POLS 3406W: Globalization and Social Movement
Transnational Anti-Apartheid Movement
In the study of social movements, several theories have been advanced to explain why different actors in different social movements behave in particular ways. The theories put forth differ in perspective, which can be explained partly by the fact that different social movements take different approaches to voice grievances as well as recruit activists and adherents which can ultimately determine success or failure. The choice of theory to apply to a social movement is also dependent on the development, evolution, and ultimate success or failure of the movement. This paper will serve to examine existing research and literature on resource mobilization theory and apply it to the transnational anti-apartheid movement to see if the theory adequately explains the movement’s success.
The paper will begin with a literature review that examines the theoretical background of resource mobilization, critically and systematically pointing out the basic assumptions on which the theory is developed. Some of the fundamental concepts which resource mobilization theory rallies around are also explored. Following the literature review, a historical background of the transnational anti-apartheid movement that explores its origins and development, both on the local and international front, will be provided. The application section will apply the resource mobilization theory to the transnational anti-apartheid movement to see if the theory adequately explains the movement’s eventual success in removing the apartheid regime from power in South Africa and achieving majority rule in the early 1990’s. The paper will conclude by exploring the effects the transnational anti-apartheid movement has had on contemporary global political culture and the notion of a global civil society.
Understanding the collective behavior that guides social movements has been a significant issue since the 1970s. Aside from it being a crucial sociological process, there were important social movements that sprang up in the 1960’s and 70’s which had international implications, both in the United States as well as other countries of the world, which led sociologists and political scientists to research the collective behavior which characterizes all these groups.
Resource mobilization theory attempts to offer an explanation of social movements by viewing individuals as rational actors that are engaged in instrumental actions that use formal organizations to secure resources and foster mobilization. (McCarthy & Zald, 1987) The actions that these individuals are involved in utilize formal associations, groups, and organizations as a framework through which they can acquire the resources to mobilize action around a particular grievance. Resource mobilization theory has two components: rational actor theory and social movement organizations with formal structures. First, resource mobilization theory attempts to explain why people join social movements through the rational actor theory. Second, resource mobilization theory attempts to explain the ability of movement members to acquire resources necessary to the success of the movement. (Jenkins, 1983) Rational actor theory states that people will join social movements when the benefit of joining these groups outweighs the cost to that individual. The benefit cannot just be the possibility of achieving the social movement’s purported goal. (McCarthy & Zald, 1987) The fundamental goals of social movements are to achieve some type of collective good. Given that the nature of the benefits are collective, it makes little sense for actors to pursue gains independently as this means that the costs will also be borne individually. The pursuit of a common goal in a group in turn leads to the emergence of free ridersindividuals who reap the benefits of social movements by not participating and...
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