The Legal Transformation of Political Movements Sociology 641
Political Movements • Definition: A collectively-organized effort, by large numbers of participants, to change existing social structures and establish a new ordering of social life. • A.K.A: “Social Movement” • Political Movements are complex streams of events that often change as they unfold. • Institutional contexts may shape movement trajectories and outcomes.
Questions for Sociology of Law • What kinds of impacts does the law have on political movements? • What are the implications for a political movement of choosing to pursue a legal strategy?
Relationships between Law and Political Movements • Law as an Outcome of Politics • Law as a Tool of Politics • Law as an Arena of Politics • Law as Constitutive of Politics.
Law as an Outcome of Politics • Many political movements are, in part, efforts to change the law • Law as dependent variable • But seeking legal outcomes can affect movement development • Influence of lawyers • Emphasis on rights • Focus on the state
Law as a Tool of Politics • Defensive: to lock-in a victory • Constituency-building • Taken-for-grantedness • Offensive: to build a coalition • Legal endorsement • Moral allies
Law as an Arena of Politics • Agenda-setting • Access • Framing • The megaphone metaphor revisited • A megaphone with “reverb”
Law as Constitutive of Politics • Politics reflects … • Identities and allegiances • Interests and values • Capacities for political action • These may not be purely exogenous to legal institutions
Summary • Law as an outcomes/objective Influence of lawyers • Emphasis on rights • Focus on the state • Law as a tool • Constituencies and commitments • Law as an arena • Narrowing, refocusing and individualizing grievances • Gradualism, incrementalism • Law as constitutive • Group identities • Political interests • Action capacities