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Lifestyle Movements: Exploring The Intersection of Lifestyle and Social Movement in The Voluntary Simplicity and Social Responsibility Movements



While the contentious politics (CP) model has come to dominate the field of social movements, scholars note the paradigm's shortcomings, especially its narrow focus on movement organizations, public protest, and political action. The conceptual wall between lifestyles and social movements has created a theoretical blind spot at the intersection of private action and movement participation, personal and social change, and personal and collective identity. We suggest that lifestyle movements (LMs) consciously and actively promote a lifestyle, or way of life, as a primary means to foster social change. Drawing upon our observations of a variety of LMs, we discuss three defining aspects of LMs: lifestyle choices as tactics of social change, the central role of personal identity work, and the diffuse structure of LMs. We also explore the links between LMs and social movements, CP, and conventional politics. Finally, we demonstrate that LM, as a new conceptual category, is applicable across a range of movement activities.
Lifestyle Movements: Exploring the
Intersection of Lifestyle and Social
*Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Mississippi, MS, USA, **Department of Sociology,
Luther College, IA, USA, ***Department of Sociology and Anthropology, College of the Holy Cross, MA, USA
ABSTRACT While the contentious politics (CP) model has come to dominate the field of social
movements, scholars note the paradigm’s shortcomings, especially its narrow focus on movement
organizations, public protest, and political action. The conceptual wall between lifestyles and social
movements has created a theoretical blind spot at the intersection of private action and movement
participation, personal and social change, and personal and collective identity. We suggest that
lifestyle movements (LMs) consciously and actively promote a lifestyle, or way of life, as a primary
means to foster social change. Drawing upon our observations of a variety of LMs, we discuss three
defining aspects of LMs: lifestyle choices as tactics of social change, the central role of personal
identity work, and the diffuse structure of LMs. We also explore the links between LMs and social
movements, CP, and conventional politics. Finally, we demonstrate that LM, as a new conceptual
category, is applicable across a range of movement activities.
EY WORDS: Lifestyle movements, lifestyles, social movements, new social movements, voluntary
simplicity movement, social responsibility movement
Scholars have commonly drawn sharp distinctions between social movements and
lifestyles, conceptualizing movements as organized, change-oriented collective action
aimed at the state or other authority structures, and lifestyles as more diffuse, internally
focused, style-oriented groupings driven by consumption and popular culture. Movements
feature collective (rather than individual) action, preferences for social change, a degree of
organization, some temporal continuity and operate, at least in part, outside conventional
political institutions (McAdam & Snow, 1997). Lifestyles encompass people’s everyday
practices, tastes, consumption habits, leisure activities, modes of speech and dress one’s
‘individuality, self-expression, and stylistic self-consciousness’ (Featherstone, 1987,
p. 55). While all lifestyles serve as both ways to identify with and disidentify from others,
alternative lifestyles, such as veganism, communal living and hardcore punk, fall outs ide
the mainstream in some significant way, explicitly challenging predominant cultural
norms. However, scholars tend to conceptualize movements as externally focused,
1474-2837 Print/1474-2829 Online/12/010001-20 q 2012 Taylor & Francis
Correspondence Address: Ross Haenfler, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Mississippi,
MS 38677-1848, USA. Email:
Social Movement Studies,
iFirst, 1–20, 2012
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collective ‘political’ action, while often viewing lifestyles as self-centered, largely
individualistic projects of personal expression and affirmation, thus marking movements
as serious contenders for social change and lifestyles as trivial in comparison. This divide
has created a scholarly blind spot concealing the intersections of private action and
movement participation, personal change and social change, and personal identity and
collective identity.
In this paper, we respond to Snow’s (2004, p. 19) call to ‘broaden our conceptualization
of social movements beyond contentious politics’ by exploring the space between lifestyle
and social movement and thus bridging the gap in between them. The space includes the
lifestyle ‘wings’ of established social movements, such as the green living segment of the
environmental movement. It also includes the collective challenge occasionally emergent
around lifestyle choices, such as the home-birth movement. And finally, this space is home
to a diverse array of groups such as locavore and virginity pledge movements that lie more
or less in between lifestyles and movements, engaged in ‘individualized collective action’
(Micheletti, 2003, p. 24) as lifestyle movements (LMs) that consciously and actively
promote a lifestyle, or way of life, as their primary means to foster social change
(see Miller, 2005). In this definition, we exclude collectivities that spread a lifestyle but do
not have broader goals of social change such as religious movements to save individual
souls and the ‘healthy living movement’ (Dworkin, 2000) to improv e individual physical
While LMs are quite diverse, they differ, sometimes subtly, other times profoundly, in
their tactics, structure, and deployment of identity from many traditionally studied
movements and even ‘new social movements such as environmentalism, feminism, and
gay rights. This paper explores the LM concept by outlining the key variables
distinguishing such movements from both lifestyles and contentious politics (CP). We
illuminate these differences using observations of a variety of movements, from green
living and voluntary simpl icity to virginity pledging and social responsibility. We draw
upon our original research of voluntary simplicity, social responsibility, and virginity
pledging, but in order to show the broad applicability of the LM concept, we also offer
examples from others’ empirical studies of various movements, as well as data from
movement documents such as mission statements, websites, and books. After reviewing
the CP model and alternatives, we discuss in depth the three defining characteristics of
LMs: (1) lifestyle choice as a tactic of social change, (2) the central role of personal
identity work, and (3) the diffuse structure of lifestyle movements. We conclude by
reviewing the central conceptual themes of LMs, considering their place in contemporary
societies, and demonstrating that a variety of movement activities occurs in the space
between lifestyles and movements.
Contentious Politics and Alternative Paradigms
While there are many theories explaining social movements, the CP paradigm including
both political process/opportunity and resource mobilization theories predominates,
defining movements as organ ized, episodic, manifestly political, public interactions
between claims makers and their targets, typically the state or its representatives
(McAdam et al., 2001). While noting its strengths, many scholars have critiqued CP,
particularly for being ‘too narrowly focused on political action and protest events’
(Staggenborg & Taylor, 2005, p. 38) and for neglecting ‘cultural and discursive tactics’
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(Taylor & Van Dyke, 2004, pp. 267 268; see also Snow, 2004). The CP definition of
social movements does not adequately explain lifestyle-centered or identity-based
movements that combine personal and social transformation. How can we theorize groups
like vegetarians, Promise Keepers, green lifestyle adopters, locavores, slow fooders,
voluntary simplifiers, and virginity pledgers, groups that profess to change the world but
focus more energy on cultivating a morally coherent, personally gratifying lifestyle and
identity than issuing direct challenges to the state/social structure? Such phenomena are
worthy of consideration as movements they are explicitly social change-oriented, often
extrainstitutional, and persist over time but are more individualistic rather than
collective, personal rather than social, and tend to emp hasize cultural targets rather than
the state.
Moving beyond critiquing the CP approach, several scholars have more recently offered
alternative conceptualizatio ns of movements (e.g., Staggenborg & Taylor, 2005). Snow
(2004, p. 11) advocates conceptualizing social movements as ‘collective challenges to
systems or structures of authority,’ including challenges that are not ‘manifestly political,’
efforts aimed at affecting ‘various levels of social life’ (including the individual), and that
come in various forms other than conventional social movement organizations (SMOs).
Likewise, Zald (2000) sees movements as ‘ideologically structured action, shifting focus
from movement organizations and protest events to arenas that nurture movement identity,
ideology, and activity, such as schools, families, and cultural groups.
Multi-Institutional Politics and the Politics of Lifestyle Concern
A promising alternative to the CP/political process model is Armstrong and Bernstein’s
(2008) ‘multi-institutional politics’ theory, explaining that movements challenge multiple
sources of power (rather than only the state), pursue both material and symbolic change,
and involve challengers both within and outside of targeted institutions. The multi-
institutional politics model encompasses collective challenges to all societal institutions
(including medicine, sport, science, religion, media, and education) from a wide variety of
ideologies and tactics. It illuminates ‘awkward movements’ those that do not fit well
into the political process/CP models because they are not instrumental, do not target the
state, and/or are not comprised of an oppressed group.
In a similar vein, Page & Clelland (1978) and Lorentzen (1980) discuss the ‘politics of
lifestyle concern,’ examining how and why groups engage in political struggle to preserve
a way of life, such as traditional morality in public school textbooks. While
acknowledging the importance of lifestyle and culture as elements of movement activity,
these sorts of phenomena entail collective public political action (i.e., CP) undertaken to
preserve or advance a way of life. In contrast, we examine lifestyle action undertaken by
(primarily) individual s with the self-conscious agenda of change.
New Social Movement Tradition
Perhaps the most recognized attempt to connect culture and social movements comes
from scholars working in the new social movement (NSM) tradition. They bring renewed
attention to the role of cultur e and identity in movements, in particular, how movements
construct grievances, create and maintain collective identities, and engage in symbolic
action in the cultural sphere (Melucci, 1985, 1994; Touraine, 1985; Buechler, 1993,
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1995). Such movements struggle over postmaterialist values, identities, and cultural
practices rather than class-based economic concerns and material resources. People
identify with ‘communities of meaning’ (Cohen, 1985) as they pursue ‘lifestyle politics’
(Giddens, 1991; Bennett, 1998), engaged in the ‘politicization of the self and daily life’
(Taylor & Whittier, 1992, p. 117). NSM theories have expanded the focus from
movement organizations and conventional politics, pointing to broader definitions of
movements based on loos ely organized networks, collective identities, and cultural
Yet, even scholars employing NSM theories often study organizationally based, public
collective action aimed at changing government policy (Kriesi et al., 1995), to the
detriment of understanding movements employing individualistic, lifestyle-centered
action creating a ‘myopia of the visible’ by equating movement activity with public
protests (Melucci, 1989, p. 44). While NSM acknowledges that movement organizations
tend to be segm ented, diffuse, and decentralized, the focus still remains on
organizations. Other criticisms of NSM theories abound; for example, they incorrectly
tie a category of movements to a specific historical period (Calhoun, 1993) and neglect
right-wing movements (Pichardo, 1997). Most significantly, rather than a coherent
conceptual theory, NSMs are a catchall category including organized, hierarchical protest
movements (e.g., peace, antinuke, disability rights, and gay rights) with relatively
unorganized, diffuse ‘cultural’ movements (e.g., countercultures, cultural feminism, and
squatter movements) (see Laran a et al., 1994). Includi ng every postlabor, post-1960s,
postmaterialist movement under one banner implies similarities between movements that
differ extraordinarily in form, tactics, and targets.
Prefigurative Politics and Political Consumerism
Prefigurative politics, the concept most closely linked to lifestyle action in the social
movements literature, describes activists’ attempts to create on a small scale the type of
world they envision (Breines, 1989). Practices such as communal living, creating
alternative economic institutions, and exercising participatory democracy serve to
withdraw support from structures deemed unjust and/or provide the cultural foundations
for broad er social change (Corne ll, 2009). Prefigurative politics paves the way for protest
movements to engage with the state or other institutions. While LMs may ‘prefigure’
alternative realities supportive of protest, many have no intention of targeting the state
because they have no broader political agenda (e.g., vegetarians and virginity pledgers).
For some LMs, attempts at ‘winning cultural space (Clarke et al., 1976) are ends in
The ‘political consumerism’ lite rature examines how social movements politicize and
effectively mobilize consumption through campaigns such as consumer boycotts (Holzer,
2006; Wiedenhoft, 2008). Consumer campaigns ‘collectivize individual choice’ and
convert indivi dual monetary resources into political power (Holzer, 2006, p. 406).
However, these campaigns are often too short-lived and narr ow in scope to be considered
the mobilization of a ‘lifestyle.’ Micheletti (2003) notes, however, that lifestyle political
consumerism a variation of political consumerism is growing in importance, directly
emph asizing a deeper personal commitment to synthesizing public and pr ivate
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Lifestyle Movements
LMs occupy a space where NSMs, prefigu rative politics, political consumerism,
subcultures, religious movements, lifestyle trends, and even CP overlap. We describe the
variables most relevant to LMs in an effort to make better sense of the diversity of
movements that do not neatly fit the CP model. LMs differ from many traditionally studied
social movements in several key ways:
. LMs promote individual (vs. collective) action; participation occurs primarily at
the individual level with the subjective understanding that others are taking
similar action, collectively adding up to social change .
. LMs engage in private (vs. public), ongoing (vs. episodic) action; adherents
interweave action into daily life.
. LM adherents subjectively understand their individual, private actions as efforts
toward social change (vs. exclusively self-help, religious exploration, or personal
. LM adherents engage in identity work, focusing particularly on cultivating a
morally coherent, personally meaningful identity in the context of a collective
identity. Personal identity is a site of social change.
In addition to these primary characteristics, LMs also have two tendencies:
. LMs tend to be structurally diffuse (vs. centrally organized), yet have a degree of
coherence and continuity that contrasts them with fads or trends.
. LMs tend to target cultural practices and codes (vs. formal/political institutions).
The following list briefly introduces examples of LMs we use to illustrate the points above,
chosen for their variety of structure, goals, tactics, and general political ideologies/
. Voluntary simplicity: reducing material possessions for psychological, social, and
environmental reasons.
. Social responsibility: promoting environmental and social sustainability through
ethical consumption (e.g., fair trade) and daily habits.
. Virginity pledge: sexual abstinence movement aimed at both personal spiritual
fulfillment and challenging ‘hookup’ and ‘pornographic’ culture.
. Quiverfull: conservative Christian pronatalist movement that ‘trust the Lord’ to
determine (typically large) family size.
. Promise Keepers: conservative Christian movement of men committed to
‘changing the world’ by being spiritual leaders of their families.
. Locavore: eating locally produced foods to support local economies and
environmental sustainability.
. Slow food: links pleasurable eating and good food to building community and
environmental sustainability.
. Veganism/Vegetarianism: eliminat ing animal products from one’s diet to
minimize animal suffering and/or environmental dest ruction.
. Green living: living ‘lightly on the planet’ by recycling and conserving energy
and water.
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Lifestyle Movement Tactics Participation Targets
While social movement scholars working in the CP tradition typically conceptualize
movement participation and tactics in terms of public protest directed toward the state or
other power structures, more recently some have begun to focus on collective actions that
are aimed more directly at values expressi on (Dalton, 1994), discursive politics
(Katzenstein, 1995), and cultural-performative forms of resistance (Staggenborg &
Taylor, 2005; Van Dyke et al., 2004). Compared to overtly political movements,
participation in LMs is (1) relatively individualized and private, (2) ongoing rather than
episodic, and (3) aimed at changing cultural and economic prac tices rather than targeting
the state.
Individual (vs. Collect ive) Private (vs. Public) Action
While LM adherents occasionally express themselves collectively and may affiliate with a
social change organization, mos t movement ‘acti on’ occurs individually. As compared to
collective public action, LMs involve integrating movement values into relatively private
individual action, focusing on the mundane aspects of daily living: consumpt ion habits,
leisure activities, eating and cooking, modes of dress, money management,
transportation/travel, and water and energy consumption. Locavores people who
intentionally seek out and buy locally produced food at farmers’ markets and food co-ops
do not shop for groceries together, en masse. They see their individual actions as having
potential to bolster local economies and gradually shift food production practices on a
larger scale (Hinrichs, 2003). As Ostrom (2009, p. 117) reports from her study of
community-supported agriculture, proponents avoid ‘conventional protests or the political
process’ in favor of ‘refashioning their daily eating, cooking, and shopping routines
around the seasonal output of local agroecosy stems.’ Further, ‘Many participants in the
movement are convinced that by reorienting their everyday habits and lifestyles in
accordance with their values they can effect change at a wider level’ (Ostrom, 2009,
p. 117).
While many types of movements advocate lifestyle changes as part of a larger strategy
(e.g., women’s, black power, environmental, and queer movements), participants in LMs
seek social change primarily via individual lifestyle change. The voluntary simplicity
movement advocates reducing overall material consumption by fixing broken items,
reusing old items, and ‘doing without’ in order to reduce environmental burdens. These
actions serve to defy a culture of materialism, and free up financial resources to work less,
spend more time with family, and volunteer (Elgin, 1993 [1981]; Doherty & Etzioni,
2003). The social responsibility movement encourages participants to ‘vote’ with their
dollars, buying from socially responsible companies (and boycotting others), supporting
locally owned businesses, purchasing ‘fair trade’ products, and making socially
responsible investments (Jones, 2002). One organization, Center for a New American
Dream, offers a wallet card with socially responsible shopping tips and the mantra
‘Every dollar I spend is a statement about the kind of world I want and the quality of life
I value.’ As they act individually, participants subjectively understand their individual
actions as having an impact beyond their personal lives, believing in both the power of
their individual action and the power of non-coordinated collective action.
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Some LMs focus exclusively on social or external benefits such as the social
responsibility movement, asserting that global poverty can be reduced through buying
‘fairly traded’ products while most highlight potential external and personal benefits of
lifestyle action. For example, the Quiverfull movement an evangelical Christian
movement whose followers eschew birth control advocates large families, not simply
for parental fulfillment, but rather as a tactic of spreading Christian doctrine, as suggested
in Scott’s (2004) book Birthing God’s Mighty Warriors. This focus on creating social
change distinguishes LMs from more insular subcultures such as goth, polyamor-
y/swingers, and nudists who focus on creating a cultural space where they can freely
express themselves. While such groups certainly challenge cultural norms, their intention
is less to change society than to be left alone to their leisure pursuits (Muggleton, 2000).
Similarly, a religious sect or movement with an emphasis on proselytizing but little
subjectively understood outward-focused goals of change differs from the lifestyle
challenge offered by groups such as Quiverfull, Promise Keepers, and virginity pledgers.
Cultural (vs. Political) Targets
While participants in CP target the state or its represe ntatives, LMs tend to target cultural
codes and individual practices. Snow (2004) suggests that movements challenge ‘authority
structures’ that include cultural authorities and norms. Virginity pledgers may focus on
individual abstention, but they still understand their personal choices as part of a collective
challenge against a perceived ‘hookup’ culture that encourages casual sex. Pledge
organization Silver Ring Thing aims to ‘reverse the moral decay of [ ...] youth culture’
and to ‘create a culture shift in America where abstinence becomes the norm again rather
than the exception’ (Haenfler, 2010, p. 12). Similarly, Williams (2001, p. 3) notes that
movements such as Promise Keepers, rather than engaging in an explicit ‘political reform
agenda,’ are instead ‘determined to change society by altering fundamentally the way in
which lives are lived,’ with adherents believing that ‘change happens through the
transformation of the hearts and minds of individuals, who in turn create different
relationships, that in turn help change other persons.’ Likewise, in the vegetarian
movement the dominant strategy for reducing animal suffering is not collective political
action but ‘collective individual improvement’ (Maurer, 2002, p. 115); in contrast, the
broader animal rights movement frequently issues specific policy demands via collective
public action.
Ongoing (vs. Episodic) Participation
Social movements scholars have long identified ‘cycles of protest,’ demonstrating that
protest activity fluctuates, with movement participation growing and declining based, in
part, on the political opportunities present (Tarrow, 1998). While collective action in the
public sphere is episodic for most social movement participants (e.g., election cycles),
LMs encourage participants to integrate movement values into a holistic way of life,
creating a more perpetual obligation toward movement action. Even though the Promise
Keepers hold periodic collective rallies, the group’s primary mission encourages men to
consistently be better fathers and husbands (Williams, 2001). Food-related LMs (e.g., slow
food, locavore, and vegetarianism) address how one acquires, prepares, and eats food for
every meal (Ostrom, 2009), and the ‘green living’ movement addresses almost all daily
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behaviors (e.g., water and energy consumption, buying habits, transportation, and food).
Such ongoing actions are sustainable because they are relatively low cost, exposing
participants to minimal financial, legal, or physical risks. For participants wary of CP, they
provide less confrontational and more accessible opportunities to pursue social change.
While participation in LMs will ebb and flow, the opportunities for current adherents to act
remain, regardless of political trends.
Identity Work in Lifestyle Movements
Under the CP and NSM paradigms, scholars typically consider collec tive, rather than
personal, identity. Organizers use collective identity ‘an individual’s cognitive, moral,
and emotional connection with a broader community, category, practice, or institution’
(Polletta & Jasper, 2001, p. 285) to construct grievances, foster commitment, demarcate
symbolic movement boundaries, and sustain commitment between protest cycles
(Taylor, 1989; Gamson, 1997; Staggenborg & Taylor, 2005). However, personal identity
is likewise significant as participants reconcile their own identity with that of the
movement (Reger et al., 2008). The relationship between collective and personal identity
is particularly important to LMs. In LMs, rather than simply being linked to an
organization’s collective identity for purposes of political mobilization, personal identity
becomes a site of social change in and of itself as adherents engage in identity work
directed at crafting personal integrity and authenticit y (Grigsby, 2004).
As in CP, collective identity serves several functions in LMs, including creating a sense
of meanin g and ‘we-ness,’ and mobilizing participation. However, since lifestyle action is
individualized and privatized instead of collective and public, building strong personal
connections between participants is not nearly as likely (nor possibly important) for LMs.
While some LMs may not exhibit a strong collective identity, movement adherents
participate in an ‘imagined community’ consisted of those they see and hear about taking
similar action. Vegetarians, for example, often understand that while they may only
experience their own actions and commitment, man y others like them are taking similar
actions resulting in a significant collective result (Maurer, 2002). In this way, collective
identity provides an additional layer of meaning to individual action by connecting
individuals to something greater than themselves (Polletta & Jasper, 2001). Granted, the
collective identity may be relatively weak (i.e., individuals do not strongly identify with
the identity or follow through with its proscribed duties); even the ‘name’ of the movement
may be contested (as in voluntary simplicity) or virtually nonexistent (as in social
Nevertheless, in the absence of direct connections to organizations or
other adherents, collective identity, fostered by the various structures outlined below,
plays an important role in giving LMs their ‘movementness.
Identity as a Site of Social Change (vs. Resource to be Mobilized)
More importantly for LMs, collective identity is a resource and reference po int for
individuals as they craft morally coherent and meaningful personal identities. While
teasing apart collective identity and personal identity is difficult in any social movement,
the distinction between a participant’s identification with a group (i.e., collective identity)
and one’s perceived character traits (i.e., personal identity) (Polletta & Jasper, 2001)
becomes especially muddy as LMs encourage partic ipants to continually integrate
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movement goals into multiple aspects of daily life, the same daily activities that contribute
to a morally coherent sense of self.
Participants in LMs see their involvement as a quest for personal ‘integrity’ and
‘authenticity,’ adhering to some version of the premise that a human being is a sum
total of her/his daily choices. Authors of popular voluntary simplicity books assert
that ‘the development of the authentic personality is vital to experiencing life fully’
(Andrews, 1997, p. 69) and that ‘act[ing] in your day-to-day life in a way consistent with
your values and purpose’ leads to a sense of ‘wholeness and integrity’ (Dominguez &
Robin, 1992, p. 155). Proponents of the animal rights movement, a movement that fuses
lifestyle action and CP, ‘struggle to bring their lifestyles in line with their beliefs’ and see
the movement as ‘not simply an isolated set of ideas or philosophical beliefs’ but entailing
‘a transformation of their daily lives’ (Herzog, 1993, p. 110).
As such, the more one engages in actions that reflect deeply held values, the more
personal integrity one feels. When indicating their motivations for action from a list of 21
statements, members of social responsibility organization Green America indicated the
strongest support for ‘I wanted my actions to support my values more closely’
(Jones, 2002, p. 141). This process of aligning values and daily action involves ‘discursive
consciousness’ (G iddens, 1984) where actors increase the intentionality of their daily
actions through introspection and/or research. As each of these cases demonstrates, goals
of personal integrit y, of crafting a ‘pure’ identity, may motivate action more than the
resulting social change.
Identity Work
Identity work, especially the quest for personal integrity, propels participants in LMs to
action in lieu of more traditional forms of collective organizing (meetings, protests).
One of the conundrums of social movement participation is the free-rider problem
(Olson, 1965). In the case of the social responsibility movement, why pay more for organic
food, fair trade coffee, or a hybrid car if your action makes almost no difference in the
large-scale outcome of the problem (whether that be the plight of world coffee farmers or
global climate change) and any change that occur s will likely occur whether you
participate or not? For LMs especially, identities motivate adherents to action (see
Haenfler, 2004). Virginity pledgers see certain sexual expressions as contradictory to the
pledge identity; Bearman and Bru
ckner (2001, p. 859) sugges t, ‘The pledge works becau se
it is embedded in an identity movement.’ Anticipating others’ responses, real or imagined,
and internalizing judgment from the LM’s ‘generalized other,’ adherents consider their
options and adjust their actions accordingly (Mead, 1934).
Grigsby (2004, p. 20) describes participants in voluntary simplicity support groups as
engaging in moral identity work, or efforts to define themselves as ‘worthwhile and good
people’ forming an oppositional identity to those who are overly materialistic and not
concerned with the well-being of others or the planet. Thus, for LM s in particular,
movement participation becomes an avenue for constructing a desirab le self (Teske, 1997).
Micromanaging daily choices based on values embedded in a collec tive identity is typical
of LMs. Success mea ns personal, moral integrity, often regardless of collective impact,
i.e., collective success. As one vegan respondent said, ‘On a personal level, after two years
of veganism, I can honestly say that I feel good knowing that I can go through my life, my
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entire day, without imposing any cruelty on animals in any way’ (Herzog, 1993, p. 111).
Likewise, failure is a personal, moral failure to live up to individual and movement idea ls.
Lifestyle Movement Structure
In the broadest sense, the structure of a social movement includes processes that provide
ideological boundaries, disseminate movement ideology, strategically motivate and
coordinate collective action, and foster some degree of continuity. The CP approach
emphasizes the central role that SMOs play in ‘structuring’ a movement. This approach
has serious limitations for studying LMs because most participants have limited contact
with such organizations. Much of the structure of LMs, including movement ideology and
authority, tends to emerge from a diffuse discursive field rather than in the course of a
highly organized campaign (although there are exceptions such as Promise Keepers).
However, while LMs have a lesser degree of organization than many commonly studied
movements, they have a degree of long-term continuity and stability that differentiates
them from the more spontaneous forms of collective behavior such as fads, crazes, and
panics. Lifestyle movement structure emerges from (1) informal social networks,
(2) cultural entrepreneurs, and (3) via connections to formal organizations, including
lifestyle movement organizations (LMOs), nonprofits, and SMOs (see Cherry, 2006).
Informal Networks (vs. Bureaucratic Movement Organizations)
Similar to mainstream lifestyles, alternative lifestyles spread through informal social
networks, rituals, and events that infuse meaning and significance upon consumption
patterns and other daily habits. Participants in LMs often learn about the movement from
friends or family and receive new ideas and continued support from loose social networks
rather than via an SMO. For example, ‘as each vegetarian becomes more grounded in the
vegetarian ethic, he or she is expected to become an increasingly powerful resource for
attracting and motivating others’ (Maurer, 2002, p. 115).
More specifically, locavores meet and share ideas at food co-ops, community gardens,
farmers markets, or in their religious communities. Just as friends ‘show off’ their stylish
purchases, participants in the social responsibility movement ‘model’ their fair trade
coffee, vegetarian cooking, and bicycles as socially responsible and environmentally
friendly alternatives (Jones, 2002). For some voluntary simplifiers, informal groups
called ‘simplicity circles’ act as a place to support each other in their lifestyle choices
(Grigsby, 2004). For each of these movements, informal social networks contribute to an
ongoing discourse that serves as the ‘structure’ in lieu of a formal SMO.
Alternative media outlets such as magazines, websites, blogs, Facebook pages,
YouTube videos, and Twitter feeds play an important role in facilitating LMs’ informal
structure, providing a virtual space for adherents to interact. Virginity pledge networks,
for example, post YouTube videos extolling the benefits of abstinence (and viewers
comment, adding to the conversation), maintain and interact via Facebook pages, and print
abstinence-focused magazines such as Just for Girls and Just for Guys (Haenfler, 2010).
Such media also advertise products amenable to movement goals, providing further
opportunities for action; the Green America website offers links to socially responsible
products with a ‘green gift’ guide. Collectively, these media forums contribute to
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movement structure by fostering virtual/print ‘meeting spaces’ in effect substituting for
organizational meetings and mobilization and facilitating discussions around action.
Cultural Entrepreneurs (vs. Formal Leaders)
While LMs often do not have formal leaders, individual ‘cultural entrepreneurs’ emerge as
movement ‘authorities’ by producing popular books, audio recordings, newsletters,
magazines, or documentaries. Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin started one of the first US
voluntary simplicity organizations, the New Road Map Foundation in 1984, based on sales
of their audiotape series on gaining ‘financial independence’ by reducing consumption
followed in 1992 by the best-selling book, Your Money or Your Life. The Quiverfull
movement owes its growth to Mary Pride’s book The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back
to Reality and the resulting discussions led by pastors and laypeople (Joyce, 2009). These
leaders are cultural entrepreneurs in that they have gained a following based on their
individual charismatic writings and lectures rather than through leadership in an SMO. Such
authors’ writings and speaking engagements provide ideological structure and boundaries
to diffuse lifestyle movements, becoming part of the movement’s cultural ‘toolkit .’
Lifestyle Movement Organizations
Finally, while most LM adherents may never belong to or participate in a movement
organization, LMOs, nonprofits, and businesses nevertheless structure these LMs as they
organize and groom leaders, build a collec tive identity, refine movement ideology,
organize public events and social networks, and mobilize adherents to spread movement
ideology. For example, virginity pledge organizations such as the Silver Ring Thing host
Facebook pages on which young people who may have never been to a pledge event can
still interact and find community, and Slow Food USA’s website connects viewers to local
slow food chapters (Parkins & Craig, 2006). LMOs attempt to mobilize lifestyles toward
social goals, seeking to convert nonadherents to adher ents and adherents to participants.
One way LMOs structure an LM is by reaching out to the public with suggestions for
lifestyle action. The UK-based Vegetarian Society offers fact sheets on the environmental
costs and animal harm of meat production along with recipes to ease the transition to a
meat-free diet. Within the voluntary simplicity movement, the Center for a New American
Dream employs a paid professional staff, manages a membership list of betwee n 5000 and
10,000 members, and creates and distribut es strategically crafted ideological messages to
its members and to the mainstream media. Campaigns such as ‘Simplify the Holidays’
‘sell’ voluntary simpl icity in a mainstream, socially palatable manner, and encourage
those who already take private, lifestyle action to become what could be called lifestyle
activists spreading movement ideology through their informal social networks
(e.g., emails, starting a study group) and through public advocacy (e.g., passing out
brochures, letters to editor, and organizing a ‘Buy Nothing Day’ event).
LMOs can also structure movement discourse by deci ding which leaders get to speak
for the movement. In 2001, voluntary simplicity leaders created The Simplicity Forum as a
‘think tank’ for voluntary simplicity movement (VSM) cultural entrepreneurs. By
excluding authors who do not assert the importance of social justice and environmental
factors in their call to ‘live simply,’ VS leaders have more systematically set ideological
boundaries, intentionally shaping the move ment’s structure (Johnson, 2004). Similarly, in
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the vegetarian movement, national organizations articulate movement ideology and
provide structure for the emergence of a collective identity (Maurer, 2002).
In consumption-based lifes tyle moveme nts, businesses and independent certifiers often
achieve positions of authority, shaping movement structure and ideology. In the social
responsibility movement (and within the larger context of political consumerism), retailers
(e.g., natural food stores, fair trade outlets), manufacturers, and service providers
(e.g., carbon offset companies) play a central role in defining what is ‘desirable’ (in this case,
‘socially responsible’). Nonprofit organizations also act as official arbiters of movement
values. These organizations can certify products as ‘fair trade,’ ‘sustainably harvested,’ or
‘organic,’ thereby distinguishing which products are ‘actually’ socially responsible.
Ideological parameters and behavioral expectations for an LM are negotiated within a
diffuse discursive field shaped by peers, cultural entrepreneurs, economic organizations,
and formal LMOs but this mix of actors differs from movement to movement.
The Relationship between Lifestyle Movements, Social Movements, and Politics
Thus far, we have sought to distinguish LMs from more centralized, manifestly political
movements, indicating that LMs form around diffuse networks and an ongoing discourse
rather than formal SMOs. We have demonstrated that LMs encourage individualized
participation in the private sphere rather than collective action in the public sphere,
seeking to create cultural alternatives. Yet, LMs and more manifestly political social
movements overlap; indeed, they are often inextricably linked, as movement organizations
regularly promote both lifestyle and collective action, and adherents of LMs occasion ally
engage in electoral and contentious politics. Thus, we explore the links between LMs and
(1) broad social movements and specific SMOs, (2) CP, and (3) conventional politics.
Lifestyle Movements and Social Movements
LMs often have strong relationships with broader social move ments and their respective
movement organizations. For example, Qui verfull, Promise Keepers, and virginity
pledgers could be considered lifestyle ‘wings ’ of the broader conservative Christian
movement. Green living, voluntary simplicity, slow food, and social responsibility
emerged from and contribute to the environmental and social justice movements (among
others). As LM identities tend to be customizable and fluid, they often overlap with other
social change-oriented identities, potentially connec ting adherents to a variety of other
causes. Thus, a vegetarian may connect with an animal rights group; Herzog (1993, p. 111)
found that in some cases, ‘vegetarianism led to an involvement in animal protection
[movements].’ In addition to these broad relationships, SMOs specifically have several
important effects on LMs. First, SMOs explicitly link lifestyle action to social change.
LMs and mor e centralized, overtly political movements often arise from the same
discursive field, a sort of hybrid movement such as the environmental movement, with
significant focus on both CP and lifestyle action. Many environmental SMOs encourage
reducing one’s carbon footprint by consciously making different lifestyle choices,
illustrating the connections between the ‘green’ lifestyle and the movement’s more
political, protest-oriented branches. Fo r example, members of the Sierra Club can join
email lists ranging from ‘The Green Life,’ offering ‘daily tips for living well and doing
good’ to ‘RAW’ ‘dispatches from the front lines of the environmental movement.’
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Second, along with LMOs, SMOs promote and inspire new ideas for daily action that
filter into the LM discourse. As part of their ‘Stand for Christmas’ campaign, Focus on the
Family, a conservative Christian organization, encourages consumers to shop only at
‘Christmas friendly’ retailers that employ ‘Merry Christmas in their stores rather than the
perceived secular ‘Happy holidays’ (Barna, 2008). The Audubon Society, which promotes
conservation through education and advocacy, has a free, printable wallet card rating the
environmental impact of varieties of seafood; the idea is a portable, easily understood
guide for consumers to make effective lifestyle choices. While such campaigns target
members of these organizations, the ideas transcend any one SMO.
Lifestyle Movements and Contentious Politics
Just as SMOs provide LMs with resources, ideas, and inspiration, participants in LMs also
sometimes engage in CP. LMs such as voluntary simplicity and social responsibility likely
serve as collective action reservoirs , pools of potential participants whose collective value
identities make them an ideal ‘reserve guard’ ready to periodically support particular
protest events and mobilizations. The women’s move ment’s collective action reservoir
includes ‘lifestyle feminists,’ those who neither claim membership in movement
organizations nor actively participate in protest politics, yet support feminist principles,
perhaps by boycotting sexist media, subverting dominant beaut y norms, refusing to marry,
and avoiding sexist, racist, and homophobic language. Yet, by virtue of their orientation to
a value identity expressed in daily life, and their loose affiliation with a collective identity,
they can periodically be called to action around a common purpose, for example, in
demanding government funds for women’s health clinics or marching in a ‘Take Back the
Night’ rally against sexual violence. The divide between an LM participant and an activist
engaged in CP is not absolute; rather, LM participants may be occasional/temporary
activists, and CP activists may incorporate lifestyle actions into their repertoires. Still, an
LM participant is oriented toward individual efforts at cultural change, driven especially
by a desire to live out a moral identity or code. Relatively speaking, a social movement
activist engages in collec tive action, typically in the context of a more organized group
such as an SMO, driven by the express goal of changing public policy.
Similarly, LMs may serve as refuges in times of unfavorable political opportunity,
acting as abeyance structures until opportunities improve (Rupp & Taylor, 1987;
Taylor, 1989). Some LM participants come to the cause without previous connection to
(or interest in) CP, but others may be activists discouraged by political setbacks or burned
out from social change work. When political movements wane, entering abeyance, LMs
endure, and when political activists drop out (temporarily or permanently) they may
continue taking action in their daily lives. Some participants in the social responsibility
movement had been activists but became disillusioned with politics, turning instead to
lifestyle action as a means of change (Jones, 2002).
For example, global justice and
democracy activists of the late 1990s and early 2000s in the USA saw their political
opportunities diminish with the election of George W. Bush, the terror ist attacks of 9/11,
and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, it is likely that even as protest
activity cooled, activists continued to boycott corporations with the most egregious
environmental/human rights records and boycott fairly traded goods. Unlike previous
theorists who often locate abeyance structures in relatively small, solitary groups, we
propose that LMs may be broader than their related political movements. Serving as
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abeyance structures, LMs maintain a collective identity that nurtures participants’ sense
‘of mission and moral purpose’ even if outside the political realm (Taylo r, 1989, p. 762).
When political opportunities arise and a new protest cycle commences, some LM
participants may reengage with CP.
Lifestyle Movements and Conventional Politics
Finally, as we’ve shown, LMs generally do not explicitly target the state, yet such
movements may serve as a bridge to direct involvement in more conventional politics.
As Tug
al (2001, p. 452) notes, ‘daily conduct can be part and parcel of political struggles.’
Virginity pledgers, Promise Keepers, Quiverfull, and other ostensibly apolitical religious
groups seek to change culture via changing adherents’ lifestyles and, in nurturing
conservative values and networks, may produce foot soldiers for the conservative political
movement. Green America’s website includes information about ‘green’ dry-cleaning
alongside a campaign to persuade Congressional leaders to hold the nuclear industry
accountable for the risks of nuclear powe r. Tips on ‘greening’ one’s wedding coexist with
guides on organizing ‘No Sweatshop’ campaigns, and fair trade coffee websites advocate
lobbying for ‘fair trade’ legislation. In an age of online politics and political action, LM
adherents may provide fertile ground for virtual mobilization, becoming occasional
point-and-click ‘activists’ as they sign online petitions, send donations, and email political
leaders on behalf of organizations. Socially responsible phone company CREDO offers
30 ‘free speech minutes’ each month, at no cost, for subscribers to lobby government
officials regarding pressing legislation. Thus, a lifestyle choice (phone service) can serve
as a bridge to conventional political involvement. In this case, the consumer can become a
citizen consumer as choices made in the economic sphere facilitate action in the political
In this paper, we resp ond to scholars’ call to expand theori es of social movements beyond
the content ious politics paradigm, seeking to develop an alternative lifestyle
movements meant to describe the characteristics of movements that do not neatly fit the
organizational/political theories available. To review, lifestyle movements are loosely
bound collectivities in which participants advocate lifestyle change as a primary means to
social change, politicizing daily life while pursuing morally coherent ‘authentic’
identities. They span the political spectrum and are not confined to one particular historical
era. We think the LM framewor k should prove useful in analyses of many othe r groups:
anarchists and intentional communities; global justice and fair trade movements; political
punk and hip-hop; vegetarianism, veganism, and animal rights; ‘craftivism,’ which
connects handicrafts to social justice; ‘healthy livers and temperance movements;
religious revival movements; advocates of ‘random acts of kindness’ and branches of the
environmental, feminist, and queer movements wherever people actively spread a ‘way
of life’ in service to larger social change goals.
As we have shown, LMs encourage adherents to take action in their daily lives, an
aspect of movements that demands further study. Indeed, while the vast majority of people
will never engage in civil disobedience or even symbolic demonstration, many more
consider the impacts that their daily choices have on their social world. They subjectively
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understand their choices as part of larger efforts toward social change. Self-actualization
and social transformation overlap; lifestyle politics and the politics of personal identity are
important components of movements. Giddens (1991, pp. 214215) distinguishes
between emancipatory politics seeking to liberate people from oppressive, hierarchical
constraints and life politics, a politics of self-actualization asking ‘how should we live’ a
moral life. ‘While emancipatory politics is a politics of life chances, life politics is a
politics of lifestyle [and] life decisions.’ In this context, LMs asse rt themselves as moral
vehicles where ‘life politics’ can become part of a collective challenge as participants seek
to ‘be the change they wish to see in the world.’ Lifestyle action can be an exercise in
prefigurative politics prefiguring on a small, manageable scale more expansive
collective challenges that could be enacted if political opportuni ties become more
LMs do not primarily rest on formal organizations, instead relying on cultural
entrepreneurs, social networks, and shared media to shape an ongoing movement
discourse and provide some degree of ‘structure.’ These ‘communities of meaning’
provide ideological frameworks, action repertoires for creating ‘authentic’ lifestyles, and
models for personally sustainable, long-term social action. In lieu of formal organization,
many LMs create ‘a shared status or relation, which may be imagined rather than
experienced directly’ (Polletta & Jasper, 2001, p. 285). This loose collective identity
supports the personal identity work cent ral to LMs, as participants undertake a perpetual
personal quest for integrity, meaning, and authenticity. Collective identity is a reference
point availa ble to adherents as they consider various personal choices (Haenfler, 2004). It
sustains commitment or ‘an individual’s identification with a collectivity that leads to
instrumental, affective, and moral attachments that lead to investments in movement lines
of activity’ (Hunt & Benford, 2004, p. 440). Participants in LMs gain personal satisfaction
in living out value identities, in living a life in line with their personal moral values. As
Melucci writes, ‘To an increasing degree, problems of individual identity and collective
action become meshed together; the solidarity of the group is inseparable from the
personal quest’ (1996, p. 115). In LMs, the self, rather than the streets, becomes the site of
social change.
While the mobilization of lifestyle has long coexisted with social movements
(e.g., Gandhi’s khadi campaign, consumer boycotts in the anti-apartheid movement),
LMs feature prominently in postindustrial societies for many of the same reasons used to
explain the emergence of NSMs such as the rise of postmaterialist values (Inglehart, 1990).
However, LMs are in a sense newer than typically studied NSMs, that is, LMs are more
individualized and more deeply infused with personal identity work. Individualistic,
consumer-oriented societies emphasize the importance of lifestyle in identity construction,
encouraging people to individualize the self by altering daily habits (especially
consumption). Just as people ‘shop for and attempt to personalize their style, hobbies, and
religious/spiritual identities, so too do they customize their involvement in social change.
Reflective of Beck’s ‘individualization thesis,’ in which self-reflexive individuals are
increasingly responsible for directing their own lives, individuals must navigate a plurality
of behavioral guidelines and ‘import them into their biographies through their own
actions’ (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2002, p. 2). In this context, where individuals feel both
responsible for and empowered in dealing with social problems (Connolly & Prothero,
2008), LM s can serve as blueprints for the construction of lifestyles ori ented toward
authentic identities and social change.
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Engagement in LMs reflects a broader shift in politics as ‘personal identity is replacing
collective identity as the basis for contemporary political engagement’ (Bennett, 1998,
p. 755). Beck (1997, p. 98) warns against the equation of politics and state, politics and
the political system,’ seeing ‘subpolitics’ as representing the ‘struggle for a new
dimension of politics’ (p. 101), less institutionalized and built upon individual decisions
given a political frame. New communication technologies offer individuals greater access
to information (e.g., ideologies and opportunities for action), abili ty to share ideas and
actions, and opportunities to connect with others with little formal obligation, giving
them a subjective feeling of empowerment. Perhaps some citizens are not disengaging
from politics but rather engaging in a ‘newer,’ more personalized form of social change.
It is the individual’s responsibility to craft a different world (loosely connected to others
doing likewise) rather than solely the domain of the state or even traditional social
Scholars and activists of LMs may be tempted to dismiss LMs as somehow trivial
when compared to protest action aimed at altering state policy or enacting structural
change. While participants often take lifestyle actions perceiving them as effective
(Shah et al., 2007), critics worry that individually oriented action may supplant more
effective collective action targeted at social institutions, substituting (largely
ineffective) individual responses to collective threats (Maniates, 2001; Szasz, 2007).
Evaluating the ‘effectiveness’ or outcomes of LMs is beyond the scope of this paper.
Without further research, there is no easy way to know the degre e to which people
engage in LMs instead of, in addition to, or in the context of manifestly political
movements. While ‘purifying’ the soci al and environmental ‘sins’ from one’s lifestyle
might decrease the motivation for activism, Snow (2004) suggests that individual-level
direct and indirect action can sow the seeds of collective action. Additionally,
individuals may adopt a lifestyle (such as vegetarianism and ‘d ownshifting’)
exclusively for individual health, mental, or financial benefits while being largely
unaware of the societal impacts asserted by the lifestyle movement (Chhetri et al.,
2009). The links between lifestyle move ments, ele ctoral politics, and protest movements
need further study in addition to the social, economic, and cultural change potential of
lifestyle movements.
The authors would like to thank Elizabeth Cherry, Ara Francis, Patrick Gillham, Jennifer Snook, and the editors
and anonymous reviewers of Social Movement Studies for their very helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this
1. It is worth noting that even resource mobilization originators McCarthy & Zald (1977) distinguished between
movements, or preferences for change, and social movement organizations that typically carried out a
movement’s goals.
2. While Jones’ (2002) survey of Green America (formerly Co-op America) members revealed that 77% of
respondents consider themselves part of a ‘social responsibility movement,’ that phrase is rarely mentioned in
movement discourse.
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formal political institutions (Zijderveld, 2000; Stolle et al., 2005) as well as an even broader trend toward the
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Ross Haenfler is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi. He is
the author of Straight Edge: Clean-Living Youth, Hardcore Punk, and Social Change and
Goths, Gamers, and Grrrls: Deviance and Youth Subcultures. His research centers on
Lifestyle Movements 19
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youth cultures, masculinities, and how people engage in social change in daily life. He is
also the coauthor of The Better World Handbook.
Brett Johnson is an assistant professor of sociology at Luther College in Decorah, IA. His
research focuses on the US voluntary simplicity movement. He is the coauthor of
The Better World Hand book and lectures on ways for individuals to create social change.
Most recently, he co-led a two-day summit at William Jewell College’s Center for Justice
and Sustainability. Contact Brett at
Ellis Jones is a visiting professor of sociology at the Coll ege of the Holy Cross in
Worcester, MA. His scholarship and public work focuses on bridging the gap between
academics, activists, and the average citizen. His research interests include ethical
consumerism, social responsibility, and global citizenship. He is the author of The Better
World Shopping Guide and the coauthor of The Better World Handbook.
20 R. Haenfler et al.
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... Similarly, political consumerism has been discussed as a form of 'enlightened' marketplace activism (Micheletti, 2003;Sassatelli, 2007), as the politically motivated acts of individuals that may (but also may not) cumulate. Individualised collective action allows consumers to express their personal politics by boycotting and buycotting (Balsiger, 2010;Bröckerhoff & Qassoum, 2019;Zhang, 2015), through lifestyle choices (Haenfler et al., 2012;Wahlen & Laamanen, 2015), engaging with meaning-making (e.g. cultural jamming; Carducci, 2006), as well as by actively petitioning, naming and shaming corporations (Dubuisson-Quellier, 2021). ...
... The political was extended to the private, to the family and to the everyday. NSMs focussed on identities and lifestyle choices, where struggles were over civil liberties, racial and gender equality, environmental issues and, later, economic globalisation, which were seen to hinder democratic and cultural participation (Haenfler et al., 2012;Laamanen & Wahlen, 2019;Melucci, 1996). NSM theory diverges from the traditional social movement theory and its preferred practical modality of organising through political parties and labour struggles: it gives less priority to political change targeting the government and instead seeks opportunities to mobilise against cultural and economic targets (Snow, 2004;Wahlström & Peterson, 2006). ...
... Social change processes emerging from everyday life and its disruptions may at first be inconspicuous given that they are connected to individual actions, typically located in the private sphere of the household. Over the last two decades, there has been a significant increase in the number of studies identifying this inconspicuous everyday life as significant for understanding citizens' political involvement and engagement (de Moor, 2017;Forno & Ceccarini, 2006;Haenfler et al., 2012;Stolle & Micheletti, 2013;Wahlen & Laamanen, 2015). Individual actions express a dispersed collective nature within social relations, practices and communities which are spaces to create, form and foster new meanings and identities (Plessz & Wahlen, 2020). ...
... The group of people who started the protests of the MPJD had been involved in various forms of socio-political participation over the years, such as church workgroups, training spaces in human rights and political theory, student and indigenous activism campaigns, and organisations that supported local and international social struggles. Furthermore, as observed in other social movements (Downton and Wehr 1998;Haenfler, Johnson, and Jones 2012), most of them had adopted a particular lifestyle that reflected their commitment to certain causes -for example, some had lived in radical communes, while others based their families, their scholar careers and also jobs around activities related to several types of activism. These ways of living that are deeply linked to mobilisation matter because they show a common pattern that crosses through personal life and political activity (Crossley 2003). ...
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In 2006, then Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared a ‘war’ against criminal organisations that were beginning to control some of the country’s territories. Consequently, the number of murders and disappearances of people began to increase steadily by tens of thousands. Far from acknowledging the errors of the strategy, the authorities constantly criminalised the victims and denied the tragic consequences of the use of the military against drug cartels. After the murder of his son on 28 March 2011, the poet Javier Sicilia started leading mobilisations in the state of Morelos to protest the violence. In just a few days, the actions expanded to virtually all regions of the country embracing relatives of victims, activists and organisations of very different backgrounds, forming the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD). This thesis comprises an in-depth case study of the MPJD. After providing an overview of the context in which the mobilisations started and my research methods, I develop thematic chapters. In the first one, I analyse the recruitment dynamics of the MPJD. These pages contribute to the literature by advancing the understanding of how people without prior political experience or links to a mobilised group join and participate in protest. This, moreover, helps in refining rather than reifying the function of social networks. The second chapter explains the upward scale-shift process of mobilisation and the response given by the government through the analysis of coalition building, framing and counter-framing. The results of the analysis help to specify the conditions that facilitate not only the development of alliances, but also those that lead to their accelerated breakdown. Regarding framing, the work contributes to understanding which attributes facilitate resonance and alignment amongst audiences with contrasting characteristics. Furthermore, the discussion around counter-framing highlights how official responses influence the discursive processes of contentious actors, whose opportunities are not the same in ‘the streets’ and in official spaces. Next, the third chapter examines the type of social ties formed through the involvement in the contentious performances led by the relatives of victims of extreme violence. Bringing together the literature on social movements and a body of Latin American research on “emotional communities”, I argue that the MPJD fostered a political-emotional community in which the public narration of suffering made victims and non-victims coalesce to demand justice collectively. Overall, this chapter advances our understanding of the dynamics through which allies that are not directly aggrieved by extreme violence develop a sense of community with the victims. Likewise, it develops four empirical dimensions for the analysis of political-emotional communities: the role of testimonios (testimonial narratives), the ethics developed during contention, the fluctuations in participation, and the costs and risks involved in the mobilisations. The last two chapters focus on the outcomes of the MPJD. The fourth one encompasses the political and cultural outcomes contributing to the literature in two ways: First, by discussing how achievements in the policy process can demobilise some groups but mobilise others; and second, by explaining how the spillover of a contentious actor can consolidate a social movement community in an emergent contentious field. Finally, the fifth chapter analyses the biographical consequences of participation in victim-led mobilisations. These pages provide an account of how the lives of the participants have been influenced due to their involvement in contention. This chapter advances the understanding of the interplay between social relations and cognitions that lead participants to modify their worldviews. In an academic sense, this thesis introduces a series of thematic chapters that provide empirical evidence to refine several areas of the theory to better understand various processes related to social mobilisation. Regarding the importance that this thesis can have for the activists and the families of the victims, my work is, first, a systematisation of their campaigns and experiences; second, an acknowledgement of the transcendence of the actions that they have been carrying out sustainedly during a decade; and third, this research is a space for memory, so that their names and those of their relatives are not forgotten, so that the demand for justice does not end.
... DRAFT PAPER is indubitably one of the greatest accomplishments of the movement. This focus on "domestic ecology" and "everyday environmentalism" (Haenfler et al., 2012;Schlosberg & Coles, 2019) has made it easier for individuals to understand and engage in allegedly transformative and sustainable practices. However, from a sustainability transition perspective this creates issues and a dilemma for the THM. ...
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... Em virtude dessas múltiplas intersecções, muitos ativistas apontam para a inadequação de uma definição singular do fenômeno. Falar em veganismos se tornou uma maneira pragmática de manejar os tensionamentos internos decorrentes da proliferação de grupos e coletivos que reivindicam diferentes concepções do veganismo (Cherry, 2006;Kennedy, 2011;Bennett, 2012;Haenfler et al., 2012). ...
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O artigo discute o ativismo afrovegano nas mídias sociais a partir da análise do perfil no Instagram de atores-chave deste movimento. Entre março e julho de 2020, identificamos perfis públicos de usuários que se autodeclaram afroveganos. Em seguida, analisamos as descrições públicas, o número de seguidores, a frequência das postagens e as reações dos seguidores dos 21 perfis identificados. Na etapa seguinte focalizamos o conteúdo desses perfis com vistas a categorizar as pautas apresentadas ao público, sejam elas em forma de post, stories ou lives. Como esperado, os resultados apontam para o antiespecismo e o antirracismo como pautas principais e recorrentes nas ações do Movimento Afro Vegano. No entanto, diferentemente de estudos anteriores que sugerem uma convergência entre os significados dessas pautas, nossos resultados demonstram que o Movimento Afro Vegano diferencia as lutas antirracista e antiespecista.
Studies on planning have traditionally exposed how institutional participation opposes informal modes of participation. But do activists have to choose between the two? Suggesting that there is a grey-zone, recent work has focused on the distinct paths that individuals take to engage in civic life. We argue that strategies that involves both civil society-led and traditional approaches may help defend planning options, especially for those not considered in formal decision-making in local planning. In what ways can the interrelation of traditional and non-traditional modes of participation help bring forth new ideas? Building on a case study of urban activists tackling issues regarding cycling in Québec City (Québec, Canada), we observed how they connect planning with different modes of participation. Activists take part in the debate on urban planning through institutional platforms, demonstrating their desire to be recognized. Also, they take actions to increase the legitimacy of alternative modes of mobility.
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This dissertation joins a vibrant conversation about atheism in Canada. Although the sociology of non-religion has exploded in the last decade, Canada remains an understudied component of atheism research. Consequently, the focus of this research is secularist activists in a major Canadian city, and how they negotiate differences and intra-movement conflict while pursuing highly individualistic activist identities. Drawing on qualitative data from participant observation and interviews, I make an empirical contribution to the study of Canadian atheism. Additionally, this dissertation contributes to lifestyle movement theory, a framework that undergirds much of the empirical work in the following pages. I found that many atheists saw themselves as activists despite their reticence to engage in organizationally oriented collective action. Despite their lack of conventional participation, they saw themselves as principled actors with morally coherent projects based on Enlightenment values, and that those private, individualized actions potentially could change the world for the better. Even in the absence of such optimism, many of my participants pursued a reason-driven life in any capacity that allowed them to maintain their individuality. Given the emergence of new atheism and more specific currents within the atheist movement, many secularists felt compelled towards intellectual homogeneity for the sake of mobilization and the movement’s continuing health. In response to these pressures, my participants deliberately adopted a contrarian lifestyle that preserved their quest for authenticity as well as other ideals such as scientific skepticism and critical thinking.
Contention in the form of protests, riots, and direct action is a central political practice in contemporary democracies. It is also a staple of sociological analysis, after slowly crystallizing as a distinct object of analysis from the 1970s onward. Lately, however, it has become unclear what this distinctiveness consists of and how it may help guide studies of contention: What distinguishes contention from other practices? I argue that contention can be seen as an ontologically distinctive experience. What sets this experience apart is that it expresses a potential for conflict that underlies all social formations. We can take these expressions of conflict as objects of analysis. This means asking how the conflict expressed in contentious practices is ascribed meaning. I develop this perspective theoretically and show how it may facilitate new empirical analyses of contention’s boundaries, its relation to truth, and ethical relations in contention.
StyleLikeU is a hugely successful online social media platform that presents itself as a social justice movement related to body acceptance. Presenting moving personal stories, it offers a site for what it calls ‘diverse individuals’ to share their experiences as part of promoting individual self-acceptance in the face of a world that prioritizes one kind of body over another, which take the form of ableism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, sizeism and prejudice against disfigurement. Drawing out the discursive script carried across the platform, we show how, beneath the rhetoric of progressiveness, social justice becomes a kind of personal therapy, related to empowerment and transformation, which erases actual differences in personal circumstances and the very forces of injustice. We place StyleLikeU into broader scholarly concerns about the neoliberal colonization of identity politics, diversity and intersectionality in institutions and in branding, drawing attention to how this can form one part of what are now presented as social justice movements.
Buying Time and Getting By provides a detailed account of the voluntary simplicity movement, which took off in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The concept of voluntary simplicity encompasses both self-change aimed at bringing personal practice into alignment with ecological values and cultural change that rejects consumerist values and careerism. While simple livers struggle with self-change, they work toward the broader goals of a sustainable global environment, sustainable communities, increased equality in access to resources, and economies aimed at human quality of life rather than profit. Author Mary Grigsby looks inside the movement at the daily lives of participants and includes their own accounts of their efforts. She also uses reflexive empirical analysis to explore race, class, and gender in relation to the movement. The influence of the dominant culture and institutionalized power in shaping the movement are balanced with the importance of participants' dynamic identity work.