Moving Beyond the Toolbox: Providing a Materialist Dialectical Lens to Social Movement Studies

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Madelaine MOORE, Kassel University, Germany
Anne ENGELHARDT, Kassel University, Germany
There have been numerous studies within critical political economy that try to make sense of the (post) crisis period by focusing on top-down analyses of capitalist hegemony. However, these studies appear to ignore the importance and proliferation of social movements that the period has given birth to. In contrast, Social Movement Studies, which focuses on such movements, tends to lack a theory of capital and thus missing class struggle, and has thus inadequately addressing questions of the state, power relations and what such movements mean for our current capitalist conjuncture. To provide an analysis that can benefit from both traditions, we propose that the study of social movements must be re-contextualised in a critical social theory centred on class struggle and that the non-dogmatic use of materialist dialectics may be beneficial. Yet, this does not mean we reject the methods employed by critical social movement scholars such as Charles Tilly, Doug McAdam and Sidney Tarrow, but rather re-formulate them through a materialist dialectical lens. Consequently, cognitive, relational, and environmental mechanisms are repurposed as cognitive, organizational, environmental, and institutional dynamics. This reformulation focuses on the processes and relations of the movement that is both embedded in and co-constituted by its social context, instead of the narrow and static focus on inputs, outputs (failure/success) or static and general categories that dominates much social movement studies.