Globalization and Transnational Social Movement Organizations

Globalization and Transnational Social Movement Organizations

Globalization and Transnational Social Movement Organizations1 Jackie Smith, Department of Sociology, SUNY Stony Brook Stony Brook, NY 11794-4356 Prepared for Conference on “Struggles and Settlements in Organizations and Movements” 10-12 May, 2002, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Although few scholars devoted much attention to the phenomena of transnationally linked social movement mobilization prior to the 1990s, today evidence of transnational activism and organizing abounds (See, e.g., Willetts 1996; Smith, Chatfield and Pagnucco 1997; Keck and Sikkink 1998; Khagram, Riker and Sikkink 2002). To what extent does such activism represent a qualitative change in the ways that people engage in collective efforts to promote social or political change? What are the connections between broad shifts in global economic and political organization and the social movement sectors of societies? This research outlines a framework for building upon previous understandings of social movements and the organizations that facilitate them in order to better understand the ways that global changes affect popular political mobilization and action. In addition, it provides empirical evidence about both the population of transnational social movement organizations and their internal processes.

Organizational Imperatives of Globalization As governments turn increasingly to global institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations to resolve shared problems, social movement actors seeking to change local and national practices find that they must look beyond their national boundaries to do so. The global political context both expands and complicates the strategic choices available to those hoping to promote political and social change. Thus, we should expect that the nesting of states within a broader and increasingly influential inter-state system should change the ways social movement actors carry out their struggles.

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