Journey into Social Activism: Qualitative Approaches

Journey into Social Activism: Qualitative Approaches

Journey into Social Activism: Qualitative Approaches

Journey into Social Activism: Qualitative Approaches

Synopsis

Academic study of social activism and social movements has become increasingly prevalent over the years; this is due in large part to the fact that activists have captured public imagination and gained substantial influence in political discourse. For instance, Occupy Wall Street activists, Tea Party activists, and activists affiliated with the Arab Spring have transformed political debates and have become the focus of mainstream news media coverage about a variety of different political topics. Journey into Social Activism explicates the philosophical foundations of the study of activism and illustrates four different research sites in which activism can be observed and studied: organizations, networks, events, and alternative media. The book will introduce students and scholars to important qualitative approaches to the study of social activism within these four research sites, which is based entirely on successful research projects that have been conducted and published in recent years. Ultimately, this book will prove integral to any students and scholars who wish to use qualitative methods for their research endeavors concerning social activism in contemporary society.

Excerpt

The study of activism in many ways fits into the long view of humanity presented by “big history” scholars such as David Christian (2004) and Cynthia Brown (2007). Both have presented a vision of history that is marked by transitions across levels of complexity; this includes the big history of the entire universe, as well as the history of humanity. For instance, in the beginning of the universe, there were only scattered subatomic particles with little in the way of complexity. These particles eventually formed into simple hydrogen and helium atoms, and after three hundred million years the first stars were ignited. in this view, aspects of the universe were becoming increasingly complex. According to Christian (2004, 252), the same holds true for human civilization:

Transitions to new levels of complexity often depend on positive feedback
mechanisms—cycles in which one change encourages another, which stimu
lates a third, which magnifies the first, and so on around the circle. One of
these causal chains played a fundamental role in the transition to larger and
more complex social structures. It links population growth, collective learn
ing, and technological innovation. Increasing the size and density of human
communities stimulated the processes of collective learning by increasing
the size and variety of the networks within which information and goods
could be exchanged. the intellectual synergies possible within these larger
networks encouraged the development of new and more intensive technolo
gies, which made it possible to support even larger human communities.

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