Social Movements in Global Politics is a timely new account of the unconventional, extra–institutional activities of social movements.
In the face of impending global crises and stubborn conflicts, a conventional view of politics risks leaving us confused and fatalistic, feeling powerless because we are unaware of all that can be achieved by political means. By contrast, a variety of recent social movements, ranging from those of women, gays and lesbians and anti–racists, to environmentalists, the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, demonstrate the enormous potential of political action beyond the institutional sphere of politics. At the same time, religious fundamentalists, racial supremacists and ultra–nationalists make clear that movements are not necessarily progressive and are often at odds with one another.
West highlights the many ways in which national and global institutions depend on a broader context of extra–institutional action or what is, in effect, the formative dimension of politics. He explores some of the major contributions of social movements: from the genealogy of liberal democratic nation–states, sixties radicalism and the new social movements to the politics of sexuality, gender and identity, the politicization of nature and climate, and alter–globalization. The book also considers current theoretical approaches and sets out the basis for a critical theory of social movements. This is a fresh and original account of social movements in politics and will be essential reading for any students and scholars interested in the challenges and the unpredictable potential of political action.