Why Change? Organizational Adaptation and Stability in a Social Movement Field
AuthorLarson, Jeff A.
Committee ChairGalaskiewicz, Joseph
Soule, Sarah A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractWhy do social movement organizations change? This study attempts to answer this question by observing forty diverse social movement organizations (from both random and convenience samples) active across a wide spectrum of social movements in Seattle, Washington between 1999 and 2005. It focuses on changing organizational strategies—measured as combinations of issues, tactics, and targets—during a dramatic period of expanding and contracting political opportunities (e.g., anti-WTO protests, election of G. W. Bush, September 11th attack, Afghanistan and Iraq wars). The analysis, based on interviews with representatives from the organizations, charts organizational adaptation and stability at both the field and organization levels. A series of maps of the social movement field, generated using correspondence analysis, depict the relative similarity and difference between these organizations and their issues, tactics, and targets during each year of the study. The maps reveal a surprisingly stable social movement field characterized by three distinct types of organizations (as indicated by their combinations of issues, tactics, and targets) that persist throughout the period. Significant growth in the size of the peace movement in the middle of the period has remarkably little effect on the overall shape of the field. This stability is further confirmed at the organizational level. Neither resource mobilization nor political opportunity theories anticipate such a high degree of organizational stability, and their explanations for adaptation find little support in these data. Consistent with the resource mobilization perspective, SMOs with broader goals are more likely change than their counterparts. However, contrary to this view, younger organizations with greater resources and centralized, bureaucratic structures are less likely to change. Expanding political opportunities do not appear to influence these SMOs, while contracting opportunities in the wake of Bush's election and the September 11th attack seem to encourage high levels of organizational stability. The study concludes with a discussion of organizational theories of structural inertia and institutionalization, both of which offer plausible explanations of organizational stability.