9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN25 Social Movements

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Environmental Movements Building I, 1E5

The Effect of World Society on Local Activism: The Transformation of the Environmental Movement in South Korea

The classical movement approach explains the rise of social movements on the basis of domestic configurations of political and cultural conflicts. From this perspective, their success is determined by political opportunities, mobilizing structures, and collective action frames. In contrast, the theory of world society suggests that social movements are the product of an expanding world culture. They are no longer conceived as primary agents of social change and they appear as mere "enactors" of a world culture. This presentation examines the translation of global values and ideas into domestic contexts on the case of the environmental movement in South Korea. It will be demonstrated that the rise of the environmental movement was equally shaped by the expansion of the world society, domestic configurations of power, and the cultural creativity of movement activists

This process will be empirically analyzed in four steps: In the first step, a short overview over the development of the global environmental regime from the perspective of the world society theory will be given. In the second step, environmental attitudes and values of leading Western and East Asian countries will be compared on the basis of data from the world value survey (1990). The results show that in Western countries, pro-environmental attitudes are closely linked to postmaterialist values. In East Asia, environmentalism is generally more distinctive and it highly correlates with materialist as well as postmaterialist values. In the third step, the framing of environmental problems in South Korea will be investigated. The analysis shows that the rise of environmentalism was accompanied by a shift from the radical "Anti-Pollution" ideology to the more moderate "Life Philosophy". As a consequence, environmental activists were able to address a broader audience in the generally more conservative Korean society. In the fourth step, on the basis of a network analysis, it will be shown how the Rio Conference on Environment and Development (1992) produced a major shift in the power distribution of the local environmental movement by providing opportunities and incentives to moderate environmental groups who adopted the ideological framework of the new "Life Philosophy"