Susan Olzak

Susan Olzak
Stanford University | SU · Department of Sociology

PhD

About

61
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Introduction
Susan Olzak currently works at the Department of Sociology, Stanford University. Susan does research in Quantitative Social Research, Social Movements, Ethnic Conflict, and Sociological Theory. She has 4 Projects on the impact of protest, social movements, and social movement organizations on a variety of outcomes.

Publications

Publications (61)
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The author thanks superstar research assistants Carolina Sculti and Daria Tabea Lenz for their comments, suggestions, and excellent research work. I also thank Trent Steidley for his useful comments on an earlier draft and for sharing his panel data on state-level membership in the NRA over time. Eulalie Laschever, David S. Meyer provided excellent...
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Organizations that have a clear and unambiguous focus acquire greater legitimacy, which raises their capacity for mobilization. Using data on terrorist organizations, this paper explores two empirical implications of this claim: A terrorist organization’s survival and lethality will be threatened to the extent that it has an ambiguous ideological i...
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An underlying premise of democratic politics is that protest can be an effective form of civic engagement that shapes policy changes desired by marginalized groups. But it is not certain that this premise holds up under scrutiny. This paper presents a three-part argument that protest (a) signals the salience of a movements’ focal issue and expands...
Preprint
Organizations that have a clear focus acquire greater reputational legitimacy, which raises their capacity for mobilization. Using data on terrorist organizations, this paper explores two empirical implications of this claim: A terrorist organization’s survival and lethality will be threatened to the extent that it has an ambiguous identity. Analys...
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Reviews contemporary theory and research on competition theory perspectives of ethnic and racial conflict.
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Though it has had a long history, the recent social movement aimed at stopping police violence against minorities has consistently endorsed policies designed to make police conduct more accountable. This paper analyzes the effects of protest in cities on the establishment of Citizen Review Boards (CRBs) in recent decades. It also examines whether o...
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Since Gamson’s (1975) landmark study of social movement organizations, scholars have debated whether it is more advantageous to concentrate on a narrow or diverse set of issues. This paper recasts this debate in terms of organizational survival. Drawing on ideas from theories of category spanning and social movements, we argue that an organization...
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Protest raises the visibility of a social movement and this affects all organizations affiliated with the movement’s group identity (AFOs). While the mutually-beneficial relationship between protest and social movement organizations is well-documented, we argue that protest does not necessarily aid other, more mundane types of affiliated organizati...
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Since Gamson’s (1975) landmark study of social movement organizations, scholars have debated whether it is more advantageous to concentrate on a narrow or diverse set of issues. This paper recasts this debate in terms of organizational survival. Drawing on ideas from theories of category spanning and social movements, we argue that an organization...
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A major goal of the environmental movement is to conserve or improve the natural environment, but evidence showing that environmental mobilization produces positive environmental outcomes is mixed. This paper addresses a fundamental question about the relative impact of pro-environmental mobilization and the scope of an environmental policy regime...
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This paper examines the effect of category spanning on the lethality and survival of terrorist organizations. The core argument is that terrorist organizations that span multiple and distant ideological categories will be less lethal and end more quickly than other terrorist organizations whose membership lies squarely within a single ideological c...
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This article considers the role of social movement allies in Congress in advancing pro-environmental legislation. We argue that compared to sponsors of legislation who hold moderate views, sponsors with extreme ideological positions will be less likely to produce legislation desired by the environmental movement. We also argue that protest and orga...
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Ethnic, racial, and nationalist social movements organize around distinct ethnic identities, but they differ with respect to the scope of their claims, activities, and goals. Ethnic nationalist movements can be distinguished empirically from ethnic/racial movements by the presence of demands claiming legitimate rights to sovereignty and/or authorit...
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This article uses data on prisoners incarcerated for misdemeanors in late-nineteenth-century U.S. cities to assess a three-part argument that asserts that threats to white dominance prompted efforts of social control directed against African Americans and foreign-born whites: (1) For African Americans, competition with whites for jobs instigated ef...
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This paper tests arguments about category spanning and organizational success with data on organizations that engaged in terrorist acts between 1998 and the end of 2005. The core argument is that terrorist organizations that span multiple, dissimilar, and distant ideological categories will be less successful at inflicting harm on civilians, when t...
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Competition theory of race and ethnic conflict specifies three mechanisms under which racial/ethnic conflict and protest occurs. The first reflects a familiar “racial threat” argument, suggesting that the magnitude of response by dominant groups depends on the timing and size of the incoming group and on the clarity of ethnic distinctions made betw...
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Ethnic, racial, and nationalist social movements organize around distinct ethnic identities, but they differ with respect to the scope of their claims, activities, and goals. Ethnic nationalist movements can be distinguished empirically from ethnic/racial movements by the presence of demands claiming legitimate rights to sovereignty and/or authorit...
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This article examines how different components of globalization affect the death toll from internal armed conflict. Conventional wisdom once held that the severity of internal conflict would gradually decline with the spread of globalization, but fatalities still remain high. Moreover, leading theories of civil war sharply disagree about how differ...
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This research examines the influence of types of protest activities, Congressional hearings and political characteristics on environmental legislation enacted from 1961–1990. We find that rates of environmental protest rise with increases in the amount of previous institutional activities, but extra-institutional activities do not raise the overall...
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African American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Women's Studies programs in higher education have received wide support from faculty members and students, yet few programs offer a major or have tenure-line faculty positions. Our analysis used sociological theories to generate testable implications about the chances that an institution will offer thes...
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Introduction and DefinitionsCharacteristics of Ethnic and Nationalist Social MovementsOrienting Research QuestionsThe Role of Nation-Building in Producing Ethnic MovementsTheories of the Development of E/R and Nationalist MovementsInternational Components of Ethnic and Nationalist Social MovementsEvaluation of Various Perspectives on E/R and Nation...
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Sociologists often assert, but rarely test, the claim that organizational diversity benefi ts social movements by invigorating movement vitality and facilitating success. Our analysis of black civil rights organizations shows that goal and tactical diversity of a social movement is largely a function of organizational density, level of resources av...
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The Global Dynamics of Racial and Ethnic Mobilization. By Susan Olzak. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006. 288p. $55.00. Susan Olzak's new monograph is a milestone in comparative research on ethnic mobilization and conflict. Not only does it chart new theoretical and methodological territory. It also offers the most rigorous proof yet that g...
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Data on the state-level ERA ratification process are used here to address leading theoretical debates about the role of social movements, public opinion, and political climate on policy outcomes, the goal being to test the claim that these factors depend on each other. Social movement organizations, public opinion, and political party support all i...
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This article explores the link between violence and public discourse. It suggests that media attention to radical right violence and public reactions to violence affect the clustering of targets and the temporal and spatial distribution of violence. The notion of "discursive opportunities" is introduced, and the article argues that it can serve to...
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This article extends existing explanations of racial conflict by suggesting how legislation and court rulings instigate processes of legitimation and competitive exclusion, which in turn affect the likelihood of racial violence. We argue that federal legislation and court cases that reinforced the white-nonwhite racial boundary stigmatized nonwhite...
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Recent research on collective action has focused on the occurrence, timing, and sequencing of such events as regime changes, riots, revolutions, protests, and the founding of social movement organizations. Event analysis allows information on the duration, number of participants, presence of violence, or outcome of some particular type of collectiv...
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During 1970–1985, South Africa vacillated between reform and reaffirmation of the repressive regime known as apartheid. Did these reforms slow the pace of protest, or did they facilitate protest, by intensifying discontent? Using event-history data on anti-apartheid protest we suggest that passage of reforms will increase the pace of protest while...
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Does sharing protest tactics influence the trajectory of protest activities among social movements? Focusing on the New Social Movements (NSMs), the authors apply concepts that have proven useful in the study of organizations. These concepts suggest that legitimation and competition processes influence both the upward and downward trajectories of p...
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Many countries seem to be confronting challenges from ethnic movements. This study extends arguments from existing theories to consider an explanation of ethnic mobilization at the world system level. The analysis uses structural equation models to compare data on ethnic mobilization in 130 countries from 1965 to 1990. The authors examine hypothese...
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Our analysis of thousands of racial confrontations and protests in South Africa and the United States provides support for the hypothesis that some forms of state-sponsored repression fuel racial unrest. In the United States our results indicate that the number of arrests by police at prior collective events deterred protest but it raised the rate...
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Social scientists have not yet considered the role of world-level processes that might explain ethnic movements. This article offers the argument that the increasing integration of a world economic and political system facilitates ethnic fragmentation within states. Two key processes are related to integration of the world system: (a) increases in...
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We test arguments that residential segregation incites racial unrest using event-histories of 154 race riots in 1960 to 1993 in 55 of the largest SMSAs in the United Stares. We argue that, although racial deprivation and residential segregation may reinforce identification with racial boundaries and awareness of racial grievances, these problems do...
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Many scholars currently link the growth of a black underclass to the persistence of racial tensions and riots in American cities. However, nearly all previous systematic studies of race riots refute these claims. We propose an alternative explanation that rests on competition processes. In this article we extend Spilerman's 1971 analysis of communi...
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Contemporary research on collective action claims that organizations play a central role in facilitating many kinds of collective actions. We reverse the causal link and ask whether ethnic conflict affects the life chances of social movement organizations. We analyze the effects of ethnic conflict, fluctuations in the economy, and organizational de...
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This research tests arguments that political challenges and economic competition shaped regional and temporal variation in lynchings and urban violence against blacks during the volatile period 1882 through 1914. The fundamental hypothesis is that rates of racial violence rose when interracial competition intensified because of immigration, urbaniz...
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This article applies arguments about the dynamics of competition in an ethnic and racial job queue to an analysis of causes of changes in occupational segregation in late 19th century America. The evidence lends credibility to the hypothesis that the presence of lower-status blacks enabled some white ethnics to move up the job queue and out of segr...
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Did strikes affect the extent of ethnic and racial conflicts in late 19th- and early 20th-century America? Data on the occurrence of conflicts and of violence against various ethnic or racial groups in the 81 largest cities, 1880-1914, show that the growth of the union movement and the rising supply of low-wage labor increased levels of ethnic comp...
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Recent research on collective action has focused on the occurrence, timing, and sequencing of such events as regime changes, riots, revolutions, protests, and the founding of social movement organizations. Event analysis allows information on the duration, number of participants, presence of violence, or outcome of some particular type of collectiv...
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Studies of ethnic conflict and protest find patterns of systematic “cycles of protest” in which minorities become the targets of concentrated attack or instigate protests against discrimination and prejudice. Such cycles have been linked to the persistence of economic exploitation and the occurrence of economic contractions, which exacerbate ethnic...
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Ethnic mobilization simultaneously divides and unites the world's states. The common threat of internal division posed by subnational movements is a widely faced challenge shared by a diverse array of countries around the world. The rise of ethnic politics since the Second World War is best understood when ethnic mobilization is seen as a process o...
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We propose that, in their choices and evaluations of major departments, all students react positively to supportive internal organizational features and to rewarding links to the external socio-economic system. We also propose, however, that men and women attach differing weights to internal and external features in selecting and reacting to major...
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This article addresses several important issues relevant to teaching introductory sociology in a changing climate of student vocationalism and additional pressures on faculty to recruit sociology majors. First, the core of sociology is identified. Then several exercises, which parallel significant substantive and research problems, are suggested. F...

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Projects (2)
Project
She recent published a paper using event-history methods to analyze the impact of social movements and allies on pro-environmental legislation in the July 2016 issue of Mobilization, which is coauthored with Sarah Soule, Marion Coddou, and John Muñoz. She is also working with Giacomo Negro on a project on the effect of protest on LGBT political and business organizations in U.S cities. She is also working on three related projects examining the impact of category spanning on the longevity of terrorist and environmental movement organizations.