dianadavis - The power of distance: Re-theorizing social...

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The power of distance: Re-theorizing social movements in Latin America DIANE E. DAVIS New School for Social Research Most scholars who work on Latin American social movements borrow frameworks developed by those who study Europe and North America. Little e¡ort has been made to formulate alternative models deliberately sensitive to the unique political, social, cultural, and economic develop- ments in Latin America. Furthermore, the two models most frequently utilized, mainly the political opportunity structure (POS) and new social movement (NSM) approaches, are limited in their explanatory potential and scope because they are built on ‘‘western’’ assumptions about state formation and state-society relations that do not hold in the Latin American context. In what follows, I o¡er a new and more historically speci¢c framework for the study of social movements, built around a phenomenological understanding of space conceived as both a material and a social construct. By encouraging a sensitivity to space and how it articulates with historically given patterns of state forma- tion, class formation, and citizenship, as well as racial, ethnic, and gender-speci¢c identity politics, my larger aim is to provide a new way of understanding and theorizing the origins, nature, and consequences of social movements in di¡erent comparative and historical contexts. I argue that once we more conscientiously develop what Anthony Giddens, Doreen Massey, and Alan Pred, among others, call the ‘‘space/time’’ dimension of our theorizing, 1 we can better understand social movements in Latin America and elsewhere, not just who joins them and the role that meaning and stragegy play in these decisions, but also their larger implications for political and social change. The article is divided into two main sections. In the ¢rst, I examine and account for an intellectual gridlock in the study of Latin American social movements. In the second, I seek to transcend the stalemate by proposing a new theoretical framework built around the concept of distance or, better said, citizens’ distance from the state, understood Theory and Society 28 : 585^638, 1999. ß1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
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geographically, institutionally, and in terms of class and culture. I discuss each of these four dimensions of distance and the overlaps between them, o¡er an explanation for how and why aggregate pat- terns of distance vary the way they do, and ¢nally, theorize the ‘‘power’’ of distance; which is to say, I explain why I think this frame- work can better explain social movement activity in Latin America, even as it dispenses with counterproductive dichotomizations of POS and NSM paradigms. Tracing the popularity of European and North American approaches
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This note was uploaded on 03/30/2010 for the course LATIN AMER LAC SOC taught by Professor Leighpayne during the Winter '10 term at Oxford University.

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dianadavis - The power of distance: Re-theorizing social...

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