The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements Edited by David A. Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi Copyright © 2004 Blackwell Publishing Ltd Part IVMicrostructural and Social-Psychological Dimensions The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements Edited by David A. Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi Copyright © 2004 Blackwell Publishing Ltd 15 Networks and Participation Mario Diani Introduction Social movement scholars usually treat social networks as predictors of individualparticipation.Networks may increase individual chances to become involved, andstrengthen activists’ attempts to further the appeal of their causes.
This chapter also overlaps with recent discussions of the role of social ties assources of individual as well as collective opportunities (Coleman 1990; Putnam1995a, 1995b, 2000; Edwards et al. From thatparticular angle, networks facilitating involvement in social movement activitiesmay be regarded as one particular version of social capital (Diani 1997).
Theymay conveniently be compared to similar mechanisms taking place in organizationswith no explicit political goals, and/or reluctant to include protest and direct actionamong their tactical options (Wilson 2000).
When looking at processes of individualrecruitment and participation, the boundary between social movements and otherforms of collective action is even thinner than usual.
Decisions on whether tocommit one’s time and resources to a collective activity may surely be affected bythe characteristics of the organizations one is considering joining, or the activitiesone might get to support.
Accordingly, it is advisable, and consistentwith other reviews of this field (Knoke and Wisely 1990; Kitts 2000; Oliver and Marwell 2001), to approach the issue by considering network mechanisms withreference both to radical, grass-roots organizations and other types of associations(Wilson 2000; Ray et al. Background and Early Developments of Network Approaches When the interest in protest politics and grassroots activism restarted in the 1960s,prompted by the spread of contentious collective action across Western democracies(and not only there), scholars willing to account for phenomena such as the civilrights or antiwar movements in America, anticolonial mobilizations, student move-ments, working class action, and so on, found themselves to be badly equippedintellectually.
As late as the early 1970s, established academic views still regardedindividual involvement in social movements as the result of a ‘‘mix of personalpathology and social disorganization’’ (Mc Adam 2003: 281).
Networks also emerged as important facilitators of adhesionto denominations and conventional faiths.
Only sects, overtly hostile to theirsocial environment, seemed to attract a significant share of people with personal342 mario dianidifficulties.
Mostimportant to us, they also were rich in relational resources, that is, they were wellintegrated in their communities, and strongly involved in a broad range of organiza-tions, from political ones to voluntary associations and community groups.
Mass society theorists posited that associations would discourage radical collect-ive action because of their capacity to integrate elites and ordinary citizens, socializetheir members to the rules of the game, give them a sense of political efficacy, andprovide them with primary attachments and a more satisfactory life.
However, differences in those criteria only partiallyoverlap with conventional wisdom about the real or presumed (mainly presumed,in my view: Diani 1992, 2003) distinctions between social movements ‘‘proper’’ andother instances of collective action.