Why social movements matter
Laurence Cox presents his recent book Why Social Movements Matter, written at the Collège in the framework of the initiative Mouvements sociaux à l’âge global. The 21st century sees social movements written large on the map of the world, while journalists, intellectuals, novelists, celebrities and politicians invoke specific movements as current events or for dramatic effect. Yet the significance of widespread popular mobilisation as such is barely a subject of public reflection other than in dismissive and misdirected comments on “populism”.
Why should the wider public care about social movements in general, and how can they grasp them? How can party-political militants understand their workings? What should scholars and students in other fields know, and how have movements shaped our intellectual world? Too often scholars of social movements – in the English-speaking world at least – allow the accidents of university processes and cultural trends to decide the future (if any) of the field. But can we justify our work to these wider audiences and position the study of movements as a central intellectual tool to understanding the world we live in? This talk presents some of the issues raised by trying to convince others that social movements matter.
Laurence Cox is Associate Professor in Sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and research associate at the Collège d’Etudes Mondiales. He has published over 150 academic pieces on social movements and co-edits the open-access journal Interface. He has just published Why Social Movements Matter (Rowman and Littlefield 2018) and Voices of 1968 (Pluto 2018); his co-authored The Irish Buddhist: the Forgotten Monk who Faced Down the British Empire is forthcoming in spring 2020 with Oxford University Press.