Sub-theme 22: Movements, Markets and Fields

Brayden King
Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, USA
Simone Schiller-Merkens
Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, Germany
Philip Balsiger
European University Institute, Florence, Italy

Call for Papers

Over the past decade, scholars have paid increasing attention to movement activism targeting organizations and markets. Pioneering research has studied whether and how this activism matters for the emergence and change of industries, markets, and corporations. These studies have suggested a revised perspective on markets and organizations as fields of political conflict (King & Pearce, 2010). While the field concept has a long tradition in organization theory, scholars have only recently begun to think about fields as sites of continuous struggles over meaning, identities, and positions (Bourdieu, 2005; Beckert, 2010; Fligstein & McAdam, 2012). Fields take shape and evolve as a result of contentious interactions between different kinds of actors. In order to further advance this scholarship, this sub-theme is especially interested in papers that adopt a field approach to study the interactions between movements, organizations, and markets.

We invite papers that address the strategic interactions between (a) movements and firms, (b) between different kinds of social movement organizations, and (c) within firms and social movement organizations. With respect to interactions between movements and firms, we particularly welcome papers that address the counter-strategies used by organizations to react to movement demands, and the market transformations that eventually result from this. Possible research questions to be asked are:

  • How do corporations react to movement activism? Why do firms sometimes comply with a movement's demands, and at other times treat their demands as irrelevant?
  • How do movement demands, targets, and tactics get transformed in the interactions between social movements and corporations?
  • What consequences do firms' counter-strategies have on field positions, identities, and market categories?
  • How does the interaction between movements and corporations influence the processes, tools, and standards of valuation and evaluation on which markets are built?

Social movement organizations (SMOs) often target the same set of corporations. However, we know little about the interactions between them and the strategies with which they differentiate themselves. We therefore encourage papers that address questions such as:

  • How do different types of SMOs interact in their mobilizing against corporations?
  • When do SMOs coordinate their actions and when are they in conflict? What effects does this have on their outcomes on corporate targets?
  • How do SMOs develop their repertoires of action and identities, in isolation from one another, in competition, or in cooperation with one another?
  • Do (and if so, how) SMOs perpetuate differences in ideology over time in their collective mobilization against the same set of corporate targets?
  • Regarding the identity and practices of SMOs, why do some of these organizations become specialists with a narrow repertoire of activities while others become jacks-of-all-trades?

Finally, organizations are also contested from within and can be seen themselves as fields of contested interactions between different kinds of actors. We therefore invite papers that look at issues surrounding the following questions:

  • What forms does political conflict in firms take? What about political conflict and activism within SMOs?
  • Under which conditions do activists within organizations achieve their aims?
  • What role do extra-organizational factors play for the outcome of internal movement activism?
  • How do firms retaliate against their employees for activism?
  • What consequences do internal conflict and strategic interaction have on the development of organizational identities, goals, and values?



Beckert, Jens (2010): 'How do Fields Change? The Interrelations of Institutions, Networks and Cognition in the Dynamics of Markets.' Organization Studies, 31 (5), pp. 605–627.
Bourdieu, Pierre (2005): 'Principles of an Economic Anthropology.' In: Neil J. Smelser & Richard Swedberg (eds.): The Handbook of Economic Sociology. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp.75–89.
Fligstein, Neil & Doug McAdam (2012): A Theory of Fields. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
King, Brayden G. & Nicholas A. Pearce (2010): 'The Contentiousness of Markets: Politics, Social Movements, and Institutional Change in Markets.' Annual Review of Sociology, 36 (1), pp. 249–267.


Brayden King is Associate Professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, USA. Brayden's research focuses on how social movement activists influence corporate governance, organizational change, and legislative policymaking. He also studies the ways in which the organizational identities of social movement organizations and businesses emerge and transform in response to their institutional environments.
Simone Schiller-Merkens is a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany. With a general interest in the dynamics of institutions and fields, she currently studies the role of social movements in processes of categorization and market formation, and the social, institutional, and political conditions shaping these processes.
Philip Balsiger is currently a Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. He studies the dynamics and outcomes of social movements targeting market actors and is especially interested in how movements change markets. He has been a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany, and holds a PhD in political science from Sciences Po Paris, France, and the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.