Oy vey! Too much time has elapsed since my last post - un-for-givable! I know the blog rules of etiquette - at least the basics - and two weeks absence is simply way too long. My apologies to all four of you.
Since we last spoke I've been developing a paper with Sarah "multiple-regression" Soule that seeks to redefine the very core of our understanding of social movements. We're taking the literature by the throat and saying, "Listen, if you want keep on navel-gazing, that's your business, but take your case studies and comparative analyses and step the fuck outta the way - our N is bigger and we're taking it to a higher level!"
That's what we say in private, but the paper will have much more tact.
An old, old question for social movement scholars is how can we explain levels of protest. Pretty straightforward stuff.
The answers so far? Strain: the more dire the social strain on a population, the more protest you'll see. Resource mobilization: the more resources available to social movements, the more active they'll be. Political opportunities: the weaker the repression, the greater the access to decision-makers, and the more ties to a divided elite, the more social movement action you'll get.
The similarities of these theories? They all tend to look at one or two movements (or subsets thereof) and the conditions within them, or the political context they face.
The problem: movements and the organizations that constitute them are not unified entities that react to strains or political opportunities to the same extent, and resources - obviously - are not distributed equally.
A solution: look at the whole sector of social movement organizations over time and examine the changing dynamics of interorganizational relations - i.e., it's our nod to organizational theory.
What we find is weak and contradictory support for existing social movement theories, and evidence of a density dependence effect. That is, organizations that resemble a mid-range number of other organizations in the social movement sector - no matter what issues they endorse - will be more active than their peers that adopt more unique or more common forms. For organizational theories, the finding (which follows Olzak & Uhrig 2001) is interesting because we take organizational form to mean the set of tactics in an organization's repertoire. This changes yearly, so that organizations can adapt to changing circumstances, despite the claims of Population Ecologists. "Tactical overlap" is the extent to which the tactics in an organization's repertoire are used by other organizations in public events that year. Come on, this is fascinating stuff!
As I revise and clean up this analysis, I will (should) post questions and thoughts here in hopes that the blogging medium really truly is a place for collaboration and improvement. And who wouldn't love to start including in the acknowledgement section of our papers such startling names as "Drek," or "Alan?"
I've done other things over the past two weeks too, but I've run out of time and space. Another time, another day.