Conflict Social Movements and Collective Action-Social Network Analysis Theories and Analysis-Lecture-Sociology, Lecture notes for Social Networks Theory and Analysis. Minnesota State University (MN)

Conflict Social Movements and Collective Action-Social Network Analysis Theories and Analysis-Lecture-Sociology, Lecture notes for Social Networks Theory and Analysis. Minnesota State University (MN)

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Social Movement - Collective actions by relatively powerless challenger groups using extra-institutional means to promote or resist social change (political, cultural, economic, ethnic, sexual) Conflict, Social Movement...
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SOC 8311 Basic Social Statistics



Social Movement - Collective actions by relatively powerless

challenger groups using extra-institutional means to promote or

resist social change (political, cultural, economic, ethnic, sexual)

Civil Rights vs KKK; Pro-life vs Pro-choice; 2nd Amendment vs Handgun control

Social Movement Organization (SMO) - A named formal

organization engaged in actions to advance a movement’s goals

Movements often have numerous SMOs

pursuing overlapping change agendas.

What differences in the goals & tactics of

these environmental SMOs?

Greenpeace; Sierra Club; Audubon Society;

Nature Conservancy; World Wildlife Federation;

Friends of Earth; Natural Resources Defense

Council; Earth Now!; Earth Liberation Front; …

Old & New Social Movements

Major 19th & 20th c. social movements were national struggles for

independence from colonial rule (Norway, India, Algeria) and

working-class movements for union collective bargaining rights.

U.S. Civil Rights Movement of 1950-60s was a

new type of movement based on social-group

identities. Deprived minorities sought rights of

political inclusion: Latinos, Native Americans,

women, gays & lesbians, aged, disabled, ...

With post-industrialization, many New Social

Movements emerged around cultural values,

lifestyles & middle-class interests: human rights,

environmental, peace/anti-war, social justice,

consumer protection, animal liberation, …

Some new social movements draw

international participants and rely on

transnational networks to achieve goals

Success is Becoming an Insider

Over its life cycle, a SMO may change from radical outsider to

accepted political insider. William Gamson (1975) found that

centralized and bureaucratized SMOs have better chances of

success (gaining recognition & acceptance). Movements with

complex org’l structures can wage stronger action campaigns.

Give an example of a SMO that transformed into a bureaucratic

organization, thus compromising the purity of its struggle?

Is Michel’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy” the inevitable fate of SMOs?

How do social networks – among activists & SMOs – constrain

social movements that drift away from their ideals?

But, as a movement wins legitimacy and resources,

it runs a risk of cooptation – being bought-off by

minor concessions from its targets. Leaders

become diverted into running orgs and neglecting

the original goals; e.g., building homeless shelters

instead of solving root causes of homelessness.

SMO #1


When SMOs gain recognition, legitimacy, & access to the polity, they

cease to be outside challengers. Transformed into institutionalized

interest groups, they now compete to influence state policies, using

conventional political tactics, e.g., campaign donations and lobbying.

SMO #2

SMO #3Interest Group #1 IG #2

IG #3

Penetrating the Polity

Network Recruiting for Collection Action

Dense networks provide pre-existing channels for recruiting

participants and micro-mobilization for collective action.

Movement activists target friends, family, coworkers whose

shared social identities & attitudinal affinities for movement

values and goals may predispose them to participate.

High-risk/cost activism raises barriers to

mobilizing SM supporters: Rational decision

is not to participate when perceived low

success is outweighed by potentially heavy

costs; e.g., police violence or losing a job.

But networks can offset negative rational calculations, if people

value preserving or forging strong social ties to SM adherents.

To assure compliant control, religious cults often recruit weakly

tied persons & force members to cut links to family and friends.

Mississippi Freedom Summer

Doug McAdam’s SM recruitment model emphasized

strong identification with values, prior activism, and

integration in supportive networks. Evidence for this

model came from 961 applicants to SNCC’s 1964

MS Freedom Summer black-voter registration drive.

Compared to 241 who withdrew, the 720

who went to Mississippi had more org’l

affiliations, higher levels of past civil rights

activity, more extensive and stronger prior

ties to other Freedom Summer participants.

“The differences are especially pronounced in the two strong tie

categories, with participants listing more than twice the number of

volunteers and nearly three times the number of activists as the

withdrawals.” (McAdam 1986; see also McAdam 1988; Fernandez & McAdam 1988; McAdam & Fernandez 1990; McAdam and Paulsen 1993).

A Political-Process Model

McAdams’ (1982) political-process model explains both the rise and

the decline of U.S. black protest movement with three components:

1) Political Opportunity: greater receptivity to change demands

2) Cognitive Liberation: challengers’ subjective experiences of

shifting political conditions giving them a “new sense of efficacy”

3) Indigenous Organizational Strength: “structural potential” of

challengers to mobilize & take advantage of political opportunity

Rapid growth 1931-45 of three types of institutions “gave blacks the org’l

strength needed to generate a campaign of collective insurgency” in 1954-67:

Black churches: ministers and their congregations

Southern Black colleges: college students

Southern chapters of NAACP: activists & lawyers

Sit-ins coordinated thru a “well-development communication network linking

SBC campuses into a loosely integrated institutional network” (1982:138)

Andrews & Biggs’ (2006) event history diffusion of 1960 Southern sit-ins

found SMO activist cadres played major role. But, “little evidence that social

networks acted as channels for diffusion among cities” (athletic leagues!).

Instead, news media conveyed crucial info about protests in other locales.

The Global Anti-Capitalist Movement

During the 1990s, an anti-capitalist movement began challenging

globalization of benefit only to developed nations & corporations.

Decentralized SMO networks coordinate protests by socialists,

greens, labor unions, anarchists, and indigenous peoples. They

promote diverse anti-capitalist interests: privatized water rights,

endangered species, child labor, forgiveness of national debts, …

Inspired by the Indians of Chiapas, Mexico, People’s Global Action

<> targets transnational institutions

allegedly undermining local community control and decision-making:

World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), G8 Summit,

World Economic Forum, World Trade Organization (WTO), …

Computer-supported SMs deploy

“new digital technologies to coordinate

actions, build networks, practice media

activism, and physically manifest their

emerging political ideals” (Juris 2005)

Collective Behavior

Social movement action is one example of diverse forms of

collective behavior, including fads, rumors, strikes, panics,

rubber-necking, football riots, lynch mobs, herd stampedes…

Contemporary collective action models seek to explain how

behaviors diffuse among actors in a collective context, while

emphasizing how decisions to participate involve the rational

choices of interdependent decision-makers. The eruption and

spread of collective behaviors depends on relations within a

group and on the imitators’ identification with the instigators.

Gabriel Tarde and Gustav Le Bon tried

to understand collective behaviors as

mass social psychology. The Laws of

Imitation and the dynamics of a “group

mind” could explain the apparently

irrational aspects of collective actions.

Threshold Models

The decision whether to join a collective action can be analyzed

as a threshold process. Derived from percolation theory, a critical

threshold (tipping point) generates an aggregated critical mass:

below the threshold, a collective action will fail; but if mass

exceeds the threshold, collective action can grow exponentially.

In a crowd, ego’s decision to riot depends on

others’ actions. Although instigators start to

riot before anyone else does, others join only

if each perceives a specific critical N (or X%)

of troublemakers. Small shifts in personal

thresholds can yield diverse group outcomes.

Mark Granovetter’s (1978) threshold model linked individuals’

behaviors to their perceptions of the aggregate level of action.

The probability distribution of everyone’s thresholds determines

whether an entire crowd reaches the critical mass required for

rapidly escalating and widespread collective action.

Individual assumed to be rational, subjective expected utility maximizers.

“The threshold is simply that point where the perceived benefits to an

individual of doing the thing in question (here joining the riot) exceed the

perceived costs” (p. 1422).

Formal model seeks to predict, from the set of individual thresholds,

the ultimate numbers of rioters and nonrioters. For example, if the

large majority of on-lookers must observe more than half the crowd

rioting before they would join, then the riot will fizzle.

Precipitating Urban Riots

The major predictor of size & severity of 1960s urban riots was

the absolute size of a city’s black population (Spilerman 1976).

Can thresholds explain this city-size differential?

“..a city has, each time a crowd gathers, the same

probability of reaching this particular equilibrium [number

of rioters]. … If this probability is, say, .10, … then we may

think of each incident as a Bernoulli trial with probability of

success (of a large riot) of .10.” In a small city with only one

incident, no riot occurs 90% of time; but in a larger city with

10 incidents, the chance of no riot falls to (.90)10 = .35, even

though the distribution of thresholds is the same”

(Granovetter 1978)

How to incorporate networks into threshold

models? Lower-threshold persons mobilized

by a few key alters, higher-threshold persons

by large aggregate participation. Strong links

mobilize participation if low thresholds, weak

links mobilize if high thresholds (Chwe 1999).


Andrews, Kenneth T. and Michael Biggs. 2006. “The Dynamics of Protest Diffusion: Movement Organizations,

Social Networks, and News Media in the 1960 Sit-Ins.” American Sociological Review 71:752-777.

Fernandez Roberto M. and Doug McAdam. 1988. “Social Networks and Social Movements: Multiorganizational

Fields and Recruitment to Mississippi Freedom Summer.” Sociological Forum 3:357-382.

Gamson, William A. 1990 [1975]. The Strategy of Social Protest. 2nd Ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Granovetter, Mark. 1978. “Threshold Models of Collective Behavior.” American Journal of Sociology 83:1420-1443.

Juris, Jeffrey S. 2005. “The New Digital Media and Activist Networking within Anti-Corporate Globalization

Movements.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 597:89-208.

König, Thomas. 1999. “Patterns of Movement Recruitment.” Paper presented to American Sociological Association


Le Bon, Gustav. 1895. La psychologie des foules (The Crowd). Paris: Félix Alcan.

McAdam, Doug. 1988. “Recruitment to High-Risk Activism: The Case of Freedom Summer.” American Journal of

Sociology 92:64-90.

McAdam, Doug. 1999 [1982]. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970. 2d edition.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

McAdam, Doug and Roberto M. Fernandez. 1990. “Microstructural Bases of Recruitment to Social Movements.”

Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change 12:1-33.

McAdam, Doug and Ronnelle Paulsen. 1993. “Specifying the Relationship between Social Ties and Activism.”

American Journal of Sociology 99:640-667.

Spilerman, Seymour. 1976. “Structural Characteristics of Cities and Severity of Racial Disorders.” American

Sociological Review 41:771-793.

Tarde, Gabriel. 1890. Les lois de l’imitation (The Laws of Imitation). Paris: Félix Alcan.

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