From movement to category-based mobilizations:
A shift in political mobilization after the 1960s?
Symposium, scheduled for May 4, 2012
Centre d’etudes nord-americaines
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
A hallowed narrative has long dominated to dominate the historiography of the civil rights movement in the United States: after its heyday in the mid-1960s, this movement is generally seen as having undergone an irreversible decline, falling short of the authentically democratic expectations it had raised and forsaking its inclusive approach to social change. Second-generation movements and category-based mobilizations of the 1970s, happening on a backdrop of rising conservatism and aiming for group-specific gains only, are often equated by actors of the civil rights themselves with pale imitations of their movement. This narrative is congruent with the analysis developed by political scientists, who tend to see a pattern of succession between protest politics and conventional politics. The distinction between social movements on the one hand, and lobbies, interest groups and political parties on the other, is another tenet of this analysis, which takes for granted that those social formations qualitatively differ in their level of institutionalization, professionalization and command of politics. To question this narrative, the symposium “From movement to category-based mobilizations?” wants to investigate the exchanges, cross-fertilization and overlaps that blur the boundaries between those different types of mobilization.
To look into the transformation of political mobilizations after the civil rights in the U.S. and elsewhere, we suggest widening the historical scope of investigation. As proponents of a “long civil rights movement” have shown, studying mobilizations over long periods of time can be extremely fruitful, and necessary if one is to move beyond the biases of a historiography sometimes too close to actors. Looking closely at continuities (of actors, goals, or repertoires of action) beyond traditional periodization should allow historians, political scientists and sociologists to offer an alternative reading of social movements after the 1960s, and to move away from both declensionist narratives and an excessive emphasis on the domination of conservatism in the post-civil rights era.
To avoid falling prey to exclusively internalist interpretations of mobilizations, we need to study more how social movements are transformed by their successes—or failures. We therefore invite contributions that, for example:
- look at mutual influences between social movements and institutionalized political organizations; the multi-positioning of actors; or cross-membership in social networks;
- provide a long-term analysis of conservatism that moves beyond a “backlash” approach of the 1970s;
- move back in time to make sense of the diversity of social movements in the 20th century (even if this symposium’s focus is on the post-1960s).
With a view to testing the hypothesis of a continuity between the different types of mobilization, contributors may look at individual or generational trajectories (investigating, for example, transitions from activist to lobbyist), the day-to-day business of activism, repertoires and skills invested in political action, and their transfer from one area of mobilization to the other, or analyze the composition and recomposition of political coalitions. All types of mobilization should be considered, whether political or professional, trade unionist, ethnic, racial, feminist, gay, environmentalist, consumerist, anticrime etc.
Proposals (300-500 words) should be sent before December 17 2011, jointly to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Grillot (College de France, Institut du monde contemporain)
Pauline Peretz (Universite de Nantes/College de France, Centre d’etudes nord- americaines/Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales)
Yann Philippe (Universite de Reims, Centre d’etudes nord americaines/Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales)
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