Title page for ETD etd-04262006-174404

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Seiler, Steven Jerome
URN etd-04262006-174404
Title A Theoretical Critique of the Western Biases in the Political Process Theory of Social Movements
Degree Master of Science
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Fuhrman, Ellsworth R. Committee Co-Chair
Wimberley, Dale W. Committee Co-Chair
Dunaway, Wilma A. Committee Member
  • Social Movements
  • Third World Political Economy
  • Sociological Theory
Date of Defense 2005-07-22
Availability restricted
The purpose of this study is to contribute to the construction of a theoretical framework for empirical examination of social movements in Third World countries. Political process theory, currently a dominant perspective on social movements, is the most promising starting point for such a research program; however, it has inherent Western biases, which severely limit its explanatory power for examining Third World social movements. Specifically, I contend that political process theory's understanding of the relationship between the state and social movements, as well as its assumptions about the dynamics of political opportunity structures, inadequately capture the complexities of the Third World social movements. Therefore, as the basis of a larger project, I critique the western biases inherent in the theoretical framework of the political process theory, focusing exclusively on Doug McAdam’s contributions to this approach. I employ a hermeneutic method, since it provides a useful means for engaging in discourse with texts. I conclude that McAdam’s views on political opportunity and the state reflect a Eurocentric reading and understanding, in large part because his analyses have been based on democratic states.Accordingly, some of the political process theory's key shortcomings for Third World applications are that it overemphasizes the analytic and practical importance of the electoral system, and that its logic is rooted in unrealistic assumptions of inherently stable political structures and institutionalized democratic processes.
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