Social Movements and Networks: Relational Approaches to Collective Action

Social Movements and Networks: Relational Approaches to Collective Action

Social Movements and Networks: Relational Approaches to Collective Action

Social Movements and Networks: Relational Approaches to Collective Action

Synopsis

For the first time in a single volume, leading social movement researchers map the full range of applications of network concepts and tools to their field of inquiry. They illustrate how networks affect individual contributions to collective action in both democratic and non-democratic organizations; how patterns of inter-organizational linkages affect the circulation of resources both within movement milieus and between movement organizations and the political system; how network concepts and techniques may improve our grasp of the relationship between movements and elites, of the configuration of alliance and conflict structures, of the clustering of episodes of contention in protest cycles. Social Movements and Networks casts new light on our understanding of social movements and cognate social and political processes.

Excerpt

On 24-26 June 2000, a group of American and European scholars met at Ross Priory, on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, to discuss the contribution of social network perspectives to the study of social movements, collective action, and contentious politics. They consisted mainly of sociologists and political scientists, from a wide range of theoretical and methodological positions. While most participants were sympathetic to formal quantitative styles of network analysis, some were not, but shared nonetheless a broader interest in attempts to account for collective action dynamics from a relational point of view. Likewise, some did not have any specific interest in social movements, but had huge expertise in network analysis, and were happy to share their perspective of methodological insiders, but thematic outsiders, with the other participants.

This somewhat unusual mix of people resulted in an extremely lively and exciting conference. This book makes some of its main outcomes available to a broader audience. It shows how we can improve our understanding of collective action dynamics by looking at the structure of social relations linking actual and/or prospective participants in a social movement to each other and to their opponents. Drawing upon a wealth of examples spread across time and space, our authors assess the contribution of social network approaches to the analysis of contentious protest and grassroots activism, and hopefully set a research agenda for the years to come.

Others will judge the success of the intellectual enterprise. As a meeting, however, it was undoubtedly a great success. Therefore, our thanks go at the same time to those who made the meeting possible, and to those who tried hard to improve its ultimate intellectual product. Financial support came from several sources. These include the British Academy, which generously awarded Mario Diani a Conference Grant (grant BCG:29995), the New Professors' Fund and the Department of Government of the University of Strathclyde, and the Democracy and Participation Programme of the Economic and Social Research Council. The conference actually marked the start of a specific research project funded in the context of that Programme, 'Networks of Civic Organizations in Britain', led by Mario Diani with Isobel Lindsay (University of Strathclyde) and Satnam Virdee (University of Glasgow), and with the collaboration of Murray Stewart and Derrick Purdue of the University of West of England, Bristol (contract L215 25 2006). Money alone would have achieved little, though, had it not been for the outstanding assistance that came from the staff at Ross Priory, who combined friendliness with efficiency.

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