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How Civic Action WorksFighting for Housing in Los Angeles$
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Paul Lichterman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691177519

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691177519.001.0001

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A New Sociology of Civic Action

A New Sociology of Civic Action

(p.12) 1 A New Sociology of Civic Action
How Civic Action Works

Paul Lichterman

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses how advocates for social change act. Advocates spend much of their time writing position papers, raising money, enduring meetings, or running educational workshops. All these activities fit within the usual definition of a social movement: collective action that challenges institutional authorities to redistribute resources, remake policy, or bestow social recognition. In the last several decades, studies of both the showier and more backstage kinds of movement activity share something else that may seem simply like common sense, but should not. Researchers often assume that social advocates are goal-oriented operatives. In this view, social advocates are like savvy business entrepreneurs. Style has a powerful effect on social problem-solving efforts. This study looks in depth at the workings of two scene styles, both of which are common in US advocacy circles. Acting as a community of interest, participants treat each other as loyal partners pursuing a specific goal limited to an issue for which they share concern. In a setting styled as a community of identity, in contrast, participants assume they should coordinate themselves as fellow members of a community resisting ongoing threats from the powers that be.

Keywords:   social advocates, social movement, collective action, business entrepreneurs, social problem-solving, US advocacy circles, community of interest, community of identity

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