“All too many official voices, it seems, want to explain such massive and conflictual social change by anything other than large-scale and sustained popular mobilisation from the ground up … Social movements, it seems, are hard to think about seriously while explanations couched in terms of top-down institutions, hidden economic or genetic hands, great-men and just-so histories are easy to grasp and repeat.”
Why Social Movements Matter
Social movements and popular struggle are a central part of today’s world, but often neglected or misunderstood by media commentary as well as experts in other fields. In an age when struggles over climate change, women’s rights, austerity politics, racism, warfare and surveillance are central to the future of our societies, we urgently need to understand social movements.
Accessible, comprehensive and grounded in deep scholarship, Why Social Movements Matter explains social movements for a general educated readership, those interested in progressive politics and scholars and students in other fields. It shows how much social movements are part of our everyday lives, and how in many ways they have shaped the world we live in over centuries. It explores the relationship between social movements and the left, how movements develop and change, the complex relationship between movements and intellectual life, and delivers a powerful argument for rethinking how the social world is constructed. Drawing on three decades of experience, Why Social Movements Matter shows the real space for hope in a contested world.
Praise for Why Social Movements Matter
“This is the book we all were waiting for! Laurence Cox is an experienced scholar-activist, who writes in a concise, clever and accessible style. Cox argues that social movements are part of everyday life and help to shape the world but we don’t notice. They also escape the social scientist's analysis. In this intervention, Cox makes us aware of what social movements are and are not, what is their relation with society as a whole, with institutional politics, with intellectuals and with the Left.
The book is a must for both those who want to know more about social movements, and those who teach and learn political sociology and social movement studies.”
Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, author of The Politics of Autonomy in Latin America
“Why Social Movements Matter reminds us how the struggles of past generations have shaped our world. The accessible style draws us effortlessly into rigorous reflection on the tensions between movements and political institutions, the meaning of ‘the left’ today, and the interplay between collective agency and social structures. Never ducking the challenges involved, Cox inspires us towards the building of counter-power and the creative potential that lies in “learning from each other’s struggles”.
Gee McKeown, Activist Trainer, Ulex Project
“Laurence Cox has been an innovating force in social movements studies for more than two decades - relentlessly developing perspectives that speak to the knowledge interests of activists, rather than to narrow scholastic concerns. His keen insights into how social movements make and change our worlds are condensed in a clear and compelling form in this gem of a book, which will be essential reading for anyone wanting to know why social movements matter.”
Alf Gunvald Nilsen, author of Adivasis and the State
“Why Social Movements Matter is a must-read for anyone curious about this topic. This concise book is a gem. Highly accessible in style, it is a lucid and engaged introduction into the diverse movements that shape society in often crucial ways and that generate hopes for the future.”
Markus S. Schulz, Vice-President for Research, International Sociological Association (ISA)
“The timing of Laurence Cox’s new book couldn’t be better. It’s urgent that activists, organizers and scholars better understand why, when and how social movements win, and why they fail. Too little attention is focused on social movements in an era of bold right-wing attacks on much of what earlier social movements achieved.”
Jane McAlevey, US Labor Organizer