Cluster V: Social Movements and World Politics

This research cluster is one I’ll have to put on hold. In my dissertation and first book on anti-US base protests, I tried to develop a theoretical framework synthesizing social movement approaches with international relations (IR) theory. I never got it quite right and thought my second major project would offer further clarification by unpacking various mechanisms that link social movements to systemic consequences (and vice-versa): the first set of mechanisms is the more obvious one for IR scholars: norms diffusion, persuasion, framing, discourse. But there is also a signaling, bargaining, emulation logic which IR scholars have overlooked – mainly b/c constructivists rather than rationalists/realists have picked up on the social and transnational movement literature (for reasons I outline in a working paper).

Social and Transnational Movements in World Politics

I can take this research in two directions. The first is to outline the processes and mechanisms linking the relationship between social movements and international relations (i.e. demonstrating how social movements matter in IR or how international factors shape domestic social movements). The second approach is to pick out cases where social movements helped bring about major transformations to the international system (i.e. Protestant reformation, decolonization, the collapse of the Cold War, or perhaps right-wing populism). This is similar to Dan Philpott’s work in Revolutions in Sovereignty, except that the focus looks much more closely at the “carrier of ideas” than the ideas themselves, and how actors mobilize to bring about transformations in global politics. I put together a graduate seminar on social movements in world politics in Spring 2011 to help me review relevant literature and a working paper spelling out mechanisms of change to help me organize my thoughts. One day I hope to get back to these ideas.

Civil Society and the Second Image Reversed

My first publication, in Journal of East Asian Studies, investigated international influences on democratization in Poland and South Korea. In a related topic, I’ve been interested in writing more about the international dimensions of civil society. We assume that civil society is something domestic, local, and indigenous. But to what extent do outside forces shape civil society? How might international structural or outside agentic forces facilitate the rise of civil society and social movements. These effects may be direct, including monetary and political support from foreign countries, asylum for opposition leaders, and material, informational and otherwise subversive warfare. Indirect influence may include changes in opportunity structure, including foreign invasion, international war, or global financial crises which spur actors to mobilize to challenge the existing order. 

There are a number of ways to pursue this research. It can be driven by events and case studies, such as US (or Soviet) influence in the making of civil society and the end of the Cold War (Poland, East Germany, ROK, Philippines being possible cases); or decolonization and transnational movements (i.e. Bandung Conference and support for decolonization).  Alternatively, a study might focus on key actors who engage in civil society development such as IGOs (World Bank, UN);  state institutions (in the US there’s the State Department, USAID,  IRI and NDI, CIA);  and non-state actors (NGOs and foundations that support civil society).  

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