C: GRASSROOTS NETWORKING: JOHN, RAFIA, AND KRISTIN
In conceptualizing grassroots movements as networked, are the authors (or are we) naturalizing a particular view of networks, to be used as criteria of evaluation? How would this inform our analysis of grassroots “networks” as compared with elite networks or cybernetworks? Would insights from actor-network theory or social network analysis help prevent naturalizing a particular view of “grassroots networks”?
Evans, P. 2000. Fighting marginalization with transnational networks: counter-hegemonic globalization. Contemporary Sociology 29, 1: 230-241.
(2) Evans is interested in what he calls Acounter-hegemonic networks” which challenge the hegemonic global networks being created to serve transnational corporations’ (TNCs’) interests.
He identifies three types:
-- transnational advocacy networks (see Keck and Sikkink)
-- labor/consumer networks: networks that get information about products’ production, e.g. Nike shoes, to consumers.
-- transnational labor organizing, for example, Canadian, Mexican and U.S. unions working together.
(1) He takes Keck and Sikkink’s model (see below) and adds networks that are similar in form (non-hierarchical, formed of nodes and connections) but also challenge TNCs (whereas K & S’s networks challenge nation-states or supranational governance bodies).
a. He is interested in whether these networks can act globally/ scale up to be(come) “globalization from below.”
b. He is working within a Gramscian framework: He asks whether non -elite networks have the potential to become counter-hegemonic, to change the way the world is organized.
c. Since he sees elite networks (and non-elite networks) as unstable, he sees the potential for grassroots groups to ally with elite networks.
a. He does not ask: How hegemonic and counter-hegemonic groups are already linked (and the latter often co-opted), for example, how core labor standards could be used to improve conditions for third world workers, OR to retain jobs in first world.
b. Local networks fighting alone are ineffective. While global networks have been weak against stopping the dominant forces of capitalism, they can have some affect. Activists can’t prevent the WTO and NAFTA from opening markets that exploit labor, but they can use the strong leverage that these organization’s wield to try to impose better working conditions and environmental protections in the places where the WTO regulates commerce.
Schlosberg, D. 1999. ‘The politics of networking in the grassroots environmental movement.’ From Environmental Justice and the New Pluralism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 107-144.
(1) He discusses translocal networks of grassroots environmental activists. Specifically, he examines the SouthWest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ) and the Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste (CCHW, now known as the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, CHEJ). These umbrella networks link loosely with local groups to cooperate in activism around a variety of environmental justice issues.
(2) He thinks of networks using the metaphor of the rhizome: root structure characterized by connection, heterogeneity, multiplicity—and stresses how these grassroots environmental networks are unified yet retain diversity/difference. These networks are based on pre-existing social networks AND participants’ shared understanding of how power links issues.
(3) He looks at processes of network formation, networks= organizational practices, and activist tactics, and the emergence of these kinds of networks relative to capital restructuring. He examines grassroots environmental networks at very local scales, then considers how the regional and national networks interact with the local ones. He also asks how this network organizational model compares to SMOs like the big 10 environmental groups (and the conventional pluralist thinking they manifest).
a. Although he mentions that there may be power imbalances within networks, he does not ask about this in detail.
b. Networks are efficacious when they produce solidarity and sharing between multi-interested and diverse local movements. Movements should be grounded in people’s actual experiences which vary widely by place and problem, and so networks can only operate well when they accept that there is no one universal answer or strategy to environmental problems. If different movements compete between themselves and have a NIMBY attitude, then problems like waste disposal will just be shuffled around. But when grassroots movements present a united front and say “Not in anyone’s backyard” (NIABY), they can triumph.
Keck, M. and K. Sikkink, 1998. ‘Environmental advocacy networks’ From Activists beyond Borders. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 121-163.
(Keck, M. and K. Sikkink, 1998. ‘Transnational networks on violence against women’ From Activists beyond Borders. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 165-198.)
(2) They look at transnational advocacy networks, that is, NGOs and other activist and groups/institutions that form networks in campaigns for environmental issues, human rights, and women’s rights. Advocacy networks “are organized to promote causes, principled ideas, and norms, and they often involve individuals advocating policy changes that cannot be easily linked to a rationalist understanding of their ‘interests’” (p. 8-9).
(1) They see networks as voluntary, reciprocal, horizontal patterns of communication & exchange; as heterogeneous groups, with common cause, that mobilize to shame violators of universal norms. In the case study, for K & S, the network concept seems to function as ideal type, which coalitions may or may not approach, depending on various factors—but they are most interested in networks that take up causes of marginalized groups.
(3) They analyze these networks using traditional social movements theory questions, asking about political opportunity structure, resource mobilization, and framing. Their main question is whether and how these groups can gain the leverage to effect reform.
(4) They don’t ask: how groups establish connections, because to them the interests are given; how these particular issues gain resonance at larger scales, that is, how do these claims (of human rights, e.g.) become ‘universal’—for example, why discourses of human rights have become so powerful compared with, say, core labor standards.
Clark, H. 1994. Taking up space: redefining political legitimacy in New York City. Environment and Planning A 26: 937-955.
(2) Clark studies limited-equity tenant co-operatives in NYC. These co-ops emerged when tenants in abandoned housing—that was taken over by the city—organized to run their buildings themselves. The neighborhood networks Clark talks about are (a) groups of residents who live in these co-ops, AND/OR (b) networks of the leaders of these co-ops. She sees these networks as linking people in different co-ops in the same neighborhoods.
(1) For her, a network is a site of discursive formation of empowerment. Networks are constitutive of place, of identities, and of interests—and they operate through processes of communication in the lifeworld. She draws on Habermas’s notion of the lifeworld (as opposed to the structural economic system, with its particular rationality)—but diverges from Habermas via a feminist critique. Where Habermas sees the lifeworld as in/of the public sphere, Clark sees these communicative/network spaces as emerging from what is often considered the private sphere, that is, the (mostly Black, female) tenants’ experience in dealing with their households’ needs. Clark describes these networks as self-determining subaltern counter-publics: they are autonomous and define their own boundaries, and they are (at first at least) outside of and opposed to the dominant system.
(3) She asks what these networks are doing in space and to claim space (for example, by establishing community gardens, they claim public space and gain political legitimacy). She considers how shared experiences ground these networks, and asks whether these networks remain self-determining.
a. She does not ask in detail, how these networks formed, nor about power differentials within the networks. She also doesn’t ask how these networks could overcome or transcend their particular context, even though she is proposing that they could be some kind of mode with potential for altered citizenships and political challenge.
b. Individual housing coops that are not grounded in open communicative processes that stress understanding will founder. Networks of coops must recognize that they share some values and experiences, and form a common identity to be successful. But for Clark success is really defined by whether or not the movement is transformative. Transformative experiences empower people to take control of spaces like apartment buildings and gardens, and so redistribute resources. Transformative movements don’t just get people talking or owning, but move people from being marginalized to being active citizens.