Money Talks: Discourse, Networks, and Structure in Militant Organizations
- 12/2016, Perspectives on Politics, 14 (4): 976–94. doi:10.1017/S1537592716002875.
- Sarah Parkinson, author
- Purchase Online
Scholarship on militant organizations and rebel movements emphasizes the effects of fragmentation and disunity on military and political outcomes. Yet this scholarship’s focus on formal, durable, and externally observable aspects of organizational structure omits the social practices that constitute, reinforce, and reproduce intra-group schisms. How do intra-organizational divisions calcify into permanent cleavages? What processes reproduce factions over time? Using the case of Fatah in Lebanon, I argue that informal discursive practices—e.g., gossip, jokes, complaints, storytelling—contribute to the maintenance and reproduction of intra-organizational factions. Specifically, I focus on how networks of meaning-laden, money-centric discourse structure relations among militants who identify as being “Old Fatah.” I demonstrate that while these practices frequently originate in the organizational realm, cadres subsequently reproduce them within kinship, marriage, and friendship networks. This “money talk” between age cohorts within the quotidian realm connects younger members of Fatah to older cadres through collective practices and conceptions of organizational membership. These practices both exemplify an intra-organizational schism and constitute, in part, the faction called Old Fatah. Examining how symbolic practice comprises social structure thus provides important insight into the politics of organizations such as militant groups, social movements, and political parties.
Political races in the United States rely heavily on highly paid political consultants who carefully curate the images of politicians, advise candidates on polling and analytics, and shape voters’ perceptions through marketing and advertising techniques. More than half of the $6 billion spent in the 2012 election went to consultants who controlled virtually every aspect of the campaigns, from polling, fundraising, and media to more novel techniques of social media and micro-targeting. These consultants play a central role in political campaigns-determining not only how the public sees politicians, but also how politicians see the public.
In Building a Business of Politics, author Adam Sheingate traces the history of political consultants from its origins in the publicity experts and pollsters of the 1920s and 1930s to the strategists and media specialists of the 1970s who transformed political campaigns into a highly profitable business. Today, consultants command a hefty fee from politicians as they turn campaign cash from special interest groups and wealthy donors into advertisements, polls, and direct mail solicitations characteristic of modern campaigns.
The implications of this system on the state of American democracy are significant: the rise of the permanent campaign brings with it the rise of a permanent campaign industry. A professional political class stands between the voters and those who claim to represent them, influencing messages on both sides. Sheingate not only shows how political consultants have reshaped politics, though; he also covers recent developments like the commercialization of digital campaign tools and the consolidation of the political consulting industry into global media conglomerates. Building a Business of Politics is both a definitive account of the consulting profession and a powerful reinterpretation of how political professionals reshaped American democracy in the modern era.
Throughout American history, some social movements, such as organized labor and the Christian Right, have forged influential alliances with political parties, while others, such as the antiwar movement, have not. When Movements Anchor Parties provides a bold new interpretation of American electoral history by examining five prominent movements and their relationships with political parties.
Taking readers from the Civil War to today, Daniel Schlozman shows how two powerful alliances—those of organized labor and Democrats in the New Deal, and the Christian Right and Republicans since the 1970s—have defined the basic priorities of parties and shaped the available alternatives in national politics. He traces how they diverged sharply from three other major social movements that failed to establish a place inside political parties—the abolitionists following the Civil War, the Populists in the 1890s, and the antiwar movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Moving beyond a view of political parties simply as collections of groups vying for preeminence, Schlozman explores how would-be influencers gain influence–or do not. He reveals how movements join with parties only when the alliance is beneficial to parties, and how alliance exacts a high price from movements. Their sweeping visions give way to compromise and partial victories. Yet as Schlozman demonstrates, it is well worth paying the price as movements reorient parties’ priorities.
Timely and compelling, When Movements Anchor Parties demonstrates how alliances have transformed American political parties.
Political and economic models of society often operate at a level of abstraction so high that the connections between them, and their links to culture, are beyond reach. Bearing Society in Mindchallenges these disciplinary boundaries and proposes an alternative framework—the social formation.
The theory of social formation demonstrates how the fabric of society is made up of threads that are simultaneously economic, political, and cultural. Drawing on the work of theorists including Marx, Althusser, Butler, Žižek and Rancière, Bearing Society in Mind makes the strongest case possible for the theoretical importance and political necessity of this concept. It simultaneously demonstrates that the social formation proves to be a very particular and peculiar type of “concept”—it is not a reflection or model of the world, but is definitively and concretely bound up with and constitutive of the world.
Although war is terrible and brutal, history shows that it has been a great driver of human progress. So argues political scientist Benjamin Ginsberg in this incisive, well-researched study of the benefits to civilization derived from armed conflict. Ginsberg makes a convincing case that war selects for and promotes certain features of societies that are generally held to represent progress. These include rationality, technological and economic development, and liberal forms of government.
Contrary to common perceptions that war is the height of irrationality, Ginsberg persuasively demonstrates that in fact it is the ultimate test of rationality. He points out that those societies best able to assess threats from enemies rationally and objectively are usually the survivors of warfare. History also clearly reveals the technological benefits that result from war—ranging from the sundial to nuclear power. And in regard to economics, preparation for war often spurs on economic development; by the same token, nations with economic clout in peacetime usually have a huge advantage in times of war. Finally, war and the threat of war have encouraged governments to become more congenial to the needs and wants of their citizens because of the increasing reliance of governments on their citizens’ full cooperation in times of war.
However deplorable the realities of war are, the many fascinating examples and astute analysis in this thought-provoking book will make readers reconsider the unmistakable connection between war and progress.
George Orwell famously argued that those who control the past control the future, and those who control the present control the past. In this study of the relationship between democracy and memory, P. J. Brendese examines Orwell’s insight, revealing how political power affects what is available to be remembered, who is allowed to recall the past, and when and where past events can be commemorated. Engaging a diverse panoply of thinkers that includes Sophocles, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, Brendese considers the role of disavowed memory and the politics of collective memory in democratic processes throughout history. Among the cases treated are democracy in ancient Athens, South Africa’s effort to transition from apartheid via its landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Mexico’s struggle to fortify democratic accountability after the “dirty war,” and the unresolved legacy of slavery in US race relations. The Power of Memory in Democratic Politics draws on these national histories to develop a theory of memory that accounts for the ways the past lives on in unconscious, habituated practices, shaping the possibilities of freedom, action, and political imagination.
“Liberal democracy” is the name given to a regime that much of the world lives in or aspires to, and both liberal and deliberative theorists focus much of their intellectual energy on working to reshape and perfect this regime. But what if “liberal democracy” were a contradiction in terms?
Taking up Jacques Rancière’s polemical claim that democracy is not a regime, Samuel A. Chambers argues that liberalism and democracy are not complementary, but competing forces. By way of the most in-depth and rigorous treatment of Rancière’s writings to date, The Lessons of Rancière seeks to disentangle democracy from liberalism. Liberalism is a logic of order and hierarchy, of the proper distribution of responsibilities and rights, whereas democratic politics follows a logic of disordering that challenges and disrupts any claims that the allocation of roles could be complete. This book mobilizes a Rancièrean understanding of politics as leverage against the tendency to collapse democracy into the broader terms of liberalism. Chambers defends a vision of “impure” politics, showing that there is no sphere proper to politics, no protected political domain. The job of political theory is therefore not to say what is required in order for politics to occur, not to develop ideal “normative” models of politics, and not even to create new political ontologies. Instead, political theory is itself an enactment of politics in Rancière’s sense of dissensus: politics thwarts any social order of domination. Chambers shows that the logic of politics depends on the same principle as Rancière’s radical pedagogy: the presupposition of equality. Like traditional critical theory, traditional pedagogy relies on a model of explanation in which the student is presumed to be blind. But what if anyone can understand without additional explanation from a master? The Lessons of Rancière uses this pedagogy as a guide to envision a critical theory beyond blindness and to explore a democratic politics beyond liberalism.
Based on the Full Edition of American Government: Power and Purpose but with a simpler framework, the Brief 13th Edition includes new content on how race, gender, and group identity intersect with political behavior and institutions. Additionally, leading scholars have contributed new “Analyzing the Evidence” features that engage students with the questions and methods that political students use themselves.
Though violence is commonly deplored, political scientist Ginsberg argues that in many ways it is indispensable, unavoidable, and valuable.
Ginsberg sees violence manifested in society in many ways. “Law-preserving violence” (using Walter Benjamin’s phrase) is the chief means by which society preserves social order. Behind the security of a stable society are the blunt instruments of the police, prisons, and the power of the bureaucratic state to coerce and manipulate.
Ginsberg also discusses violence as a tool of social change, whether used in outright revolution or as a means of reform in public protests or the threat of insurrection. He notes that even groups committed to nonviolent tactics rely on the violent reactions of their opponents to achieve their ends. And to avoid the threat of unrest, modern states resort to social welfare systems (a prudent use of the carrot instead of the stick).
Emphasizing the unavoidability of violence to create major change, Ginsberg points out that few today would trade our current situation for the alternative had our forefathers not resorted to the violence of the American Revolution and the Civil War.
How do institutional arrangements established by law become operational in practice? It takes work for them to develop problem-solving capabilities and win recognition from others-what the authors call “practical authority.”
Drawing from a decade-long, multi-site study of efforts to transform freshwater management in Brazil, the authors show how an assortment of protagonists-from state officials to university professors to activists-struggled to breathe life into new institutional designs. Their account weaves together three decades of national and state law-making with experimentation in establishing new kinds of participatory water management organizations. Exploring this process in sixteen river basins, the authors examine why some of those organizations adapted creatively to challenges while others never got off the ground. To approach this complex, volatile, and non-linear process of transformation, the book develops a framework for investigating the actions and practices of institution-building.