When trying to figure out how they should interact with political parties, social movements face a common challenge: Should they push from without or seek to operate from within? Should they act as a destabilizing threat to all politicians, or should they work to build strength within a mainstream party?
Frances Fox Piven and Daniel Schlozman are two theorists who stand at opposite poles of this debate. In Piven’s view, movements win by deploying disruptive power from the outside that can polarize the public and create discomfort among politicians. “[M]ovements of mass defiance fired the most important episodes of class and racial reform in the 20th century,” she contends. “This capacity to create political crises through disrupting institutions is … the chief resource for political influence possessed by the poorer classes.”Continue reading