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Frameworks for Conceptualizing the US Political Right:

Complex Social Movement Theories

An increasing number of progressive social scientists and analysts reject centrist/extremist theory and use a different set of theories to explain how social movements work. 17 As Christian Smith observes:
=== "The 1970s saw a major break in the social-movement literature with earlier theories-e.g., mass society, collective behavior, status discontent, and relative-deprivation theories-that emphasized the irrational and emotional nature of social movements.....There was at the time a decisive pendulum-swing away from these "classical" theories toward the view of social movements as rational, strategically calculating, politically instrumental phenomena."18

Think of complex social movement theory as a collection of similar theories nurtured by the scientific method and dialectical analysis.

One synthesis of several social movement theories sees all mass movements arising through a combination of four related factors:
_ A discontented group of politicized persons who have grievances they wish addressed. _ A core group of strategic leaders and local activists that effectively mobilize the politicized persons. _ The recruitment of politicized persons into the movement through pre-existing social networks. _ The availability of opportunities in the social and political environment exploitable by movement leaders and activists. 19

A number of authors have applied various social movement theories to the US political right. This reaction against centrist/extremist theory first gained widespread attention with the publication of Michael Rogin's 1967 book The Intellectuals and McCarthy: The Radical Specter.20 Sara Diamond's far-reaching study: Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States provides the first comprehensive analysis of the full range of right wing movements.21

A related precursor to social movement theory is power structure research, a systemic analysis that looks at the role of institutions and power blocs in society.22

Social movement theory provides a useful analytical model for studying movements of the right, especially right-wing mass movements that promote conspiracist scapegoating.23 Unlike countersubversion theory and centrist/extremist theory, social movement theory allows for the consideration of the following important factors in studying and organizing against right-wing conspiracist mass movements:

Public and private institutions (including public agencies) that promote or tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, and other forms of supremacy.

State action, especially our country's long history of government intelligence abuse, police brutality, and political repression, which usually is aimed at progressive social change activists and which historically has had more injurious and lethal consequences for people of color.

Corporate economic interests and the complex effects of competing or cooperating business sectors.

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Overviews of the Three Conceptual Models

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