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Home arrow Sociology arrow Bourdieu and Social Movements: Ideological Struggles in the British Anti-Capitalist Movement

Methodology

This study comprises 40 semi-structured interviews with British activists,1 observations of major mobilization events and the analysis of over 100 documents, including those produced by the activists themselves.

Thirty-three of the interviews were with a range of activists from anti-capitalist groups. At the time of interview all activists were either currently or formerly active in a range of anarchist or socialist organizations and networks. The anarchists I interviewed were involved in

Class War, Earth First! UK, Reclaim the Streets UK, Dissent!, No Borders, and the British Occupy Movement. The socialists I interviewed were involved in the Socialist Workers Party, Globalise Resistance, the G8 Alternatives, Stop the War Coalition, the Socialist Alliance and trade union groups such as Unite and Britain's general union (the GMB), and the British Occupy movement.2 Eight of the interviews I conducted were with activists or participants involved in the MPH mobilization. In addition, I interviewed an academic expert on the origins of the Occupy movement and the Indignados, who was a very valuable source.

In terms of sampling, the interviewees were selected through a combination of purposive and snowball sampling. Purposive sampling 'works with small samples of people, cases or phenomena nested in particular contexts' (Gray, 2004: 324). In Bourdieusian terminology, this equates to locations within a sub-field of the AGM field - the anti-capitalist field. The activists whom I interviewed were identified through websites or observations as key people or points of contact because of the role they played within an organization. Some, however, were contacted through the snowball method. This refers to selecting people who are 'knowledge sources who then select other people who are also knowledge sources and so on' (Gray, 2004: 88). Both sampling methods were employed as and when appropriate. Random sampling techniques were not appropriate because activists are not typical within a society's population, nor is there a ready-made sampling frame of anti-capitalist activists to use. It has to be acknowledged that the respondents were core members of their respective groups, who had a significant investment of capital in their roles. There are intellectual as well as pragmatic reasons for choosing core members. They were visible and therefore easy to contact; in addition, the data they provided was all the more empirically rich because of their experiences.

Alongside these interviews I undertook participant observation of some major mobilization events. In 2002 and 2004 I attended the European Social Forums held in Florence and London respectively. In July 2005 I observed the three mass mobilizations taking place during the G8 Summit in Edinburgh (MPH, Dissent! and G8 Alternatives). In 2009, I observed demonstrations against the G20 in London. I did not observe any Occupy movement camps as such since most took place for only a few weeks between October 2011 and February 2012.

Most were shorter than this, collapsing after around six weeks according to activist accounts. However, I did interview activists involved in Occupy London and one northern UK city. I also consulted over 100 documents (including leaflets, newspapers, posters and websites) produced by the activist communities.

The structure of the book is as follows. In chapter 2, I critically discuss the master frame of anti-neoliberalism and the key ideologies of the British anti-capitalist groups under study. This is absolutely crucial since ideology shapes political practices. Chapter 3 details the theoretical framework used for this book, including the way in which the key concepts of habitus, capital, field and doxa work, and how they are used to structure the forthcoming data chapters. Chapter 4 focuses on how the habitus concept can be applied to demonstrate the basis of ideological division within the BACMF. I use the concept to outline how activist socialization leads them to acquire different skills and know-how, as well as different understandings of the protest game. Leading on from this, chapter 5 explains how division might progress into ideological competition and conflict. I provide key episodes of conflict through different accounts from different activists. Chapter 6 demonstrates how more powerful groups can enter into a political field and change the rules of the game to their advantage by deploying superior forms of capital. Finally, in chapter 7, I apply the powerful but surprisingly underutilized concept of doxa to explain why and how protest movements emerge out of crises. I use the Occupy movement as an empirical case study for this. Chapter 8 is the conclusion of the book. Here I argue that I have offered a new framework with which to analyse the complexity of social movement mobilizations, formations and, more importantly, ideological competition and conflict within and between social movement groups.

 
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