Alana Lentin (1999) 'Structure, Strategy, Sustainability: What Future for New Social Movement Theory?'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 4, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/4/3/lentin.html>
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Received: 15/6/1999 Accepted: 15/9/1999 Published: 30/9/1999
"...a self-understanding that abandons revolutionary dreams in favour of the idea of structural reform, along with a defense of civil society that does not seek to abandon the autonomous functioning of political and economic systems - in a phrase, self-limiting radicalism."
"that part of social life where social relationships have not yet crystallised into social structures, where action is the immediate carrier of the relational texture of society and its meaning. They are therefore, at least for me, not only a specific sociological object, but a lens through which many problems can be addressed" (Melucci in Avritzer et al, 1997: 95)
"The modern world...increasingly abounds with references to a Subject. That Subject is freedom, and the criterion of the good is the individual's ability to control his or her actions and situation, to see and experience modes of behaviour as components in a personal life history, to see himself or herself as an actor. The Subject is an individual's will to act and to be recognised as an actor" (Touraine, 1995: 207)
"If each identity is in a differential, non-antagonistic relation to all other identities, then the identity in question is purely differential and relational; so it presupposes not only the presence of all the other identities but also the total ground which constitutes the differences as differences. Even worse: we know very well that the relations between groups are constituted as relations of power... Now, if the particularity asserts itself as mere particularity, in a pure differential relation with other particularities, it is sanctioning the status quo in the relation of power between groups." (Laclau, 1996: 27)
"What resource mobilization brings to the analysis of social movements is an attention to the how... But there are two shortcomings in this success. One is the eclipse of the question about the why. Thereby, the attention to structural roots - the best inheritance of the Marxist tradition - is completely erased as everyone in the Left, the entire European Left, and maybe even in the third world as well, is switching to rational choice theories". (Melucci in Avritzer et al, 1997)
2The Council of Europe ran a European Youth Campaign against racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance (1994-1996). The European Union designated 1997 as the European Year against Racism.
3Resource Mobilisation theory does not seek to specifically explain the novelty of contemporary collective action although it has been used to do so. Melucci (1985: 109) points out that "the notion of 'novelty' was first used to indicate the weakness of the existing theories of collective action, if applied to the emerging phenomena, and to stress the need for a more comprehensive framework. It was also a temporary critical tool for addressing the shortcomings of resource mobilization theory."
4For discussions of Resource Mobilisation, see McCarthy and Zald (1977) or Tilly (1978). For an analysis of the debate comparing Resource Mobilisation and Identity-Oriented approaches, see Cohen (1985) or Dalton (1994).
5Here, it is important to distinguish between the types of movement that Offe sees as having particularist interests (largely, reading from his analysis, local-autonomy or women's groups) and the types of movement characterised by the term 'identity politics'. This is a later phenomenon, at least in Europe (it emerged earlier and has more prominence in the Unites States) and refers mostly to associations organised around ethnicity, nationality, colour, religion, sexuality and disability.
6Touraine, A. (1997).
7Indeed, Touraine's work on social movements in the 1980s concentrated on the domain of the factory (industrial struggles) and that of political liberation movements, principally Solidarity in Poland (anti-totalitarian, nationalist struggles). The relative homogeneity inherent in the composition of his research objects problematises his continued insistence on social movement/Subject primacy in his more recent work on democracy and multiculturalism.
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