Movement cultures

Authored by: Francesca Polletta

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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At the same time as they seek to change laws, policies, and/or practices, many movement organizations also seek to enact within their own functioning the kind of society they hope to bring into being. They may rotate leadership and make decisions by consensus, experiment with unconventional relationships, or pioneer new modes of economic exchange. This chapter examines the sources of movement cultures, the conditions in which elements of movement cultures diffuse beyond the movement, and the trade-offs activists face in striving to operate in ways that are both ideologically consistent and instrumentally effective. Contrary to the notion that groups putting a premium on democracy, equality, informality, and intimacy within the organization necessarily do so at the cost of operating effectively, research suggests that such commitments may foster tactical innovation, group unity, and members’ dedication to the cause. By the same token, the cool orientation to brass-tacks logistics that passes as instrumental may not always advance the movement’s goals. The study of movement cultures thus sheds light on the emotional performances that constitute what is rational as well as what is expressive.

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