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Black Flags and Social MovementsA Sociological Analysis of Movement Anarchism$
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Dana M. Williams

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781526105547

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526105547.001.0001

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The significance of social movement theory to anarchism

The significance of social movement theory to anarchism

Chapter:
(p.83) 4 The significance of social movement theory to anarchism
Source:
Black Flags and Social Movements
Author(s):

Dana M. Williams

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781526105547.003.0004

While academics are apt to seek the development of theoretical explanations for social movements, activists are more concerned with learning practical lessons about their movements in order to further their goals. Activist theorizing happens within all social movements, but academics have tended to focus exclusively on reformist, mainstream movements. There have been impressive contributions by sociological theorists of movements, but activists remain frustrated and indifferent to the poor attempts to theorize about revolutionary or anti-authoritarian movements, such as anarchism. Consequently, the established theoretical explanations for movements—including relative deprivation, resource mobilization, frame alignment, and dynamics of contention—are of mixed relevance to anarchist movements. This chapter briefly introduces these assorted theories and applies to anarchist movements. Some of these theories address crucial concerns, like strategy, timing, scale, and risks of movements. More importance will be placed upon other key interpretations to be introduced later in the text (i.e., political opportunity, new social movements, and social capital theories). An appropriate orientation is taken toward developing “better theories”: conserving and improving what exists (of both American and European scholarly origin) that is good, and building better theories from currently un-addressed concerns. This chapter also explores what is the utility of social movement theory for anarchist movements themselves.

Keywords:   Theory, paradigms, explanations, resource mobilization, framing, class struggle, eros effect, world-systems, collective behavior

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