SWG 04: Social Movements and Organizations


Philip Balsiger, Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Donatella della Porta, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy
Mario Diani, Università di Trento, Italy
Jocelyn Leitzinger, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA
Simone Schiller-Merkens, Universität Witten/Herdecke, Germany
Daniel Waeger, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada
Klaus Weber, Northwestern University, USA

This SWG aims to provide a platform for scholars interested in topics at the intersection of social movement and organization studies. Organizational topics, such as leadership, organizational structure or networks for organizing have featured prominently in social movement scholarship ever since its emergence as a separate field of research (McCarthy & Zald, 1977; Kriesi, 1996; Della Porta & Diani, 2009; Diani, 1995). In more recent years, organizational researchers interested in political dynamics and contestation have started importing insights, concepts and terminology from the social movement tradition – collective action frames, political opportunity structures, free spaces, or radical flank effect, to name but a few – to enhance our understanding of classic themes of organization theory, such as organizational change (Heinze & Weber, 2016) team collaboration (Truelove & Kellogg, 2016) or decision making under uncertainty (Kaplan, 2008). At the same time, organization theorists have revived earlier comparative social movement work in political science and political sociology (Kriesi et al. 2015; McAdam et al., 1996) to explore different types of organizations as sites of movement activity and how the distinct features of these different organizations – hospitals or large firms, for instance – shape the way activism unfolds (Waeger & Weber, 2019; Kellogg, 2012).

SWG 04 pursues the following two objectives:

  • Provide a continuous platform for researchers interested in social movements and organizations and bring together thus far unconnected groups of scholars.

  • Explore newly emerging themes at the intersection of social movements and organizational scholarship.

To structure and organize these objectives, SWG 04 focus on four distinct topical areas that take up contemporary issues regarding the study of social movements and organizations. These four topical areas form the backdrop for the four sub-themes SWG 04 will organize at the EGOS Colloquia 2021–2014.
First, we aim to study changing forms of organizing social movement activism and contestation. The general trend over the past decades has been one of institutionalization and absorption of reform-oriented movements into public and private regulatory instances, such as in the case of governmental agencies specifically addressing questions related to environmental pollution or non-governmental organizations collaborating with multinational firms regarding the elaboration of labor-related codes of conduct and regulatory schemes. More recently, however, prominent movements have resisted this road towards progressive institutionalization, such as, arguably, in the case of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but also reflected in traditional institutions’ difficulty of finding adequate answers to grievances formulated by activists. As a result, activism, protest and contestation have taken on forms that markedly differ from the traditional channels aimed at established organization – be they bureaucratic government agencies or multinational enterprises. Many protests seem more radical, short-lived and less ‘organized’ than their traditional counterparts. Social media campaigns flare up and die down, often with limited leadership or direction, lacking a consistent formulation of demands and at times even with changing targets. These new forms of activism present a multitude of challenges, both for the participants and for targets of such protests. They are essentially organizational questions within movement research, which we aim to explore with this SWG.
Second, we want to offer a platform to showcase research studying unintended consequences of social movement activism. For a long time, social movement scholarship has been relatively inward-oriented, focusing chiefly on advancing our understanding of the circumstances under which social movements emerge and are successful in mobilizing supporters (e.g. McCarthy & Zald, 1977; Klandermans, 1984; Koopmans, 1999). Later, scholars started asking “Was it worth the Effort?” (Giugni, 1998) and whether movements managed to meet their goals. Since then, a considerable effort has been undertaken to study whether and under what circumstances social movements affect decision makers in ways intended by movement actors (King et al., 2007; Weber et al., 2009; Giugni & Grasso, 2018). Recently, scholars have started studying secondary effects and unintended consequences of social movement activity, such as effects on untargeted organizations (Bundy et al., 2013) on the general discursive opportunity structure (Briscoe et al., 2015) or backlash and effects opposite to those intended by the activists (Surroca et al., 2013). We

build on these recent efforts and invite scholars to explore additional themes relating to unintended consequences of movement activities.

Third, we aim to address the relationship between social movements, markets and morality. Movements are often seen as political conditions to organizational and institutional change around concrete issues (Schneiberg, 2013; Schneiberg & Lounsbury, 2008). Yet, such a focus on deliberate and specific changes in policies and behaviors of movement targets de-emphasizes how movements contribute to changing deeper norms and meaning structures in the social space. Our very conceptions of what is appropriate and morally accepted in economic settings is shaped by the contentious interactions between movements and other market actors. Few areas have been as intensive a site of moral contestation as the one of economic coordination. While the end of the cold war had seemingly seen capitalism triumph decisively over rival systems of economic coordination and their underlying conceptions of morality (Fukuyama, 1989), such triumph was short-lived at best. Recent years have seen the emergence of myriad post-capitalist alternatives and new moral justifications of markets and private corporations as the principal organizational infrastructure active in these markets. We aim to explore both the breadth and the depth of social movements’ moral challenge to current institutions of economic coordination and to discuss the most recent developments in that space.
Fourth, we want to (re-)emphasize comparative dimensions of social movements by shedding light on the institutional embeddedness of contestation and activism. A long-standing assumption of observers of contestation was that there is something akin to a national proclivity for protest. In other words, some nations were thought to be naturally more prone to movement activities than others – for instance, the French were seen as particularly prone to engage in activist activities, while more Nordic European countries were seen as experiencing less activity from social movement challengers. A core finding of comparative (especially European) scholarship on social movements refuted this long-standing assumption and instead demonstrated that contestation and protest are institutionally embedded and that they take different forms in different institutional settings (Kriesi et al., 2015; McAdam et al., 1996). This finding echoes the work on varieties of capitalist systems in the study of corporations (Hall & Soskice, 2001), but there has been very limited engagement between these bodies of research. From the angle of these research traditions, the public visibility of activists in France is a collateral of their poor access to official channels of governmental power as well as the state-coordinated form of capitalism they encounter. Conversely, the lesser presence of protest and contestation in the streets of many Scandinavian and Germanic countries is due to civil society’s relatively better access to official political channels in corporatist societies (Kriesi et al., 2015). While comparative approaches at the intersection of social movements and organization studies have thrived as of late (Kellogg, 2009, 2011, 2012; Weber et al., 2009; Waeger & Weber, 2019), we aim to explicitly focus on comparing different macro-institutional contexts (regional, societal, transnational regimes) and how they shape interactions between movements and target organizations.


  • Briscoe, F., Gupta, A., & Anner, M.S. (2015): “Social activism and practice diffusion: How activist tactics affect non-targeted organizations.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 60 (2), 300–332.
  • Bundy, J., Shropshire, C., & Buchholtz, A.K. (2013): “Strategic cognition and issue salience: Toward an explanation of firm responsiveness to stakeholder concerns.” Academy of Management Review, 38 (3), 352–376.
  • Della Porta, D., & Diani, M. (2009): Social Movements: An Introduction. New York: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
  • Fukuyama, F. (1989): “The End of History?” The National Interest, (16), 3–18.
  • Giugni, M.G. (1998): “Was it worth the effort? The outcomes and consequences of social movements.” Annual Review of Sociology, 24 (1), 371–393.
  • Giugni, M., & Grasso, M.T. (2018): “Economic Outcomes of Social Movements.” In: D.A. Snow, S.A. Soule, H. Kriesi & H.J. McCammon (eds.): The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, 2nd edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 466–481.
  • Hall, P., & Soskice, D. (eds.) (2001): Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Heinze, K.L., & Weber, K. (2015): “Toward organizational pluralism: Institutional intrapreneurship in integrative medicine.” Organization Science, 27 (1), 157–172.
  • Kaplan, S. (2008): “Framing contests: Strategy making under uncertainty.” Organization Science, 19 (5), 729–752.
  • Kellogg, K.C. (2009): “Operating room: Relational spaces and microinstitutional change in surgery.” American Journal of Sociology, 115 (3), 657–711.
  • Kellogg, K.C. (2011): “Hot lights and cold steel: Cultural and political toolkits for practice change in surgery.” Organization Science, 22 (2), 482–502.
  • Kellogg, K.C. (2012): “Making the cut: Using status-based countertactics to block social movement implementation and microinstitutional change in surgery.” Organization Science, 23 (6), 1546–1570.
  • King, B.G., Bentele, K.G., & Soule, S.A. (2007): “Protest and policymaking: Explaining fluctuation in congressional attention to rights issues, 1960–1986.” Social Forces, 86 (1), 137–163.
  • Klandermans, B. (1984): “Mobilization and participation: Social-psychological expansisons of resource mobilization theory.” American Sociological Review, 49 (5), 583–600.
  • Koopmans, R. (1999): “Political. Opportunity. Structure. Some splitting to balance the lumping.” Sociological Forum, 14 (1), 93–105.
  • Kriesi, H. (1996): “The organizational structure of new social movements in a political context.” In: D. McAdam, J. McCarthy & M. Zald (eds.): Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 152–184.
  • Kriesi, H., Koopmans, R., Duyvendak, J.W., & Giugni, M.G. (eds.) (2015): New Social Movements in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
  • McAdam, D., McCarthy, J.D., Zald, M.N., & Mayer, N.Z. (eds.) (1996): Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements. Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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  • Schneiberg, M. (2013): “Movements as political conditions for diffusion: Anti-corporate movements and the spread of cooperative forms in American capitalism.” Organization Studies, 34 (5–6), 653–682.
  • Schneiberg, M., & Lounsbury, M. (2008): “Social Movements and Institutional Analysis.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T.B. Lawrence & R.M. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: SAGE Publications, chapter 27.
  • Surroca, J., Tribó, J.A., & Zahra, S.A. (2013): “Stakeholder pressure on MNEs and the transfer of socially irresponsible practices to subsidiaries.” Academy of Management Journal, 56 (2), 549–572.
  • Truelove, E., & Kellogg, K.C. (2016): “The radical flank effect and cross-occupational collaboration for technology development during a power shift.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 61 (4), 662–701.
  • Waeger, D.A., & Weber, K. (2019): “Institutional Complexity and Organizational Change: An Open Polity Perspective.” Academy of Management Review, 44 (2); https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/amr.2014.0405
  • Weber, K., Rao, H., & Thomas, L.G. (2009): “From streets to suites: How the anti-biotech movement affected German pharmaceutical firms.” American Sociological Review, 74 (1), 106–127.

About the Coordinators

Philip Balsiger is an Assistant Professor of Economic Sociology at the Institute of Sociology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. In his research, he studies the interactions of social movements and corporations and on dynamics of market moralization from the point of view of economic sociology and social movement studies. He is the author of “The Fight for Ethical Fashion” (Routledge, 2014), and has published articles in journals such as Business & Society, European Journal of Sociology, Journal of Consumer Culture, or Social Movement Studies. With Simone Schiller-Merkens, he is co-editing a volume on "The Contested Moralities of Markets" which will be published in 2019 in the “Research in the Sociology of Organizations” series.
Donatella Della Porta is a Professor of Political Science, Dean of the Institute for Humanities and the Social Sciences and Director of the PD program in Political Science and Sociology at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, Italy, where she also leads the Center on Social Movement Studies (Cosmos). Among the main topics of her research: social movements, political violence, terrorism, corruption, the police and protest policing. Donatella is the author of 85 books, 130 journal articles and 127 contributions in edited volumes.

Mario Diani is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Trento, Italy, where he served as Head of the Department of Sociology and Social Research and as Dean of the Faculty of Sociology. His research addresses network theories of social movements and collective action, the structure of civil society in cities, political and protest participation, social capital and multicultural democracy, organizations in movements, and global networks of mobilization. Mario has written and edited twelve books, including most recently the 3rd edition of “Social Movements”, and has published extensively in European and American sociology journals as well as in edited book. He was the European editor of the journal ‘Mobilization: An International Quarterly’ from 1997 to 2005.
Jocelyn Leitzinger is an Assistant Professor of Management at the UIC College of Business Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago, USA. Her research interests lie at the intersection of social movements, organizational theory, and environmental sustainability. In particular, she studies the actors and institutions that facilitate – or hinder – social movement activity oriented towards alleviating environmental and social problems.
Simone Schiller-Merkens is a Senior Research Associate at the Reinhard Mohn Institute of Management at Witten/Herdecke University, Germany. In her research, she is interested in contestation surrounding the formation of new fields, market actors and categories. Simone focuses on the role of social movements for the rise of moral markets and entrepreneurship, and builds on insights from social movement theory, organization studies, economic sociology, and the sociology of morality. Her research appeared in journals such as the Scandinavian Journal of Management, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Historical Social Research, and Schmalenbach Business Review.

Daniel Waeger is an Assistant Professor of Corporate Responsibility and Corporate Governance in the Policy Area of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada. In his research, Daniel applies social movement, institutional, and system justification perspectives to study how organizations interact with their external environment and focuses on both organizational and environmental factors shaping these interactions, with an emphasis on social, environmental and corporate governance (ESG) issues. Daniel’s research has appeared in journals such as Academy of Management Annals, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review and Journal of Management Studies.
Klaus Weber is a Professor of Management and Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, USA. His research uses cultural and institutional analysis to understand the intersection between social movements and the economy, the political economy of globalization and development, and environmental sustainability. His research has appeared in Administrative Science Quarterly, American Sociological Review, Academy of Management Annals, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Science, Organization Studies, and Strategic Management Journal.