Title

Legitimacy without Mobilization? How Social Justice Organizations Defend their Democratic Credentials

Abstract

This article examines how and with what consequences social justice organizations defend their legitimacy as democratic representatives, especially in circumstances where their ability to organize and mobilize their constituents is sharply curtailed. Drawing on an ethnographic study of three organizations in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I argue that they do so by deploying four tactics, which I label magnification, description, identification, and projection. I explain how each tactic construes and “proves” their accountability to their constituents in the absence of mass engagement from these constituents, and I demonstrate that these tactics can help to legitimate their representational efforts. However, I also show that these tactics can simultaneously disempower their efforts by enabling organizers to neglect constituent mobilization. I conclude that, to best realize their egalitarian potential as representatives, social justice organizations must balance defending their democratic legitimacy in difficult circumstances with adopting routines that underscore constituent mobilization’s long-term importance for achieving their goals.

Publisher

Springer Verlag

Publication Date

3-1-2019

Publication Title

Qualitative Sociology

Department

Politics

Document Type

Article

DOI

10.1007/s11133-018-9405-z

Keywords

Interest groups, Social movements, Social justice, Political representation, Democratic theory

Language

English

Format

text

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