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Taking part: social movements, INGOs and global change

Eschle, Catherine and Stammers, Neil (2004) Taking part: social movements, INGOs and global change. Alternatives, 29 (3). pp. 333-372. ISSN 0304-3754

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Can social movements make a difference in global politics? That question is, ultimately, one that only the historical practice of transnational social movements will answer. But is that answer likely to be heard or understood by analysts, even if it were to ring in the air around them? We think not, unless there is a fundamental shift in the way the transformative agency of social movements is conceptualized. In this article we try to substantiate this claim through a critique of existing approaches to the study of transnational social movements. We argue that the attention given to transnational social movements across several different academic disciplines has failed to generate the intellectual and disciplinary synthesis needed to understand their potential. On the contrary, the limitations of each discipline have simply been replicated by others, leaving the field cluttered with incommensurable or overlapping analyses, concepts, and jargon.