Democracy, Ideology, and Congenital Inequality in Social Movement Organizations

Master's Thesis


Leaders are crucial to social movement mobilization and maintenance. They often experience conflict between an (implicit or explicit) value for inclusive engagement that “draw on the concerns and energies of all” as a sense that they are moving efficiently toward their organizations’ end goals. This study draws on a multi-site ethnography to illustrate how leaders may resolve this conflict by appearing democratic while still exercising explicit or implicit undemocratic control over organizational processes and outcomes. Resolving tension in this way has the unintended effect of stifling the actual process of democratic participation, effectively excluding new and potentially valuable resources and mobilizing strategies. It is additionally proposed that democracy is an intransigent institution and value; that efficiency may not be some groups’ core motivation’ and that power and ideology are neither anomalous nor eradicable, but lay at the heart of democracy and are constitutive of its practice. The congenitally undemocratic nature of social movement groups, and the strategies deployed to cover the subsequent democratic deficit deserve further investigation.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-12112008-224211

Author Austin David Choi-Fitzpatrick
Advisor Rory McVeigh
Contributor Ernesto Verdeja, Committee Member
Contributor Daniel J. Myers, Committee Member
Contributor Robert Fishman, Committee Member
Contributor Rory McVeigh, Committee Chair
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name Master of Arts
Defense Date
  • 2008-12-04

Submission Date 2008-12-11
  • United States of America

  • social movements

  • organizations

  • democracy

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units

Digital Object Identifier


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