Structure, strategy, sustainability: what future for new social movement theory?

Lentin, Alana (1999) Structure, strategy, sustainability: what future for new social movement theory? Sociological Research Online, 4 (3). ISSN 13607804

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Abstract

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.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Law, Politics and Sociology > Sociology
Depositing User: Alana Lentin
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:32
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2012 09:24
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/17010
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