Mobilizing and sustaining grassroots activism in the National Organization for Women, 1966-2000 : by Maryann Barakso.
Author(s)Barakso, Maryann, 1967-
Mobilizing and sustaining grassroots activism in NOW, 1966-2000
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
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This dissertation examines how the National Organization for Women (NOW) survived the vagaries of both the political environment and its intraorganizational problems and controversies over its thirty-five year history. It considers the role that patrons, the state, mobilizing structures, leaders, organizational structure, strategic flexibility, and collective identity played in NOW's creation and maintenance. Little support is found for the role of patrons or of the state in NOW's origination and sustenance. Mobilizing structures, in the form of social networks, however, proved crucial factors supporting NOW between 1966 and 1971, its founding period. NOW's organizational structure, particularly its (limited) professionalization and its federalization both assisted NOW in overcoming potentially crippling information gaps between members and leaders. However, federalization has not had an entirely benign effect. In addition to allowing a great deal of autonomy, NOW's federal structure also permitted the development of strong intraorganizational factions. Leaders positively influenced organizational stability by enhancing NOW's collective identity and by stewarding the group towards new strategies. However, NOW's strong identity acts as a constraint upon leaders' ability to change the organization's goals or tactical approach. NOW's longevity and institutionalization over time suggests a second set of issues which are examined in this study. How has NOW's aging affected the organization's attention to its founding principles?(cont.) How is NOW different from interest group organizations who rely mainly on checks, rather than member involvement, for their sustenance? The ways in which NOW is different from the average "interest group" are outlined, as is its continuing commitment to radical politics and to its founding principles.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2001.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 278-294).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology