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The dynamics of social movements: essays on competition and diffusion
Stockholm University.
1999 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this thesis various aspects of social movement competition and diffusion is studied. The first part of the thesis focus on movement competition and especially on how competition relates to the ability of movements to attract members. The second part of the thesis focus on movement diffusion, especially on how different types of social networks affect social movement evolution.

In the first essay inter-movement competition between a temperance organization and a Social Democratic party organization is studied. It is argued that a movement organization's success and evolution is influenced by other movement organizations in the local environment. Using the analogy of the ecological niche, organizational competition is modelled as a function of organizational niche-overlap. It is found that niche-overlap affect an organization's success in attracting members, and that niche interaction affect the evolution of the organizational niche.

In the second essay intra-movement competition is examined with regard to its effect on the overall growth of a movement's membership. Using data on the Swedish temperance movement, hypotheses from three different theories are tested - cross pressure theory, rational choice theory, and organizational ecology theory - the main finding is that intra-movement competition increase the membership of social movements, which is in line with the hypothesis derived from rational choice theory.

In the third essay intra-movement competition is further examined. A model built on the idea of ecological niches and differences in 'ways of life' is developed and hypotheses are tested using data on the free church movement. It is found that the effect of intra-movement competition on membership differ in homogeneous and heterogeneous niches. It is further found that the success of the free church movement is significantly lower in homogeneous niches. The suggested explanation is firstly, that the free church movement faced a different situation than the other folk-movements, since their organizational niche was already occupied by the Swedish state church; secondly, that the holding power of the state church was strong in homogeneous niches since they are more likely to be characterized by a common way of life.

In the fourth essay the diffusion of memberships to a local temperance organization is studied. The essay addresses the free rider problem from a network perspective, and suggests that a potential solution to the problem is provided by the social networks to which individuals belong. It is argued that an individual's network consists of a group of 'relevant others' that are small enough to provide social selective incentives and, thus, to overcome the free rider problem. The ideas are tested empirically, and the results support the small group thesis - additional movement members in the group of relevant others increase an individual's propensity to join the organization.

The last essay analyzes the relative importance of two networks in explaining the spatial diffusion of the Swedish Social Democratic party. The first is a micro-network of interpersonal contacts and the second is a macro-network linking otherwise disconnected local networks. This macro-network emerged out of the travel routes of the party's political agitators. Party diffusion, thus, is analyzed as the combined result of two networks at different analytical levels, and it is suggested that this multi-level approach provides a deeper understanding of the diffusion process. The empirical results show that both types of networks were of considerable importance for party diffusion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University , 1999. , 140 p.
Stockholm studies on social mechanisms, ISSN 1403-6851 ; 3
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-63843ISBN: 91-7153-900-XOAI: diva2:452885
Public defence
1999-05-12, 13:00
Available from: 2011-10-31 Created: 2011-10-31Bibliographically approved

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