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Mobilization Potential of a Civil Society

русская версия

Опубликовано на портале: 05-05-2011
Мир России. 2011.  Т. 20. № 2. С. 113-124. 
Тематический раздел:
The global economic crisis is still in process, and societies are mobilizing their resources to cope with its consequences or, at least, somewhat mitigate them. However, a crisis is not a catastrophe. Catastrophes are always unintended, situational and require immediate responses.A civil society may have two distinct modes of functioning – normal and mobilised. While, normally, social capital exists in what may be described as ‘sleeping form’, i.e. without being called for. However, in the latter case everything changes: the social base (constituency) of eco-activist and environmental movements, the structure and character of their networks and resources, etc. New leaders emerge. The latter is important since the leaders of initiative groups play the key role in a mobilisation process. These leaders set up the general, situational, motivational and mobilising frames.The text of the article is structured as follows. First, the theoretical foundations are outlined. Second, an eco-catastrophe is analysed as a systemic phenomenon in sociological terms. Then the forms of mobilisation are considered. Special attention is given to the role of internet and its forms as the instruments for mobilisation of people for coping with the calamity. Another focus of the article is the role of leaders of civil organizations, their professional and ethic features. The authors come to a following conclusion: despite huge material losses and psychological stress local people were able to cope with catastrophe, because they have proved their ability to self-organize.Unfortunately, these and many other results of the mass mobilisation cannot be repeated by the new generation of ‘Russian democrats’, whose leaders attempt to mobilize people from above, whereas the Summer disaster forced these people, including their relatives and friends, to self-organise without any instructions. The link that has tightened them has led to such mobilization and further accumulation of social capital in the process of rendering assistance to those who desperately required help and psychological support. It is of great importance that all of them have actually felt themselves as citizens, that is, as persons who have the right to act independently, not following the obsolescent instructions and delayed top-down commands. It was a clear example of the case when rather weak, but quite mobile horizontal mobilisation organized by means of internet took over the sluggish apparatus of state emergency. More than that, as my long-term investigations have shown, a social mobilisation is inseparable from the political one. Here is some certain experiences from activist-turned-politicians: (1) your work should be systematic. Have no hope that one particular protest action gives the desired result. Do all what you can: write petitions, organize actions, meetings, campaigns or rock-concerts, etc. Your struggle should be permanent;  (2) every collective action must have a certain: what do you want to achieve, who are your backers and opponents. Don’t afraid to name publicly who is guilty in this or that particular case; (3) make any attempt to transform your goals into a mass action, try to involve in it even those who are bystanders and onlookers. In order to achieve it use ‘door-to-door’ communication. Make any attempt to convince those who doubt or want nothing. Your main arm is a persuasion, information and persuasion again; (4) access to media is of a crucial importance. Every your step should be resembled in the  media;  (5) use internet and other IT as much as possible. Make sites and blogs, organize internet forums and public discussions. The more you act publicly, the more chances to mobilise people and accumulate the social capital you need.Two empirical cases are regarded in this article to develop hypotheses that indicate which positive structural and socio-cultural shifts have led to mobilisation of citizens in local civil communities: the forest fires in the settlement of Beloomut in the south of Moskovskaya oblast’ and in the town of Vyksa and its surroundings in Nizhegorodskaya oblast’ in the summer of 2010.
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