contexts and can only be explained in relation to the resulting dynamics of contention. There is considerable debate over types of nationalist movements and their role in history, in large part because nationalism is not often explicitly conceptualized as a social movement. These debates, especially those that played out through the 1980s and into the mid-1990s, offer important insights into nationalist mobilization and its conditions of emergence and development. In order to understand the dynamics of nationalism as a social movement, one may draw insights from the “political process” school of social movement scholarship, where the exercise of state power is seen as framing movement identification and as structuring mobilization. Three interrelated dimensions deserve consideration in this regard: material interests and resources, institutional opportunities, and ideological framing of nationalist mobilization. Each is linked to the other by a process of capitalist development that creates systemic inequalities and fragments global society into national units. What emerges is a political sociology of nationalist movements, where movements are embedded in the social forces that they inhabit. The interaction of social forces and nationalist mobilization can be conceived of as a hierarchy, where one leads to the other.

Article

Nonviolent Struggle  

Stephen Zunes, Hardy Merriman, and Maria J. Stephan

Recent decades have witnessed a dramatic upsurge in the use of strategic nonviolent action as a method of political struggle worldwide, pressing governments and other institutions to change policies and even successfully ousting autocratic regimes. This has led to a growth in scholarly research on the history and dynamics of such popular civil resistance movements, along with growing empirical evidence indicating that nonviolent means are generally effective than armed resistance. Such nonviolent civil resistance is distinguished from pacifism in that it is not predicated on a principled commitment to nonviolence but out of recognition that it is the most effective means of popular struggle under the particular circumstances. Some theorists of nonviolent action advocate a more pluralistic model of power than found in traditional political science literature, emphasizing the withdrawal of consent, while others emphasize a structural analysis whereby the civil resistance targets pillars of support of a regime or other power holders. There are hundreds of methods of nonviolent resistance, which can be utilized in different circumstances and in varying phases of a struggle, which tend to result in higher levels of popular mobilization and defections by security forces and other regime supporters than armed methods.

Article

The Politics of (In)Visibility: Geopolitics and Subaltern Bodies  

Francine Rossone de Paula

The materiality of (living, dead, and surviving) bodies has been highlighted as a productive element of resistance against intersectional violence and oppression in Latin America. While acknowledging the potential of feminist solidarities and embodied resistance to reinscribe meaning on political spaces by cutting across these spaces and opening new territories for recognition and social justice, it remains important to acknowledge the precarity of certain bodies’ geopolitical positions. Processes through which some bodies are simultaneously concealed and exposed, and whose movements are continuously perceived as excessive to the status quo, may be revealing of these bodies’ inherent potential for disruption and politicization as both a symbolic and physical presence. However, when visibility is itself a symptom of their “displacement” from dominant representations sustaining the ordering of space, these bodies’ visibility is rarely translated into audibility or legibility. In other words, they exceed the “map,” and their visibility is revealing of their condition of being “out of place.” Historic and contemporary feminist movements in Latin America show that when recognition is conditioned by the perception of presence as displacement, this may prevent subaltern bodies not only to speak to the political but also mainly to be heard. A closer look at their positionings and potentialities reveal the conditions for gendered and racist geographies of visibility, recognition, and agency and calls for a radicalization of the geo in geo-politics (with a hyphen) toward the de-normalization of violence as the everyday of international politics.

Article

The United States and International Environmental Politics  

Paul G. Harris

Environmental politics refers to the examination of the environmental stances of both mainstream political parties and environmental social movements. It also includes the analysis of public policymaking and implementation affecting the environment, at multiple geo-political levels. In most cases, the United States is the most important country involved in international environmental politics, being the world’s largest consumer and polluter of natural resources. For instance, the United States surpasses any other countries in the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), except China. With less than one-twentieth of the world’s population, the United States produces nearly one-fourth of the world’s GHGs. However, by diminishing its emissions of such pollutants, the United States could have an immensely disproportionate positive impact on international environmental problems. Having the world’s largest economy, the United States has considerable financial resources that can be directed at environmental problems internationally, and its technological advancement has great potential in this regard. The United States can either boost or delay multinational negotiation of agreements, thereby influencing whether there will be effective environmental protection on the ground throughout the world. It is important to note the significance of studying the role of the United States in international environmental politics in order to better understand the major issues exercising US policy, and to reveal that the forces shaping US environmental foreign policies are complex and disparate.

Article

Gender, Women, and Representation in State Politics  

Mona Lena Krook and Sarah Childs

The main contribution of research on women, gender, and state-level politics has been the introduction of the concept of gender and an expansion of traditional definitions of politics. These studies have continued to expand over the years, opening up some major areas of research as well as introducing challenges to feminist research on women, gender, and state-level politics. Social movements are among the key topics of recent studies. This is due to the fact that women have been largely excluded from other arenas of political participation. Work on political parties links to another major area of study. Although wide-ranging, it can be separated into research on electing versus being elected. Furthermore, women’s voting behavior and the election of female candidates are often treated as important questions in themselves. Another line of work, however, seeks to go beyond political priorities and presence to examine concrete policy outcomes. This research can be divided into three sets of questions: the behavior of female policy actors, the gendered nature of public policies, and the creation and evolution of gender equality policies. A fifth major literature points to the relationship between women, gender, and the state. The state is a central actor and topic in political science. Focusing on state-society interactions, feminists have been interested in understanding how states influence gender relations and, conversely, how gendered norms and practices shape state policies.

Article

The Global and the Local  

Roxanne Lynn Doty

The connections between the local and the global raise a range of issues that have been addressed in social and political theory in the past but continue to provoke important discussion. Many of the constructs that have traditionally been foundational to the academic discipline of international relations, including territory and sovereignty, are inherently intertwined with how we think of the local and the global. The local–global connections revolve around three broad and overlapping themes: the critical scrutiny of older concepts and the emergence of new ones as well as alternative vocabularies; an appreciation of the necessity of an interdisciplinary perspective; and attention to the significance of the relationship between theory and practice. Many of the more recent scholarly work on the local–global continue to tackle the effects of global capitalism in locations constructed as local as well as the role of these locations in facilitating global capitalist relations. Critical geographers and cultural studies scholars have made important contributions to our understandings of the global–local nexus by focusing on the formation of social movements and localized practices of resistance as well as transversal struggles that call into question conventional spatial logics. Another important area of research that has made both conceptual and empirical contributions has produced the “global cities” literature. Students of international studies need to continue to focus on what have been referred to as “everyday” or “local” practices that have often been considered unimportant when it comes to the “big” issues of international studies.

Article

International Communication in Social Movements and Interest Groups  

Kenneth Rogerson

Ideas and people may be mobilized in order to influence the thinking of policy makers or society to either promote a specific point of view or enact policy in the form of laws or programs that benefit the ideas or people. This mobilization of ideas and people is known as political advocacy, which falls into two broad categories: social action and social mobilization, which can—but not necessarily—give rise to social movements, and interest and lobbying groups. According to Mancur Olson, groups are organized to pursue a common good or benefit. The success or failure of such groups can be explained using models such as the classical model, the resource mobilization model, and the “political process” model. The success of political advocacy is contingent upon a number of interrelated concepts and characteristics, including access to resources (money, people, and time), good leadership, a sense of identity or common focus, and the opportunity to be heard. A movement can distribute its message to its target audience—for example, policy makers, opinion leaders, potential participants, or the public at large—by means of information and communications technologies (ICTs). Two theses are used to assess the effectiveness of ICTs in political advocacy: the mobilization thesis and the reinforcement thesis. The inclusion of international communication has enriched our understanding of how, when, where, and why political advocacy is or is not effective.

Article

The Public Sphere  

Benjamin Herborth and Oliver Kessler

The term “public” is predominantly used in International Relations (IR), often appearing as an attribute in collocations such as “public goods” or “public opinion.” The study of public spheres can be meaningfully situated within the scope of the emerging field of International Political Sociology (IPS). At the heart of the study of public spheres as an integral part of IPS is the challenge of theorizing the relations between public spheres and an emerging postnational political order. One perennial concern of IPS that can be addressed through the study of public spheres is the relation between empirical and normative inquiry. In addition, the study of public spheres constitutes an interdisciplinary arena that contributes to the process of opening up IR to the theoretical and methodological toolkit of adjacent intellectual fields. In this context, the study of social movements comes to mind, especially when it directly tackles processes of “contentious politics.” An analysis of the way in which the term “public” is used in IR can offer important insights into the social-theoretical presuppositions and implicit concepts of social and international order that go along with it. The study of public spheres is not confined to the study of a set of firmly delineated empirical phenomena, which may or may not be observed. It can also be used to elucidate the oft-neglected problem of how political authority is constituted in terms of both theoretical and empirical inquiry.

Article

Transnational Feminist Activism and Globalizing Women’s Movements  

Melinda Adams and Gwynn Thomas

Women’s activism has assumed an international dimension beginning in the nineteenth century. Transnational feminism has been shaped by debates over a wide range of issues: how to name and describe feminist inspired action that crosses national borders; how to create organizations, networks, and movements that acknowledge the multiple power differentials that exist among women while still allowing for concerted political action; and how to craft effective mobilization strategies in the face of highly differing forms of activism. These debates have fueled a surge in scholarly interest in the transnational activities of feminist groups, transforming the ways in which women’s studies, political science, international relations, sociology, and geography investigate the relationships between national and international levels of politics. The scholarship on transnational feminist actions has been influenced in large part by the concept of transnational advocacy networks/transnational feminist networks, which often bring together multiple kinds of actors such as social movements, international nongovernmental organizations, and more nationally or locally based actors. Another issue tackled by scholars who are politically committed to the goals of transnational feminist activism is how feminists are likely to achieve their goals and produce change through their transnational activities. These scholars can be expected to continue to develop their own research agendas on transnational feminist activism and to influence how transnational politics and globalization are studied in other fields.