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Structure, strategy, sustainability: what future for new social movement theory?
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-07, 20:27 authored by Alana Lentin
The theoretical domain developed for the study of New Social Movements (NSMs) in the early 1980s has recently been largely abandoned by its main advocates. Increasingly, the cross-class, 'post-materialist' movements of the 1970s and 1980s, typified by the issues of environment, peace and feminism, cease to pose a radical challenge to contemporary western politics. This paper revisits the theoretical work of three of the European voices central to understandings of the emergence and success of New Social Movements. Claus Offe, Alberto Melucci and Alain Touraine succeed in amalgamating an essential emphasis on structural transformation and an understanding of the importance of identity in bringing about 'new' collective action in the 1970s and 1980s. In response, to the significant decrease in European work on the NSM phenomenon today the paper proposes that the existing body of theory may be insufficient for describing collective action at the turn of the Millennium. The increasing predominance of 'identity' politics (e.g. in the realms of ethnicity and sexuality) in the arenas previously dominated by 'universalist', post-particularist themes; the institutionalisation of elements of NSM action and concerns; and the perceived appropriation by transnational agencies of the issues dominating original state-NSM struggles are cited as reasons for the need to develop a new language to describe contemporary collective action phenomena.
JournalSociological Research Online
PublisherElectronic Libraries Programme
Department affiliated with
- Sociology and Criminology Publications
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