There is no phenomenon more central or germane to the future of collective action than the conflict ridden process of institutionalization. This leads to an inquiry into a number of approaches in this contribution. Where does the institutionalization process begin, as it weaves itself deeper and deeper within a given process of collective action? Is collective action already embedded in the first institutional instance, and if so, how can we use this residual of action to better understand the late modern institution? What we hope to convey in this exploratory essay is that thinking about institutions and the process of institutionalization must embrace the new realities surrounding collective action. These are very much experientially coded around issues of subjectivity and its collective action spin-offs. A revision of institutional theories by way of social movement analyses has a special role to play in this late modern inquiry. Social movement theorists by observing grassroots groups, right wing movements and global movements have always, in one manner or another, been perched at the critical input valve of institutionalization processes. This has kept analysts focused on conflict laden processes of social transformation, in all its complexity. This vantage-point has led some theorists, particularly in the European social movement schools, to reassess the fundamental role of social movements in relation to social change, and or changes within a given system of political action.
[...] The Global and Reflexive Content of Action in Late Modernity These three factors of subjectivity, that is: the experiencing individual, the remaking of the citizen, and the subject as an actor based upon mutuality, structure the global and reflexive content of collective action. Institutions are implicated in the very construction of action both locally and globally. The globalization of collective action is central to the relational form of the late-modern institution. Today, globalization must be understood in relation to the subjective and personal sphere, to the construction and invention of diverse localities through global flows of ideas and information. [...]
[...] Conclusion What can be drawn from this still early reading of the nature of the late- modern institution and its exclusionary sites in relation to social movements and collective action? The first is that an understanding of modern processes of institutionalization is unavoidably central to the study of contemporary social movement, regardless of the staying power of the traditional approach. The experience of subjectivity has entered full force into the task of defining late-modern forms of deprivation. If this is so however, how then can we think about social reconstruction when older models of social integration such as welfare policies are no longer functioning? [...]
[...] For example: institutions in late modernity are more fragile and fragmented than we have recognized them to be, suggesting increasing levels of non-correspondence between actors and systems; this changing character of institutions diffuses their legitimacy into the realm of culture, that is itself under enormous pressures for social and political accountability; the oppositional collective actions that emerge from this are ultimately struggling less with alliances, or ‘sets of tactical coherences' than with combating the hegemony of the social, cultural and/or politically reconstituted norm, supported by an institutional process of social containment. [...]
[...] There has been a retreat from collective action rooted in the traditional division of labor and its identitarian features to a late-modern version where groups based on region, age, sex, health status, etc. In addition, a late-modernist reflexive reading assumes that this condition is precipitated by larger degrees of freedom, and more diverse forms of moral attachments people have in regards to chosen roles and again, most importantly, an increasing distance from any particular role. The problem of choice has therefore placed the individual in a framework of multiple deliberations which personalizes as well as collectivizes the act of choosing. [...]
[...] What distinguish reflexivity in late modernity are the tempo, accessibility and acceleration of action as a narrative of change. There is a useful distinction to be made here about the reflexive nature of the modern and late modern sense of reflexive self hood. The modernist understanding of the actor is predicated on a sense of self that is able to mirror itself in a plurality of assigned roles, yet a still powerfully singular identity, such as the working class subject, women, and ethnic identity. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee