Madison questions--the top four are the main questions followed by the individual questions:
1. Radical place-based politics vs. militant particularism—can place-based movements achieve progressive change? Is scale-jumping necessary? Do networks need local bases? How are distinct place-based identities reconciled in larger-scale movements? Do we have anything to add to this (ongoing) discussion?
2. The articles are silent on the issues of what constitutes success for particular groups in particular places. What is success? Who defines it (within the movements, and among outsiders)? For example, how do movements deal with the transition from “outsiders” to “insiders” (co-optation vs. mainstream legitimacy)? How do they negotiate decisions about process vs. action? And so on...
3. What are critical sites (time and space) for the mobilization of successful (see above) social movements? Reading Miller, we see there are uneven geographies of resources and political opportunity structures that any ‘global’ social movement must confront. Can these groups transfer “success” in resource-rich places to less ideal sites for mobilization? How?
4. Is there a meaningful (theoretically or otherwise) difference between resistance and social movements? Does this, for example, have any implications for how subjects are politicized?
The complete questions:
1. How might one read Harvey's skeptical account of militant particularism against Escobar's dream of a radical politics founded on the defense of place? Do these perspectives complement each other? Contradict each other? Or both?
2. How well does Escobar's theorization of place-defensive politics as the potential foundation for a coherent alternative politics describe radical movements in the North? Might place-defensive politics be appropriate for some, like peasants and indigenous people, while others craft a politics founded on a repudiation or rejection of a particular place? Surbuban alienation, inner-city decay desperation, anti-imperial sentiment within the heart of empire, and other such phenomenon, all would seem to point not to defense of lifeworlds, but rather to a demand that particular places be transformed, to become places worth defending- often along the lines of a "return to the local."
Fleenor's questions and comments--ok, a polemic.
1. Are there 'geographies' of right-wing, neoliberal mobilizations? Somehow, the left in the US has been co-opted--and I use that word generously. Government no longer represents the poor, most mainstream unions barely represent the workers--if they did then there would be no hesitation to go to Mexico and elsewhere to organize at grand scales while putting meaning into the "International" part of their names. Consumers have made Wal Mart and Home Depot what they are today; they also have made a very few computer and entertainment corporations very rich. Even something so tragic as AIDS in Africa will never get its full due until prescription drug prices come under control here in the states. Individual self-interest still is the name of the gam. In short, the mainstream has been redefined and the same mainstream went along with everything Capital has had to offer. I submit that the American Left went comatose December 7, 1941, shouted its patriotism during WWII, made a futile effort in 1948's presidential campaign; an anemic effort with Adlai Stevenson against Eisenhower; made some headway with organizing Vietnam War resistance; gave us great slogans such as "Ban the Bomb", lent its support to the Civil Rights Movement (and the resulting legislation is under severe attack today); recovered enough to give us an effective environmental movement and legislation for Clean Air, Water, Endangered Species, and the EPA (under Nixon!!!!), did much to encourage a women's rights movement but was too weak to get a simple Equal Rights Amendment passed; did some nice things against Apartheid, and then let itself be thrown out of the mainstream into the fringe back in the 1970s. The left has remained comatose since Jimmy Carter. One wonders if we ought to be studying social movements on the right; they have been remarkably successful. Instead we look at the left and, perhaps, a squatter situation that only delayed the inevitable instead of making a lasting change.
2. If, and as Harvey asserts and which I fervently believe, Capitalsim demands change as a condition of its own survival, then one should not be surprised that Capital is the dominant process oriented ideology of our time. It seems that the left must always react to Capitalisms demands for change rather than anticipating the changes and ACTING accordingly. Then again, the recent left has not exactly had a great track record of "imagining and building something called 'community'. The left is somehow capable of specialized mobilization despite its own fractured natures and entanglements of competing 'ideologies.' My question is: Can the American Left ever be organized into a cohesive force? Or will it remain antagonistic to a great many people? CAn an effective Left ever go beyond the Local. Can an effective left ever get out of the Streets? Or do we need to look for new ideologies or reinterpretations of old. Let's face it, I've sat in too many meetings where one's ideology was more important than committment to a social cause or candidate. In the 80s and early 90s, did this campus really need four groups speaking for Socialism according to Lenin or Stalin or Mao or Trotsky and their variations? Perhaps an extreme example but one which actually happened and they hated each other. No wonder the gap has been filled by right wing groups and neoliberals.
Are poststructuralist critiques of universality, and of the traditional notion of the subject, all that helpful to social movement theories? Once we give others credit for taking claims of universality with a grain of salt, might it not be useful to disregard the psychological complexities regarding identity, and the phenomenological complexities regarding place, that some of this week's readings referred to?
For example, rational choice theory works according to a simplified notion of the rational subject. But there are good theoretical reasons why rational-choice social theorists leave the complexities of identity and motivation for psychologists and others to wrestle with.
Also, several theorists in this week's readings try to beat up on Habermas for his purportedly space-less and prescriptive notions of universality. First of all, are these people even READING Habermas? Second, why does Harvey end up insisting on the political advantages of a universalist notion of the good?
1. On p 201, Harvey brings up the words "situatedness" and "positionality" with reference to the limitations on our ability to imagine other worlds or social relations. But Donna Haraway (not to name drop, but just to call up a body of thought that our seminar has largely neglected) resolves that these qualities form the heart of the only objectivity possible in the production of knowledge, so long as we recognize ourselves as situated. Miller (p 16) in fact suggests that situatedness is the best opportunity for truly understanding the importance of spatial context in social movements. Does this concept in fact open room for compromise among "identity" groups in social movements? And can we also use situatedness as a way to emphasize agency amid structure because situated actors must understand their situatedness and how structure acts contingently upon it?
2. Blah, blah, blah ... In passing, Miller refers to geographers' preference for the term "resistance" rather than "social movements." To some extent, is the idea of a social movement like Foucaultian discipline upon a body of action that "resistance" describes better? Or should we be looking at politicization itself, which I think of as belonging to the "framing" idea Miller discusses? By this I mean that action may not be what we think it is, and that individuals who have become politicized go through a framing process. Part of this, I think, is coming to identify with others similarly oppressed, and here is where all of our questions about class-based action and identity come into play.
Harvey says, "in bringing persons together into patterns of social and political solidarities, there are as many traps and pitfalls as open paths to change" (203). With reference to both the readings and other specific examples, can we collectively come up with a list of pitfalls and paths to change?
The local and particularistic nature of the types of social services that many community organizations/agencies provide is intimately familiar to many of us that have worked in these settings, something that Lustiger-Thaler and Eric Shragge point out quite rightly. I guess my question would be what types of agencies/organization are most conducive to effective lobbying for social justice, etc? I think that Harvey was right when he mentioned that the strong American penchant for private-property, landowner’s rights, etc does in fact create a de facto type of spatially restrictive practices, but what about those issues that stretch across boundaries?
In the Mayer piece she talks at length about the co-optation of different urban social movements into the mainstream political framework and so on. One legendary example of this in our backyard (well, sort of) is the increasingly close relationship of The Woodlawn Organization and the University of Chicago, in terms of shared community redevelopment goals (very, very similar to the situation described in the Mayer article). My questions is this: Is this co-optation necessarily such a dreadful thing in terms of the organization’s mission? Obviously, such a movement/group may lose a considerable of its “edge”, but can’t this also (in part) achieve some of their goals in the meantime? This is something I have grappled with, so I would like to know what everyone else thinks about this idea.
a) To what extent local movements are basically reactions to global-?external? forces? What about those movements asking for transformation inside of the communities themselves? How those movements contribute to redefine the politics of place? I?m thinking about those movements who attempt to transform the way in which organizations mediate between individuals and general politics (in Harvey?s terms), such as gender movements, democratization demands, among others.
b) Escobar suggests (following others) that the incorporation of identities in the politics of place requires a new notion of public sphere, where constituencies act politically on the basis of their own practices and identities. While in principle I agree, it is not clear to me how political consensus can emerge, especially when it is seems that ?standard? political structures are not able to represent [and handle] that diversity. Networks can generate some consensus among movements that already share some interests, but what is their capacity to generate it in a broader scale?
There seems to be at least a partial consensus within academic circles that social movements over the past 20 or so years have fallen on difficult times; where political protest and the relative power of civil society have dimished in the face of an amorphous neoliberal hegemony. Most of the articles for this week mirror this problematic. Thaler and Shragge write of the "diminishing returns regarding protest activities" which leads to the me to the question of whether or not this inefficacy of protests, strikes, and civil negotiation is a result of a mental change within civil society (i.e. these activities have become normalized thus unimportant) or rather that the structural paths to social and political change have evolved whereas the insurgent strategies have remained the same. Furthermore, is this degredation of plausible social change equally seen in both N.A. as well as Europe? The case from Germany would seem to answer yes, however my time in Europe would leave me to believe (generalizing here of course) that there are distinctly different levels of both belief in, and acceptance of, open protest and strikes between the two continents. Is there some sort of "french connection" here? I am curious if the 2 Europeans in the class (Jamie has previously informed me that the British are only half-European) agree with this generalized difference and could elaborate on possible reasons if they do.