Research Article: Alternative Action Organizations: Social Solidarity or Political Advocacy?

Date Published: April 13, 2018

Publisher: SAGE Publications

Author(s): Maria Kousis, Stefania Kalogeraki, Camilo Cristancho, Marco Giugni, Maria Grasso.

http://doi.org/10.1177/0002764218768855

Abstract

This article investigates the involvement of alternative action organizations in three forms of political advocacy in an attempt to gauge their degree of politicization. These forms can be understood as representing three different ways of making political claims: by raising public awareness with respect to a given cause or issue, by trying to influence the policy maker through “insider” lobbying activities, and by protesting in the streets as “outsiders.” Our findings show strong cross-national variations in all three forms of political activities, although not always following a consistent pattern. They also suggest that there is a relationship between the severity of the economic crisis and the form of advocacy. Most important, our analysis suggests that the politicization of alternative action organizations depends both on certain internal characteristics such as their degree of formalization and professionalization, as well as their thematic focus, and the scope of their activities, and on the broader context in terms of economic crisis, austerity policies, and political opportunities. As regards the latter, we find an impact especially on lobbying and protesting.

Partial Text

This article investigates the degree of politicization of alternative action organizations (AAOs) during the economic crisis in Europe. AAOs can be defined as collective bodies which organize collective events carrying out alternatives to dominant socioeconomic and cultural practices with visible beneficiaries and/or participants and claims on their economic and social well-being, including basic needs, health, and lifestyles. However, it is not clear to what extent they can be considered as political actors. On one hand, they engage in a wealth of activities aimed at providing services for specific populations in need. On the other hand, they often engage in politically oriented activities. In other words, AAOs have both a social solidarity dimension and a political action dimension.

There has been a growing interest in recent years in what is variously called social economy (Laville, 2010), solidarity (or solidary) economy, social resilience (Hall & Lamont, 2013), or, more recently and particularly, with respect to the economic crisis, alternative forms of resilience (Kousis & Paschou, 2017). All these notions refer in some ways to alternative economic practices, located at the crossroad of the political and the social, initiated by citizen groups and networks (Kousis & Paschou, 2017). They include a wide variety of innovative activities and social relations such as solidary bartering (Fernández Mayo, 2009), local exchange trading schemes (Granger, Wringe, & Andrews, 2010), local and alternative currencies (North, 2007) ethical banks (Tischer, 2013), local market cooperatives (Phillips, 2012), cooperatives for the supply of social services such as in health and education (Costa, Andreaus, Carini, & Carpita, 2012), alternative forms of production (Corrado, 2010), critical consumption (Fonte, 2013), spontaneous actions of resistance and reclaim (Dalakoglou, 2012), and the reproduction of cultural knowledge via oral and artistic expression (Lamont, Welburn, & Fleming, 2013).

The data used in our analysis were retrieved in the context of the project “Living with Hard Times: How Citizens React to Economic Crises and Their Social and Political Consequences” (LIVEWHAT), funded by the European Commission under the auspices of the 7th Framework Programme. They consist of a sample of 4,297 AAOs whose characteristics such as organizational structure, aims, activities, and so forth were coded on information retrieved on their websites. AAOs were drawn from related national hubs/subhubs as identified by each national team and ranked according to two criteria: inclusiveness and diversity in terms of geographic origin and alternative action types coverage, along with the number of websites they contain. AAOs’ websites have been extracted from the databases of the highest ranked hubs/subhubs through a systematic process and the resulting national populations have been checked for their adequacy in terms of the above-mentioned criteria, with a preview of their geographic dispersion and the percentages each action type contains.

This section examines variations in the use of the three forms of advocacy by AAOs across countries as well as across degrees of severity of the economic crisis. In addition, we also show how the characteristics of AAOs vary according to these two criteria.

The main goal of this article is to gauge the potential impact of certain characteristics of AAOs, and particularly, the role of certain contextual features for explaining whether AAOs engage in the three different forms of political advocacy. We do so by means of three sets of random-intercept logistic regressions whereby observations are clustered by country. Each set is made of seven models: The first one only includes the organizational predictors, while each of the six subsequent models adds in turn one of the six contextual predictors. The latter are included one by one in separate models to avoid possible multicollinearity problems. The coefficients shown are odds ratios, which lend themselves to interpretation more easily than log-odds (when the odds ratio is greater than 1 the effect is positive, when it is smaller than 1 it is negative, and when it equals 1 there is no difference).

This article has investigated the involvement of AAOs in three forms of political advocacy in an attempt to gauge their degree of politicization. These forms can be understood as representing three different ways of making political claims: by raising public awareness with respect to a given cause or issue, by trying to influence the policy maker through “insider” lobbying activities, and by protesting in the streets as “outsiders.” We first conducted descriptive analyses showing how AAOs’ engagement in raising awareness, lobbying, and protesting vary across countries, also in relation to the severity of the economic crisis in those countries. Second, we performed a number of multilevel logistic regression models for each of the three types of political activities.

 

Source:

http://doi.org/10.1177/0002764218768855

 

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