Social movements have been implicated in long-term societal transformations, helping bring about political democratization, economic freedom, and social equality. In recent years, movements such as Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and Black Lives Matter have organized protests, and other contentious activities, against varied injustices in the world today. But what are social movements, how do they work, and what are their impacts upon society? In this landmark contribution, social movement activities and outcomes are understood through the lens of liberal political economy. This approach emphasizes dynamic collective choices within multi-faceted economic, political, and social environments, with the capacity for such choices to promote freedom, equality, and dignity. Inspired by the works of Friedrich Hayek, Elinor and Vincent Ostrom, and James Buchanan, Freedom in Contention illustrates how social movements fluidly organize in often repressive environments, bringing people together in their efforts to audaciously challenge public power and other forms of authority. Using historical and contemporary case studies, this book reveals how advances in human liberty are shaped by the struggles of social movement activists to have their concerns heard and respected. This important book will appeal to social scientists, decision-makers, and people interested in how social movements affect our lives.
Mikayla Novak is a researcher and educator in the School of Sociology at The Australian National University.
Chapter 1: Social Movements: Setting the Scene
Chapter 2: Commitment Without Coercion: Social Movements and Collective Engagement
Chapter 3: Varieties of Voice and Exit: Social Movement Tactics
Chapter 4: Social Movement Encounters with Society: Contentious Entanglements
Chapter 5: Social Movements and Liberty: Case Studies in the Modern History of Freedom
Chapter 6: Issues Raised by Contemporary Social Movements
Chapter 7: Meanings and Methods of Social Movements: Further Implications
Chapter 8: Summary of Key Themes and Arguments
Truly interdisciplinary works are rare in the social sciences, despite common methods of inquiry and topics of interest. Freedom in Contention guides readers through an in-depth, interdisciplinary analysis of social movements using the theories of social movements and liberal political economy. Novak provides a detailed overview of sociological social movement theory and then considers what the primary schools of thought in liberal political economy might tell readers about social movements. From early collective behavior theories to more recent developments in social movement thought, Novak is thorough in her summary of social movement literature and similarly detailed with regard to liberal political economy. Without assuming that all social movements advance a liberal agenda or that social movements are entirely responsible for all liberal gains, Novak shows that the liberal project is routinely served and buttressed by social movement activity and that social movement actors engage with political and economic orders in various ways. This book is a great resource for students of social movements as well as researchers interested in advancing the interdisciplinary agenda and is a valuable contribution in the present moment of global social unrest. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
“In this pathbreaking book Mikayla Novak offers a comprehensive and novel analysis of social movements. Weaving together interdisciplinary concepts with wide-ranging illustrations, Freedom in Contention offers crucial insights into the role that social movements play in a self-governing society. Anyone interested in understanding liberal societies should read this book! “
“Social movements are central characters in the history of liberal democracy. But as Mikayla Novak argues, they have a complicated relationship with liberal thought. Neither fully designed nor fully spontaneous, social movements occupy a liminal space that leaves them under-theorized. Novak explores the role that social movements play as an imperfect but vital discovery process. As she explains, social movements reveal what’s wrong with the current state of the world, hold the powerful to account, and help free societies realize, incrementally and in fits and starts, the promise of the liberal project.”
Freedom in Contention: Social Movements and Liberal Political Economy by Mikayla Novak is a timely and important book exploring how social change through the collective action of social movements occurs both within free and open societies struggling to fulfill the liberal promise, and the struggle of those trapped inside closed repressive regimes who yearn for freedom. Novak provides a great synthesis of ideas to provide a framework for understanding how groups fight and overcome injustice, and in doing so she has made a significant contribution to the literature in social theory
What role do social movements have in a liberal society? How do they bolster or undermine freedom? Freedom in Contention: Social Movements and Liberal Political Economy is an interesting and engaging answer to this question. Reviewing contemporary social movement theory, Novak has provided a thoughtful discussion that will be of enduring interest to scholars of social activism and classical liberalism.
We live in an age of social and civil unrest. Strikes, marches, protests and riots are common fixtures in the news. Around the globe there is a growing intolerance for injustice. Applying the lens of mainline political economists like F. A. Hayek, James Buchanan and Elinor Ostrom, Novak offers unique insight into these events. This is a book worth reading at a time that demands our understanding.