The resource mobilization theory is a
The resource mobilization theory is a
major sociological theory that emerged in the 1970s in the study of social
movements. It mainly emphasizes on the ability of members of a movement to
acquire resources and mobilize people towards achieving the goals of the
movement. For people to be recruited and remain committed to a movement, then
its issues must be presented or rather “framed” so that they can resonate or
fit with the feelings, desires and beliefs of potential recruits (Blackwell,
2015, p.450). This theory views social movements as rational social
institutions that are created and populated by social actors whose goal is to
take a political action. Resource mobilization theory has been able to study
the conditions necessary for collective action to occur in the society for
several decades now. Most authors have taken an interest in characteristics of
organizations that reward members sufficiently to act collectively. McCarthy
& Zald (1977) have been able to take part in this as well.
McCarthy and Zald’s Resource mobilization
theory builds from the insights of Mancur Olson in many ways. Mancur Olson
introduced to us what has come to be popularly known as the “free-rider problem”
which is the predisposition of individuals to gain from collective action even
without participating in it. This also brings into discussion the concept of
selective incentives which are private goods availed to people irrespective of
whether or not they contribute to a collective good. These incentives can
either reward contributors or punish those who do not participate. According to
Olson, groups of people with common interests can be expected to act on behalf
of their common interests as much as single individuals can be expected to act
in the place of their personal interests (Blackwell, 2015, p.474). He further
states that unless there’s coercion, a special device to encourage people to
act in their common interest or the number of participants in a group is small
then rational, self-interested individuals will not act to achieve either their
common or group interests (Blackwell, 2015, p.480). This means that even if all
people in a large group are self-interested and rational, and would benefit if they
were to act to achieve a common objective, they would still shun working
voluntarily to attain that mutual interest.
Olson is opposed to the widespread view
that is common in all social sciences that groups tend to further their
interests. There’s also a common assumption that groups act in their
self-interest simply because individuals do. However, there’s paradoxically the
logical possibility that groups that are composed of either irrational or
altruistic people may at times act in their group or collective interests.
Olson firmly believes this logical possibility is usually of no practical
importance and therefore it’s apparent that the customary view that groups of
individuals bearing common interests are likely to further these shared
interests has little if any merit (Blackwell, 2015, p.481).
The resource mobilization theory by John
McCarthy and Mayer Zald tries to offer a solution to the free-rider problem.
The duo argues that it’s not self-interested individuals who are responsible
for social movement emergence but instead consider the core factor in emergence
to be altruistic elites who make it possible for social movements to get off
the ground by contributing resources to them. The range of resources applied
includes expertise, public transport and money to the production of growth of
organizations and protest activity. The resource mobilization approach puts an
emphasis on both the constraint of social movement phenomena and societal
support. It examines the various resources that must be mobilized, the
dependence of movements on external support for success, the linkages of social
movements to other groups, and the tactics used by authorities to incorporate
or control movements (Blackwell, 2015, p.1287)
Apart from the support base, strategy, and
tactics as well as relation to a larger society are also central to resource
mobilization perspective. In regards to strategy and tactics, the concern with
an interaction between authorities and movements is accepted. However, it’s
also right that social movement organizations have several strategic tasks.
Some of these tasks include achieving change in targets, transforming or
neutralizing mass and elite publics into sympathizers and mobilizing
supporters. There are dilemmas in the choice of tactics since behavior that
achieves one aim may conflict with efforts designed to achieve another.
Furthermore, tactics are influenced by cooperation and inter-organizational
competition. In regards to relation to a large society, it’s the society that
provides the infrastructure that social industries among others utilize. The
aspects employed include levels of affluence, communication media and expense,
degree of access to institutional centers, occupational structure and growth
and preexisting networks (Blackwell, 2015, p.1309-1310)
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