9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN25 Social Movements

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Contentious Politics, Prepression, Cooperation and Participation Building I, 1E3

Social movements and voluntary associations as autopoietic systems

Social movements and voluntary associations as autopoietic systems
Martti Siisiäinen
University of Jyväskylä

Research and theorizations on social movements and voluntary associations have developed to their own directions for several decades. Due to social and sociological reasons this has - to large extent - led to a differentiation and development of (middle-range) theories of their own and to discussions carried out separately. Both field of research have theoretical traditions, conceptual repertoires and methodological solutions of their own. Associations and movements are not the only actors on various political and social fields. Miscellaneous group of actors from smarts (and less smart) mobs, gangs, boycott campaigns, party organizations to various internet networks and communities are competing with each other and with more "traditional" associations and movements. These actors are communicating with different social sub-systems and on various social fields.
This all forms a very complex constellation of relationships between various actors and between them and societal sub-systems. Therefore is it often difficult for students of collective action to form a clear picture of the totality of collective action and actors and their relations with each other and societal sub-systems. For that purpose comprehensive theories including all these components are needed, theories that make it possible to describe differences of various forms of voluntary organization and their relationships with social subsystem in a systematic and logical way.
This paper adopts Luhmann's systems theory to voluntary organizing: (1) by developing a theoretical typology of voluntary associations (interactions, associations, social movements, formal organizations); (2) by discussing about the characteristics of communication between various types and social sub-systems. It is only a first step because of the formality and "emptiness" of the theory that has to be filled with more substantial theorizations. The paper also presents possible contributions (a) systems theory on the research of voluntary organizing, and (b) of association and movements research on systems theory. The paper argues for such approaches which include both the movement and the associational component in a way outlines already by Max Weber and certain other classics of association and movement research.