Social movements: Organizations and organizing

F.G.A. de Bakker, F. den Hond, Mikko Laamanen

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We discuss two lines of research that emerged at the crossroads of social movement studies and organization theory, focusing on organizations and organizing, respectively. We speak of ‘organizations’ and ‘organizing’ to emphasize that the ‘social movement/organizations’ nexus is distinct from the ‘social movement/organizing’ nexus. In exploring this distinction, we first discuss recent developments and limitations in the study of social movements and (business) organizations. We examine how movements challenge economic authorities and how economic hegemonies counteract such challenges. Then we highlight the nexus of social movements and organizing. To zoom in on the process of organizing, we revisit Michels’ ‘iron law of oligarchy’ and argue that oligarchization is a normative concept; it refers to the abuse of legitimate power by a minority in a movement. This may also take place outside social movement organizations. Therefore, we suggest that it is helpful to focus on organizing as a process, instead of organization as an entity. This leads us to discuss ‘partial organizing’—a relatively new approach in organization theory—to address the rephrased question of how movements organize and to what consequences. This chapter thus offers alternative takes on social movement organizations and movement organizing, and thereby seeks to bring closer together the studies of movements and of organizing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Social Movements Across Disciplines
EditorsConny Roggeband, Bert Klandermans
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9783319576480
ISBN (Print)9783319576473, 9783319977904
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

Name Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research (HSSR)


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