the Intermovement Network in the U.S. social forum process:

Comparing Atlanta 2007 with Detroit 2010[1]

Christopher Chase-Dunn Ian Breckenridge-Jackson

Department of Sociology and Institute for Research on World-Systems (IROWS)

University of California-Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521

 Draft v. 2-3-14 6932 words

Tent City at the USSF in Detroit

Abstract: This article compares survey results of attendees at the United States Social Forum meeting in Atlanta in 2007 with surveys from the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit in 2010 to study continuities and changes in the sizes and links among social movements. Respondents indicated their active involvement in a list of twenty-seven social movement themes. Over half of the respondents indicated active involvement in two or more movements. Using the overlaps among movements based on shared members we infer the structure of links among the movements. We use formal network analysis to examine continuities and changes in the structure of movement connections. Our findings demonstrate. important continuities and some significant changes in the sizes and the patterns of movement interconnections from 2007 to 2010. We find that the overall structure of the network of interconnected movements did not change, and was also quite similar to that found at global meetings of the World Social Forum. In Detroit human rights and antiracism, both of which had the highest connectedness scores in Atlanta, significantly increased their relative connectedness to become the major hubs linking most of the other movement themes. But we also found that environmentalism increased both its centrality and size, while the peace movement decreased both its size and its centrality in the network of movement interconnections.

            This article examines changes in the organizational space of the social movements that are involved in the United States Social Forum (USSF) process.  In this study we seek to understand the structure of connections among progressive movements and how those connections may be evolving over time. For this purpose we analyze results obtained from surveys of participants in the U.S. Social Forum that was held in Atlanta in June of 2007 with a comparable survey that was carried out at the U.S. Social Forum meeting in Detroit in June of 2010.  We examine the contours of the social movement connections found among USSF participants, and how these are changing over time. 

            The Social Forum process began when the World Social Forum was founded in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001. The global, regional and local Social Forum meetings are meant to be spaces in which movement activists can collaborate and organize campaigns. The first national Social Forum in the United States was held in June of 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. We carried out a written survey of the attendees at that meeting and another very similar survey at the USSF held in Detroit in June of 2010.[2] We administered the USSF surveys in both Spanish and English.

Five hundred sixty-nine of the attendees at the 2010 USSF in Detroit filled out our survey, which was conducted at the Forum itself. [3] It is difficult to say how well those who were surveyed were representative of the whole group of participants that attended. We found that attendees tended to be young, with 60% being under 35 years of age. More than half were single and very few had children. There were significantly more women than men (54% and 46%, respectively). While just over half of attendees were white, groups of color do not appear to be underrepresented when compared to the United States population as a whole. Significantly more individuals reported being multiracial than in the U.S. population as a whole.

There were more students (25% of respondents) and fewer full-time employees (33%) than one might expect. The group was highly educated, with more than one participant in four having a graduate or other advanced degree. The median household income of respondents was very similar to that of the U.S. as a whole (about $40,000 a year).  As might be expected, most respondents were from the United States., although many were born outside the U.S. and there were some attendees from Canada, Mexico and other countries.

Comparing the surveyed attendees at the USSF10 with those surveyed at the USSF07 in Atlanta, we find mostly similarities. But there were some interesting differences as well. The percentage of women among our surveyed attendees in Detroit was even higher (62%)  than at the 2007 USSF in Atlanta (56%).  The respondents in 2010 were less employed and had less income than those in 2007. [4]

            There is a large scholarly literature on networks, coalitions and alliances among social movements (e.g. Carroll and Ratner 1996; Krinsky and Reese 2006; Obach 2004; Reese, Petit, and Meyer 2008; Rose 2000; Van Dyke 2003; Meyer and Corrigall-Brown 2005; Juris 2008).  One of the big findings is that coalitions among social movement organizations tend to emerge and strengthen when the values or constituencies that are held dear by activists are strongly threatened by repression or by counter-movements (Van Dyke 2003; Mason 2013).  Our study is theoretically motivated by this literature as well as by the analysis of world revolutions (Wallerstein 2004; Boswell and Chase-Dunn 2000; Mason 2013).  The social movement literature on coalitions studies several different levels of cooperation and differentiates coalitions that occur within broad movement themes from less frequent coalitions that occur across the boundaries of different social movements – inter-movement coalitions (Van Dyke and McCammon 2010). Our study is of these less frequent inter-movement links as indicated by the co-participation of individual activists.

 

            Social movement organizations may be linked with one another both informally and formally. At the formal level, organizations may provide legitimacy and support to one another, and they may collaborate in joint action. Informally, movements can be connected by the choices of individuals to be active participants in two or more movements.  These informal   linkages enable learning and influence to pass among movement organizations, even when there may be limited official interaction or leadership coordination.  We assess the extent and pattern of informal linkages among movements by surveying attendees at the USSF as to their active involvement in a designated set of movement themes and by focusing on those individuals who profess active involvement in two or more movements. 

            Those respondents who are involved in more than one movement are more likely to be synergists (Carroll and Ratner 1996; Wallerstein 2004) who see the larger connections among different movements and who may be more likely to play an active role in facilitating collective action within the larger “movement of movements.”

The extent and pattern of linkages among the memberships of social movement organizations may be highly consequential. Social movement research has repeatedly found that network connections among individuals are the most important factor explaining movement participation (Snow and Soule 2010).  Some forms of connection [e.g. “small world” networks, (Watts 2003)] allow the rapid spread of information and influence while other network structures (e.g. division into “factions”) inhibit communication and make coordinated action more difficult. The ways in which social movements are linked with one another can facilitate or obstruct efforts to organize cross-movement collective action. Formal network analysis can reveal whether or not the structure of alliances contains separate subsets with few ties, or the extent to which the network is organized around one or several central movements that connect the other movements by means of overlapping members.

The Social Forum Surveys

          The University of California-Riverside Transnational Social Movement Research Working Group has conducted four paper surveys of attendees at Social Forum events. We used previous studies of the global justice movements by Starr (2000) and Fisher and Ponniah (2003) to construct our original list of  eighteen social movement themes that we believed would be represented at the January 2005 World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We also conducted a survey at the WSF in Nairobi, Kenya in 2007 in which we used most of these same movement themes, but we separated human rights from anti-racism and we added eight additional movement themes (development, landless, immigrant, religious, housing, jobless, open source, and autonomous). We used this same larger list of 27 movement themes at the US Social Forum (USSF) in Atlanta in July of 2007.[5] 

In what follows we study changes and continuities in the relative sizes of movements and changes in the network centrality (multiplicative coreness) of movements. Relative movement size is indicated by the percentage of surveyed attendees who claim to be actively involved in each movement theme.  We asked each attendee to check whether or not they identified with, or were actively involved in each of the movement themes with following item on our survey questionnaire:

(Check all of the following movements with which you (a) strongly identify with and/or are actively involved in:

(a) strongly identify:                                        (b) are actively involved in:      

1. oAlternative media/culture                                      oAlternative media/culture

2. oAnarchist                                                                  oAnarchist

3. oAnti-corporate                                                        oAnti-corporate

4. oAnti-globalization                                                   oAntiglobalization                                            

 5. oAntiracism                                       oAntiracism   

6. oAlternative Globalization/Global Justice             oAlternative Globalization/Global Justice

7. oAutonomous                                                            oAutonomous

8. oCommunist                                                               oCommunist

9. oDevelopment aid/Economic development      oDevelopment aid/Economic development

10.oEnvironmental                                                        oEnvironmental

11.oFair Trade/Trade Justice                                       oFair Trade/Trade Justice

12.oFood Rights/Slow Food                                        oFood Rights/Slow Food

13.oGay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer Rights     oGay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer Rights

14.oHealth/HIV                                                              oHealth/HIV

15.oHousing rights/anti-eviction/squatters              oHousing rights/anti-eviction/squatters

16.oHuman Rights                                                         oHuman Rights

17.oIndigenous                                                              oIndigenous

18.oJobless workers/welfare rights                            oJobless workers/welfare rights

19.oLabor                                                                        oLabor

20.oMigrant/immigrant rights                                      oMigrant/immigrant rights

21.oNational Sovereignty/National Liberation         oNational Sovereignty/National Liberation

22.oOpen-Source/Intellectual Property Rights         oOpen-Source/Intellectual Property Rights

23.oPeace/Anti-war                                                       oPeace/Anti-war

24.oPeasant/Farmers/Landless/Land-reform            oPeasant/Farmers/Landless/Land-reform

25.oReligious/Spiritual                                                 oReligious/Spiritual

26.oSocialist                                                                   oSocialist

27.oWomen's/Feminist                                                 oWomen's/Feminist

28.oOther(s), Please list ___________________   oOther(s), Please list _________________

 

Table 1 below reports the numbers and the percentages that these numbers reflect of all the actively involved movement choices. This is an indicator of relative movement size, and changes in the percentages tell if a movement theme has grown and or declined in popularity among the attendees as the USSF meetings. Multiplicative coreness is a formal network statistic that is calculated from the network affiliation matrices presented below. Coreness tells how central a network node (movement theme) is in the network of movement links based on the overlapping involvements of individual attendees. A movement that is greatly tied to many other movements by having co-members with them, and one that is the sole link between more peripheral movements and the core of centrally located movements gets a high score on the coreness measure.  Size and coreness are positively correlated because a larger movement is more likely to have more ties with other movements. But size and coreness are not perfectly correlated (see Table 5 below).

Movement Sizes at the US Social Forum

We asked participants which of these movement themes they strongly identified with, and with which were they actively involved as shown above. Table 1 shows the movement themes and the numbers of participants who said they were actively involved in each of the movements in 2007 and 2010. The number of choices of movements is considerably larger than the total number of attendees surveyed because over half of the respondents indicated active involvement if more than one movement theme.

The size distribution of movement selections in Table 1 shows that the largest movements represented at the Atlanta meeting in 2007 were antiracism ( with 7.73% of the choices), peace/anti-war ( with 7.57% of the choices) and human rights (7.36 % of the choices). This means that nearly 8% of all the 2419 choices of movement active involvement were claiming active involvement in antiracism. The movements in Table 1 are ranked according to their percentages in Atlanta. In Detroit in 2010 antiracism was still the largest, but the second largest was now the environmental movement. The Pearson’s r correlation between the percentages of the movement themes in 2007 and 2010 is .88. 

The last column in Table 1 shows the percentage growth or decline for each movement theme between 2007 and 2010.  Peace/Anti-war and Global Justice declined, as did Indigenous. We suspect that the peace movement activism declined because of a combination of things that happened between 2007 and 2010. In the U.S. presidential election of 2008 Barack Obama had promised to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by 2010 it was clear that these wars were winding down. The huge global anti-war movement that had emerged in 2003 (Meyer. and Corrigall-Brown 2005; Reese, Petit, and Meyer  2008) had subsided. Most observers also saw a decline in the level of activism in the global justice movement.  It is somewhat ironic that the percentage of USSF attendees that were actively involved in the indigenous movement declined between 2007 and 2010 because the National Planning Committee for the Detroit event made a successful effort to involve Native Americans from Michigan in the planning of the Detroit meeting, and the Michigan indigenes played a very visible role in the Detroit meeting. It would appear that despite this stress on local involvement the numbers of indigenous activists declined. The percentage declined from 2.7% in Atlanta to 1.5% in Detroit. [6]

Both the Slow Food and Environmental movements seem to have grown significantly. The Slow Food movement, a protest against mass commoditized consumption that champions locally-grown and organic foods, began in Italy and has been spreading to the U.S. and elsewhere. The increased salience of global warming and climate justice issues have encouraged more participation by environmental activists.  Some say that anarchists are unlikely to fill out surveys, but forty-six of our respondents in Detroit indicated that they were actively involved anarchists.  The percentage of anarchists increased from 1.7% in Atlanta to 2.6% of movement choices in Detroit. The high visibility of anarchists and horizontalists in the Occupy movement in 2011 (e.g. Graeber 2013; Gitlin 2012;  Milkman, Luce and Lewis 2013) suggests that the Social Forum process may be drawing from a somewhat different crowd. But the percentage of anarchists at the USSF increased between 2007 and 2010 (see Table 1, last column).

               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 1: Relative Sizes of Movements based on the percentages of movement themes selected as actively involved at the 2007 USSF and the 2010 USSF

We also analyzed the responses to the question about “strong identification” with movements to compare these with the “actively involved” question. More than twice as many people indicated “identification” as opposed to “active involvement”, but the relative percentages were very similar, and the network results based on the identification matrix was also found to be very similar to the results for active involvement.

Patterns of Linkage among the Social Movements

            We use formal network analysis to study the pattern of links among social movements based on attendees’ indications of active involvement in two or more movement themes. Network analysis is superior to bivariate correlation analysis because it allows the whole structure of a network to be analyzed, including all the direct and indirect links as well as the non-links. This makes it possible to identify cliques or factions among a set of nodes and to examine the centrality or peripherality of network nodes – in this case social movement themes.

Table 2: Affiliations of 27 Movement Themes, Atlanta 2007

                Table 2 contains the selections of all those attendees in 2007 who selected two or more movement themes. The diagonal contains the total of all those who selected each movement and these are the same counts that are in Table 1 for 2007. The other cells are for movement pairs and contain the number of affiliation selections in which individuals profess active involvement in both movements. Excluding the diagonal, the average cell size for Table 2 is 25 and the Standard Deviation of the distribution of cell sizes is just less than 18.

One striking thing about Table 2 is that there are no zeros. This means that all of the movement themes are connected with all of the other themes by having a least a few individuals who profess active involvement in both. The smallest number of links in Table 2 is between the Socialist and Anarchist themes (2).  Four of the attendees we surveyed indicated that they were actively involved in both Communist and Anarchist movements.

We used UCINet to analyze the structures of movement networks.[7]  The UCINet QAP routine produces a Pearson’s r correlation coefficient between dichotomized affiliation network matrices.  Pearson’s r correlation coefficient between the 2007 and the 2010 matrices was .73.[8]  This is a slightly larger positive correlation than was found between the movement theme affiliations between the World Social Forum meeting in Nairobi and the U.S. Social Forum meeting in Atlanta, which was 0.71 (Chase-Dunn and Kaneshiro 2009). It is unsurprising that the Atlanta USSF would be more similar to the Detroit USSF than it would be to the Nairobi WSF, but the surprise is that the national and global affiliation matrices are so similar.

Table 3: Affiliations of 27 Movements, Detroit 2010

As with Table 2, there are no zeros in Table 3, showing that all the movement themes are connected by some co-members.[9] Excluding the diagonal, the average cell size for Table 3 is 17.7 and the Standard Deviation is 11.1. That the average number of overlaps in 2010 was 7.2 smaller than in 2007.  In order to use formal network analysis we must dichotomize this matrix by choosing a cutting point that defines strong versus weak ties among movement pairs.  As in our earlier research (Chase-Dunn and Kaneshiro 2009), we selected a tie strength cut-off of one-half of a standard deviation above the mean number of movement interconnections to define a “strong” linkage. All the cells below that cutting point are assigned a value of zero and those at or above are assigned a value of one.  

From these scores, network diagrams for 2007 (Figure 1) and 2010 (Figure 2) are produced.[10] 

 

Figure 1: Atlanta USSF 2007 Intermovement Network Diagram

 

 

Figure 2: Detroit USSF 2010 Intermovement Network Diagram

 

Comparisons of the USSF 2007 and the USSF 2010

 

            The purpose of comparing the USSF 2007 intermovement network with that found for the USSF in 2010 is to examine the question of stability and change in the network of social movements participating in the social forum process, and to look for differences that might indicate changes or that might stem from the fact that the meetings were held in different locations and were organized under rather different circumstances. There are big differences between the cities of Atlanta and Detroit. And the political and economic situation in the U.S. changed a lot between 2007 and 2010. The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 and the advent of a global financial crisis and economic slow-down were major intervening events.

            Regarding stability, the overall structure of the two movement networks did not change. They are both multicentic structures in which a few central movement themes link all the rest. Human rights is an inclusive movement that overlaps with many other movements, and so its centrality in both national and global movement networks is not surprising. The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights is a totemic document of global governance and even those who contest the meaning of these values by championing the rights of communities or the rights of nature, or by emphasizing the rights of women or of oppressed groups continue to identify with the overall concept of human rights.

            Both the International Council of the World Social Forum and the National Planning Committee of the US Social Forum learned from experiences in Atlanta and tried to make changes to improve the Detroit meeting of the US Social Forum.  For example, there was a big public protest by a group of indigenous activists at the end of the Atlanta meeting. The National Planning Committee for Detroit made a strong effort to contact local indigenous groups from Michigan early on and to get them to help organize the Detroit meeting and to play a central role in plenary events and marches.  Both meetings were explicitly intended by the WSF International Committee to be organized by, and intended for, activists from grass roots movement within the United States. Global and national NGOs and national unions were allowed to participate, but they did not play a central role in organizing the meetings. The “internal Third World” and women were important as both organizers and participants in both meetings. But purely geographical factors and world historical events probably played a role in shaping the differences that we find in the structure of movement networks across the two meetings.

            Figures 1 and 2 above visually display the network structures based on overlaps among activists who said they were actively involved in more than one of the movement themes. The group of movement themes in the upper left corners of Figures 1 and 2 contain those movement themes that did not have enough overlaps to be included above the cut-off points used to calculate network position. In 2007 the Anarchists were in this relatively isolated group, whereas in 2010 they made it into the main network because they became more connected with other movement themes. The Health/HIV and Indigenous movement themes were in the main network in 2007 but in 2010 they appeared to decline in network centrality and were in the group of isolates.

            Regarding overall network structural features the results for 2007 and 2010 are quite similar. In both years the movement themes are connected in a single network that is multicentric. There are no major subnetworks in which sets of movements are exclusively connected with one another, but not with other subsets. What changes from 2007 is the relative centrality of some of the  movement themes.

            Multiplicative coreness indicates the extent to which a network node possesses a high density of connections with other nodes. The coreness scores presented in Table 4 have been calculated based on the dichotomized interaction matrices produced from Tables 2 and 3 above. Less coreness is characterized as possessing few interconnections.  Nodes with high coreness are often capable of greater coordinated action and a greater mobilization of resources, while nodes with less coreness are not.  Table 4 shows the coreness scores, the ranks of the movements that are also displayed in Figures1 and 2 above, and Table 4 also shows  the amount of change in coreness scores between 2007 and 2010.

Rank in 2007

2007 Coreness

Rank in 2010

2010 Coreness

Change in Coreness

Human Rights

1

0.313

1

0.322

0.009

Antiracism

1

0.313

2

0.319

0.006

Peace/Anti-War

3

0.31

8

0.278

-0.032

Migrant/Immigrant Rights

4

0.302

5

0.285

-0.017

Women's/Feminist

5

0.293

7

0.282

-0.011

Environmental

6

0.285

3

0.31

0.025

Anti-corporate

7

0.281

5

0.285

0.004

Anti-globalization

8

0.264

9

0.25

-0.014

Global Justice / Alternative Globalization

8

0.264

14

0.176

-0.088

Fair Trade/Trade Justice

10

0.244

4

0.29

0.046

Labor

10

0.244

13

0.185

-0.059

Media/Culture

12

0.221

11

0.222

0.001

Gay/Lesbian/ Bisexual/ Transgender/Queer Rights

13

0.173

12

0.197

0.024

Housing Rights

14

0.125

18

0.026

-0.099

Indigenous

15

0.1

20

0

-0.1

Jobless Workers/Welfare Rights

16

0.05

16

0.092

0.042

Health/HIV

16

0.05

20

0

-0.05

Food Rights/Slow Food

18

0.048

10

0.238

0.19

Socialist

19

0.025

19

0.015

-0.01

Development Aid/Economic Development

20

0

15

0.102

0.102

Anarchist

20

0

17

0.044

0.044

Autonomous

20

0

20

0

0

Communist

20

0

20

0

0

National Sovereignty/ National Liberation

20

0

20

0

0

Open-Source/ Intellectual Property Rights

20

0

20

0

0

Peasant/ Farmers/ Landless/Land Reform

20

0

20

0

0

Religious/Spiritual

20

0

20

0

0

*Note: Movements with equal coreness scores were given the same rank

Table 4: Multiplicative Coreness Scores and Ranks of Movements in the USSF07 and USSF2010 Networks

 

            The movements in Table 4 are sorted from high to low based on their coreness scores at the Atlanta meeting in 2007.  In 2007 there was a multicentric network with three movements sharing the center – human rights, anti-racism and peace (see Figure 1 above). Other very central movements were immigrant rights, feminists and environmentalists.

Much of the structure of movement linkages was retained at the 2010 USSF in Detroit, though there were some important changes in the positions of particular movement themes. The last column of Table 4 shows how much the coreness score of each movement changed from 2007 to 2010. In Detroit human rights and antiracism, both of which had the highest connectedness scores in Atlanta, increased their relative connectedness scores, remaining the major hubs linking  most other movement themes. And this increase in connectedness happened despite that both human rights and anti-racism decreased their sizes relative to other movement themes (see Table 5 below). The peace movement decreased from 3rd to 8th in the connectedness ranking of movement themes. Immigrant rights fell from 4th to 5th while environmentalism increased its level of connectedness from 6th to 3rd and also increased its relative size.

There were other big changes.  Alternative globalization went down from the 8th to the 14th position; fair trade/trade justice went up from 10th the 4th position; labor went down from 10th to 13th position and Slow Food/Food Rights went up from 18th to 10th position. The second largest change score was that of development aid/economic development which moved from rank 20 to rank 15. Anarchists moved up  from rank 20 in 2007 to rank 17 in 2010.  And the jobless workers/welfare rights movements also increased their centrality, though their ranking remained the same. 

 

 

Several movements shifted out toward the periphery of the movement network. The biggest shift of this kind was that of the indigenous movement, which went from rank 15 in 2007 to rank 20 in 2010.  We already noted above that the relative size of the indigenous movement appears to have decreased (Table 1). The second largest negative change in the coreness measure was that of housing rights, which went from rank 14 in 2007 to rank 18 in 2010 and it also decreased in relative size. And the global justice/alternative globalization movement (from 8 to 14), labor movement (from 10 to 13), and health/HIV movement (from 16 to 20) moved further toward the outer edge.  While its coreness score change was moderately negative, the peace/anti-war movement dropped steeply from its central position at 3rd all the way to 8th in the coreness ranking.  Nine movements did not change their ranking in the coreness scores and 16 had change scores of less than .03.

Change in Size

Change in Coreness

Human Rights

-1.37

0.009

Antiracism

-0.56

0.006

Peace/Anti-War

-2.09

-0.032

Migrant/Immigrant Rights

0.24

-0.017

Women's/Feminist

-0.79

-0.011

Environmental

1.34

0.025

Anti-corporate

0.54

0.004

Anti-globalization

-0.74

-0.014

Global Justice / Alternative Globalization

-2.08

-0.088

Fair Trade/Trade Justice

0.03

0.046

Labor

-0.08

-0.059

Media/Culture

0.38

0.001

Gay/Lesbian/ Bisexual/ Transgender/Queer Rights

0.38

0.024

Housing Rights

-0.41

-0.099

Indigenous

-1.22

-0.1

Jobless Workers/Welfare Rights

-0.03

0.042

Health/HIV

0.02

-0.05

Food Rights/Slow Food

2.42

0.19

Socialist

0.45

-0.01

Development Aid/Economic Development

0.19

0.102

Anarchist

0.88

0.044

Autonomous

0.23

0

Communist

-0.10

0

National Sovereignty/ National Liberation

0.26

0

Open-Source/ Intellectual Property Rights

0.60

0

Peasant/ Farmers/Landless/Land-Reform

0.57

0

Religious/Spiritual

0.34

0

Table 5: Changes in Sizes and Coreness Scores between 2007 and 2010;  Pearson’s r correlation = .67

Size and coreness are positively correlated because a larger movement is more likely to have more ties with other movements. But these two dimensions are not perfectly correlated (r= .67), and when we look at changes in both the relative size and the coreness of movements from 2007 to 2010, we sometimes find movements that decreased in size but increased in coreness and vice versa (see Table 5). This is possible because a movement can be more linked with other movements despite that it decreases in size. Movement themes that got relatively smaller while increasing in network coreness were human rights, anti-racism and jobless workers/welfare rights (underlined in Table 5). Movement themes that got larger while decreasing in relative network centrality were immigrant rights, health/HIV and socialist (bolded in Table 5).

Conclusions

The results presented in this article are, in some ways, unsurprising. Our earlier studies (that used the eighteen movement themes that we originally developed for our survey of the World Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2005), found substantial stability in the structure of inter-movement connections. This held even when comparing the results of our survey at the US Social Forum in Atlanta with two global meetings of the World Social Forum (Porto Alegre in 2005 and Nairobi in 2007 (Chase-Dunn and Kaneshiro 2009).  This implies that U.S. political culture and the global political culture represented by the World Social Forum process at its international meetings are rather similar entities, and this has important implications for the analysis of transnational social movements as well as the larger context of global civil society.

In this article we are using a larger list of 27 movement themes to compare two U.S. Social Forum meetings, and we find even greater stability in the structure of movement alliances and relative sizes.  Regarding movement sizes, the Pearson’s r correlation between the percentages in Table 1 above is .88.  The QAP Pearson’s r correlation coefficient between the 2007 and the 2010 matrices in Tables 2 and 3 is .73.

There were, however, some important changes. While the overall network structure retained a multicentric form with four or five movements occupying the center of the network and being similar to one another in terms of relative coreness, some of these central movements changed positions with other movements that were less central in 2007.  Environmentalists were centrally located in all of our earlier results, but they were not as important as they became in the Detroit meeting of the U.S. Social Forum. They displaced peace/anti-war at the very center of the movement network and nudged the migrant/immigrant rights and women’s/feminist movements slightly out from the center. While food rights/slow food increased in size and development aid/economic development decreased in size, both increased their network centrality. The peace movement dropped from 3rd to 8th in connectedness rank, while the indigenous, housing rights, global justice, and labor movements lost both centrality in the movement network and relative size.

Some of these changes in size and centrality may have had to do with the changing salience of movement topics.  Environmentalism is on the rise, especially the climate justice movement. The decreased size and coreness of the peace movement may have been related to the promises of the Obama administration to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. As mentioned above, the slow food/food justice movement has been spreading from its point of origin in Italy and this may account for its increase in size and coreness between 2007 and 2010. It is plausible that the declining size and coreness of the global justice movement between 2007 and 2010 was a consequence of how economic stress, even when global in scope and causation, focusses activists on more local problems.

The apparent decrease in network centrality and relative size of the indigenous movement theme is an ironic outcome which occurred despite the great efforts of the USSF organizers to showcase indigenous issues in Detroit. We surveyed 66 activists in Atlanta who identified themselves as actively involved in indigenous issues, but only 26 in Detroit. And the relative centrality of these in the connectedness matrix also declined. One possibility is that indigenous activists were so busy at the Detroit meeting that they did not have time to respond to our survey. The other possibility is that attendance of indigenous activists actually declined as a response to the issues raised by the unhappy indigenous activists in Atlanta, who took control of the closing plenary session to protest perceived indignities. Because we do not know whether or not our sample of attendees was a random sample we cannot be sure. The solution here would be to have access to registration data for these meetings with enough detail to be able to check survey results against the registration data.

Perhaps the most important result of our studies of intermovement networks is the finding of a rather stable multicentric structure of relations among movements at both the global and the national levels. The geographical locations of meetings and world historical events obviously have impacts on this structure, as we found in comparing Porto Alegre with Nairobi, but the basic underlying structure is being reproduced. The collective action problem is how to mobilize coordinated organizational instruments that can help humanity to deal with the huge challenges that it has created for itself in the 21st century. The Social Forum process remains an important venue in that effort.

 

 

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[1] We thank James Love, Arifa Raza, Ali Lairy, Ellen Reese, Matheu Kaneshiro and the UCR Inequality Writing Group for their help on this paper.  Our study is part of a larger project being carried out by the UC-Riverside Transnational Social Movements Research Working Group. The project web site it as  http://www.irows.ucr.edu/research/tsmstudy.htm

 

[2] The English version of the survey instrument we used in Detroit is at http://www.irows.ucr.edu/research/tsmstudy/ussf2010.htm

[3] This study of changes in the network of movement linkages focusses primarily on the structure of movements in the United States, but we also compare this structure with that found at the level of the progressive movements in global civil society as a whole, which are known from our results of similar surveys conducted at meetings of the global-level World Social Forum that were held in Porto Alegre in 2005 and Nairobi, Kenya in 2007. Our study of the network of movements is useful in the project of building the capacity for collective action in the emerging New Global Left because change agents need to better understand the contextual constraints and opportunities for inter-movement collaboration in order to form more effective instruments for progressive social change (Chase-Dunn 2005).  

 

[4] More details about the demographic characteristics and comparisons between Detroit and Atlanta are in Coyne et al 2010 which is IROWS Working Paper # 64 at http://irows.ucr.edu/papers/irows64/irows64.htm

[5] An earlier comparison of the movement networks (Chase-Dunn and Kaneshiro (2009) uses only the original list of eighteen, with human rights and anti-racism combined as they were in the 2005 survey. In the research reported here we use the whole expanded list of 27 movement themes that were studied in Atlanta and Detroit.

 

[6] Again we do not know how well our survey approximates a random sample of the meeting attendees. We made every effort to contact attendees at different venues and at different times and places at each meeting, but we are not sure how well our sample reflects the whole population of attendees.  We have not been able to get access to registration data from the meetings in a form that would allow us to compare our subsample with the whole list of attendees. Perhaps this will be possible at future meetings of the US Social Forum. It is possible that the high level of involvement of indigenous activists in Detroit in the planning and activities of the meeting kept them so busy that they did not have time to fill our surveys.

[7] All network calculations employed the UCINET 6.352 software package (Borgatti, Everett & Freeman 2002).

 

[8] Pearson’s r correlation coefficients vary between -1 and +1 depending on the degree of association between two sets of values.  .73 indicates a fairly high positive correlation between the affiliation matrices.

[9] The smallest number of movement theme overlaps in Table 3 is that between Communists and Open Source, with only three respondents reporting active involvement in both of these.

[10] We used the spring-embedding tool in UCINet’s NetDraw to produce the layout, which is an iterative fitting method that “preserves many of the features of the dimensional scaling approach…but is usually easier to read -- particularly if it matters which specific nodes are where (rather than node types of clusters)” (Hanneman and Riddle 2005: http://faculty.ucr.edu/~hanneman/nettext/C4_netdraw.html).