9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN25 Social Movements

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Outcomes of Activism Building I, 1E3

Together, alone? Individualization, participation and the new organizational demands for membership-based social movements

Within the contemporary context of networked political activism, a global civil society and individualized forms of public participation, this paper assesses the challenges these pose to established membership-based social movement organisations. Much of the existing literature focuses on the transition from traditional hierarchical structures towards fluid networks of political activism. This paper offers a more reflexive approach in considering how changing repertoires of political activism impact upon issues of membership and participation among membership-based social movements.

Drawing on our research into layers of participation within an established membership-based social movement, this paper explores the changing relationship between the membership itself, and the existing hierarchy within the organization. This involves increasing demands for more ?choice? and ?voice? from its members (e.g. on the subject and form of campaigning). With these more fluid and reflexive patterns of political activism and participation, established social movements now have to re-think the organisation and leadership of, as well as support for, their membership groups. In sum, this paper raises issues about how membership-based social movement organisations maintain structural cohesion and ideological coherence in the face of increasingly fluid and complex networks of activism and power.