Summary and Keywords
Social science research on environment and activism with a cross- or transnational scope (REACTS) is described as a consolidated but confused, stagnant field of scholarship, one which has yet to surpass the comparable state of international studies at large. Previous reviews of the literature in this growing and interdisciplinary research domain have gone so far as so divide it into either its cross-national or its transnational branch, respectively associated with cross-national and environmental social science (CESS), or transnational and environmental social science (TESS). As evidence of stagnancy, once the CESS and TESS branches of REACTS are combined, changes in the cross-national research agenda have been merely the reverse of the transnational one. From 1969–75, REACTS literature covered the themes of population, catastrophic limits to growth, interstate conferences and organizations, North–South relations, survivalist/lifeboat ethics, resource and land conservation, and the social movement organization/non-governmental organization/"third sector." From 1977–91, the issues covered shifted to emphasize violence/conflict, counter environmentalist backlash, seal hunting, whaling, rural energy (improved bioenergy cookstoves), and possibly baby foods, though the earlier concerns with population, (nature) conservation, interstate conferences and survivalist/lifeboat ethics continued. The resistance literature was considerably consolidated and there was a quantitative change in the attention that environmental activism itself received within the pre-existing orientations. In the post-1992 era, the thematic array of transnational REACTS expanded even further as additional issues made it to the agenda in international and environmental studies.
This essay reviews social science research on environment and activism with a cross- or transnational scope (REACTS), accentuating the transnational. Activism has “been crucial to the achievement of progress in environmental protection.” (Rootes 2004; see Giugni 1998; Binder and Neumayer 2005; Shandra 2007) Transnationally, activists “have a stronger presence in the environmental issue area than in many other areas.” (Betsill 2006; see Jasanoff 1997; Meyer et al. 1997; Raustiala 1997b; Charnovitz 2006) The environment reached second place on the issue-agendas of transnational activist groups in the early 1980s; and has been catching up to human rights since the early 1990s. In 2000, environmentalist groups comprised nearly 20 percent of all transnational activist organizations (Smith 2004). Within countries, the membership of environmentalist social movement organizations (SMOs), or non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), averages 5.2 percent of the population in 56 industrialized and developing nations sampled. This membership is one of the largest worldwide. It is comparable to that of all political parties put together (6.5 percent), and exceeds those of any set of societal organizations other than labor unions (12.6 percent), educational groups (12.2 percent), and local community associations (5.2 percent) (Dalton 2005). While the membership of environmentalist SMOs continues to far exceed the number of voters or members of green parties “almost everywhere” (Rootes 2004) in Northern and Western Europe green party-based environmentalist activists reached an average of over 5 percent of votes in four nation–states in the 1980s and in twice as many since 1990 (Carter 2007).
The term “environmental activism” encompasses several orientations. Environmentalist activism, committed to the cause of future generations or non-human entities, is one prominent orientation. Other orientations of environmental activism are more committed to current (human) generations and are still tied to non-human entities, future generations, or environmentalists (see van der Heijen et al. 1992; Carter 2007).
That the all-embracing review in this essay is unprecedented reflects the mixed state of the art for REACTS as a consolidated but confused, stagnant field of scholarship, one which has yet to surpass the comparable state of international studies at large (see e.g., Guzzini 1998; Elman and Elman 2002). Previous reviews of the literature in this growing and interdisciplinary research domain have gone further than this essay in slicing it into either its crossnational or its transnational branch – respectively associated with crossnational and environmental social science (CESS), or transnational and environmental social science (TESS) (within CESS see Dalton 1994; Yearley 1994; della Porta and Rucht 2002; Rootes 2004; Carter 2007; within TESS see Princen and Finger 1994; Wapner 1996; Betsill 2006; Hochstetler 2007; Spiro 2007). This essay covers both transnational (international) and to a lesser extent crossnational (comparative) analyses. The aim is to complement existing reviews by prioritizing breadth, and by supplementing with depth where detailed surveying is not available elsewhere – namely, on transgenerational engagement connecting pre- and post-1992 research as well as transdisciplinary integration of post-1992 research branches.
Work available elsewhere offers diagnosis and prescription for the stagnating weight of REACTS fragmentation. Eschle and Stammers (2004) convincingly call for more transdisciplinary engagement spanning activism studies, and caution that “some of the most significant problems with existing academic work traverses disciplinary divides.” Indeed, study of (environmental) activism generally remains most fragmented between transnational research that clusters around “the notions of global civil society and global governance,” and crossnational research going transnational through attempts to extend national/domestic approaches to social movements across national boundaries. Acceleration without integration “has failed to generate the intellectual and disciplinary synthesis needed to understand” activism, and instead has produced intellectual stagnation as limitations of each (sub)discipline “have simply been replicated by others, leaving the field cluttered with incommensurable or overlapping analyses, concepts, and jargon.” (Eschle and Stammers 2004; see also Kamieniecki 1993) The seriousness of growing fragmentation can already be gauged by an intensity of scholarly disagreement in REACTS (e.g., van der Heijden 2004, 2006; Bob 2005) that is increasingly greater than prevails in its overarching CESS or TESS (see Müller-Rommel and Meyer 2001; Dauvergne 2005; Najam 2005).
The essay proceeds as follows. The next section surveys the two branches of the literature since 1900. Then, the essay presents a pre-1992 review of questions addressed and/or abandoned in two periods of transnational REACTS, 1969–75 and 1977–91, balancing comprehensiveness and commensurateness with causal hypotheses. The subsequent section addresses post-1992 transnational REACTS with an emphasis on linking pre- and post-1992 eras of analysis. The final part offers an overview of cross- and transnational trends over time, in the process of evaluating the state of the art in REACTS.
II. Threads of Research
Environmentalist activism is arguably different than activism on other issues in three ways: “its intimate relationship to science, its practical claims to international solidarity, and its ability to offer a concerted critique of and an alternative to industrial capitalism.” (Yearley 1994; also see Rootes 2004).
The first difference contextualizes REACTS definitions of activism on the basis of its function in translating and/or brokering between science and politics (Caldwell 1990; Breyman 1993; Rosenau 1993; Princen and Finger 1994; Lipschutz 1996; Jasanoff 1997; Meyer et al. 1997; Steinberg 2003) even as this role constitutes at least an operational tension for environmentalist activism and a comparable tension for activism on other issues (Agarwal and Narain 1991; Wenzel 1991; Cross 1992; Peterson 1992; Sen 1994; Luke 1995; Rooke and Schnell 1995; Guha 1997; Escobar 1998; Brosius 1999; Toke 1999; Dunlop 2000; Zhouri 2000b; Fearnside 2001; Harper 2001; Lomborg 2001:4–7; Epstein 2005; Ignatow 2005; Hess 2007).
The second difference helps explain the disproportionately large share of grandiose cosmopolitan conceptualizing in REACTS (e.g., Falk 1970, 1987; Boulding 1991; Lipschutz 1992; Conca 2002b) even as environmental activists often display less transnational solidarity than activists in other issue areas such as feminism, human rights, indigenism, health, economic justice, and development (Wenzel 1991; Cross 1992; Gallagher and Gallagher 1992; Clark 1993; O’Connor 1994; Sen 1994; Clark et al. 1998; Anderson 2000; Lewis 2000; Fox 2002; González and Nigh 2005; Smith 2005; Brockington and Igoe 2006; Nielsen 2007; see Conca 1994b; Ellis 1994; Lewis 2003; Mason 2004; Neumann 2004; Barrett 2007; but see Clapp 1994; Gale 1998; Evangelista 1999; Chasek 2001; Rohrschneider and Dalton 2002; Khagram 2004; Alkoby 2006; Oliveira 2007; von Bülow 2007).
The third difference points to REACTS’ singular part in “post-industrialist” conceptualizing of new radical, symbolic potential (see e.g., Touraine 1981; Melucci 1989; Caldwell 1990; Boulding 1991; Lipschutz and Mayer 1993) even as environmentalist activists have compromised their fundamentals to a degree comparable to that of the old radical labor activists (van der Heijden 1997; Luke 1998; Dreiling and Wolf 2001; Stevis 2002; Dalton et al. 2003; Ford 2003; Wapner and Willoughby 2005; Blühdorn 2007; Carter 2007; but see Tatum 2002).
REACTS within TESS
As a portion of TESS research, REACTS is growing sufficiently fast that it is gaining ground, in proportional terms, and is “set to grow even further.” (Dauvergne 2005; see van der Heijden 2006) Reviewing research since the mid-1940s, Stevis (2006:14–15, 38) identifies REACTS as a driver of substantive and theoretical expansion in TESS. He concludes that REACTS is broadening as a new research area and deepening as a set of viewpoints/perspectives from which that area is approached. Increased scholarly attention after 1992 has been attributed to greater awareness of environmentalist activists’ success not only in influencing state policies, but also in creating a transnational civil society and restructuring patterns of politics (Hurrell 1994; Princen and Finger 1994).
REACTS scholarship grew slowly before 1970. Prior to the mid-1940s, there were only two brief REACTS contributions (Brooks 1900:255; Viner 1937:100) despite the first wave of transnational activism studies in the interwar 1918–39 period (e.g., Pickard 1936; see post-1945, Feraru 1974). There was more attention after 1945 (e.g., Dixey 1949; Goodrich 1951; Winslow 1951; Camus 1953:20–2, 304–6; Rozental 1956; Teilhard de Chardin 1959, 1965; Meynaud 1961). Stevis (2006:21) considers it surprising to discover an “absence of research on NGOs” even though they played an important role internationally on other issues during the 1945–70 period. Only a brief note by Foote (1967) addressed environmentalist NGOs.
Existing reviews of the transnational REACTS literature published between the late 1960s and the early 1990s conclude that there was surprisingly little transnational REACTS from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, in absolute terms as well as relative to research on other TESS themes or on non-environmental transnational activism (Stevis 2006:29–34, 38; see Hurrell 1994:163; Betsill 2006). Similarly, the little REACTS that did exist was considered of a “poor empirical and theoretical” quality (Princen and Finger 1994; see Wapner 1995a). However, a closer look at the scholarship of the time indicates that there were substantial and sophisticated bursts of transnational REACTS between 1969 and 1991. Thus, claims of exponential growth and improvement in TESS-based REACTS after 1992 are overstated.
REACTS within CESS
The crossnational branch of REACTS gradually began to incorporate more systematically crossnational analysis in the mid-1970s – about a decade earlier than studies on non-environmental activism; yet even thirty years later some researchers claimed that there was remarkably little systematic comparative work on environmental(ist) activism (Lowe and Rüdig 1986; McAdam et al. 1996; della Porta and Rucht 2002; Rootes 2003; see Price 1973; Kitschelt 1986; Hochstetler 1994; Dalton et al. 2003; Dryzek et al. 2003; Dalton 2005; van Koppen and Markham 2007). This section surveys CESS-based REACTS until 1992, and section V briefly overviews it since (see McCarthy 1997).
Three early clusters of contributions to crossnational REACTS are sometimes combined into a “new politics thesis” explaining the formation of mass environmentalism through a trio of novelties: “the rise of new social movements, the emergence of a new middle class and the flourishing of postmaterial values” (Carter 2007). These comparative studies culminated in a consensus that the “new politics thesis” identifies broad structural and cultural trends that have facilitated the rise of environmentalist societal groups and political parties in much of the industrialized northern hemisphere, but does not account for crossnational variation among the broadly uniform industrialized nation–states (Carter 2007; see Lowe and Rüdig 1986; Finger 1992; van der Heijden et al. 1992; Pádua 1992; Dalton 2005).
Other political, institutional factors were found to better explain crucial variations in such activism including the timing and performance of a partial shift away from social movements and toward party politics and/or institutionalized professional lobbying (see Müller-Rommel 1982; Lowe and Rüdig 1986; van der Heijden et al. 1992; Rüdig 1992; Carter 2007). These findings merged with seminal REACTS contributions to the building of an explanatory framework that eventually became known as “political opportunity structure” (POS) (Eisinger 1973; Lowe and Goyder 1983; Reich 1984; Kitschelt 1986, 1988; Tarrow 1988; Joppke 1993). POS explanations are based on institutional and political factors, encouraging or discouraging activism, that are mainly external to activist groups. Before 1992 and within REACTS, POS was applied largely to explain green party based environmentalist activism crossnationally. It has become a dominant concept applied to all bases of (environmental(ist)) activism in post-1992 crossnational and in post-1994 transnational studies (Fisher 1994; Princen and Finger 1994:54–9).
The impact of the “objective” biophysical environment on the formation of environmentalist activism received only anecdotal and nationally-specific analysis in pre-1992 research, and remains inconclusive in post-1992 crossnational REACTS (Lowe and Rüdig 1986; van der Heijden et al. 1992:3–6; Dalton 1994; Brechin 1999; Carter 2007). The common claim that environmental activism rises in straightforward response to objective challenges of the biophysical environment has not been supported in crossnational REACTS (Joppke 1993; Koopmans and Duyvendak 1995; Carter 2007). Instead, the literature has increasingly concluded that objective “deprivation and grievances,” environmental or other, are only one component – sometimes secondary or contingent – in the formation of (environmental(ist)) activism (McCarthy and Zald 1977; van der Heijden et al. 1992:3–6; Dalton 1994; Maheu 1995; Szreter 1997). As Maheu (1995:3) noted, “Theoretical models of relative deprivation are…packed with unsolved inquiries about how a collective grievance becomes an instance of mobilization.”
III. Review of Pre-1992 Transnational REACTS
Through four or five different – though not mutually exclusive – intellectual orientations (see Judge and Skjelsbaek 1972; Feraru 1974), the literature in the 1969–75 period covers the themes of population, catastrophic limits to growth, interstate conferences and organizations, North–South relations, survivalist/lifeboat ethics, resource and land conservation, and the SMO/NGO/“third sector.”
First, a transnationalist approach covers hybridized/networked state–society connections across borders. It named the overall subject matter within international studies by conceptualizing “transnational relations” as “regular interactions across national boundaries when at least one actor is a non-state agent” (Nye and Keohane 1971a).
In the process of consolidating its precursors, the transnationalist cluster of REACTS briefly treated transnational environmentalist activism amidst a debate ranking the relevance, disputing the “rise” and conceptualizing the relationships of non-state actors (Bell 1971; Nye and Keohane 1971a, 1971b; Feld 1972). Such REACTS tended to be as cursory as: “In quieter ways…United States-based foundations have taken the lead in sensitive areas such as birth control” (Nye and Keohane 1971b:745). It also generally viewed activism in connection to state actors and with some reservation. For instance: “We are not arguing that transnational actors always weaken governmental control in less developed countries. On the contrary,…the activities of Planned Parenthood or the Ford Foundation in the field of birth control may actually increase governmental capacities. Nor are we arguing that all elites in less developed countries resist transnational relations” (Nye and Keohane 1971b:738). In another example of qualification and state–society hybridization, “[A]mong unequal states transnational relations may merely put additional means of leverage into the hands of the more powerful states, located at the center of the transnational networks, to the disadvantage of those which are already weak” (Nye and Keohane 1971a:340).
A second REACTS cluster in this period was labeled “sociological,” stressing its attention to transnational SMOs “as contributors to world political integration” (Feraru 1974:32). It can be less disciplinarily termed functionalist, considering that it concocts into an unique adversarial dualism premises that are atypical of and inferences that are typical of (neo)functionalism and integration theories. On the one hand, “duel-functionalism” is inspired by premises of a “dichotomous and adverse relationship between a ‘society-centered’ and [a] ‘state-dominated’” world politics (Risse 2002:257, 260; see Wapner 1995a:319). On the other hand, the rubric characterizes inferences that technological and technical issues generate a greater level of private cooperation tying societies across borders along (biophysically) functional lines that, in turn, would eventually contribute to more responsive and facilitating public intergovernmental institutions or supranational governance structures (see Risse 2002:257, 260).
At a time of futuristic global models on limits to growth, the duel-functionalist REACTS strand invoked the work of its forerunners (e.g., Teilhard de Chardin 1959, 1965) within its own World Order Models Project (WOMP), examining prospects for world institutions to feature forms of steady-state, ecological sustainability. Falk (1970, 1971, 1975) argues that the militaristic, population, resource and environmental “sources of planetary danger” could not be controlled absent a structural shift. Such a transition from multiple to single sovereignty through a central guidance that would maximize voluntary activism was considered unlikely (in the then 50–150-year future) unless a global nuclear or ecological catastrophe occurred. REACTS entered as Falk and WOMP associates (e.g., Galtung 1973, 1986) encourage counter-movements including “environmentalists as what they are, or should be, subvertors of the existing order, apostles of a new order, part of a movement to do away with the war system, the ideology of national sovereignty, and the presence of mass misery in the world.” (Falk 1970) Falk (1971) includes an urge for “world order activism” and a suggestion for readers to support U.S. environmentalist SMOs listed. He also calls for the acceleration of rapidly emerging transnational ties – including among scientific and student groups – so as to initiate a cosmopolitan consciousness. The work drew sharp criticism from scholars such as Bull: “The solutions [Falk] proposes for the problem –…[including the] strengthening of transnational ties – perhaps belie his own argument that the system is unworkable. […] [Falk] has turned…from analysis to advocacy” (1972:588).
A third approach featured in this period was adequately summarized as “juridical.” Although also inclusive of policymaking interactions, it ultimately “examines the legal status and international law implications of NGOs” (Feraru 1974:32).
As had occurred before (Dixey 1949; Goodrich 1951), the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) stimulated the juridical REACTS cluster. Short articles described such topics as SMOs and “the end of the world,” environmentalist activism in and around UNCHE, and environmentalist activists and the headquartering of UNEP in Kenya (Knelman 1972; Fenaux 1973; Harroy 1973; Todd 1973; Feraru 1974). Crampton (1972) generalized propositions – about nationalism and the formation of interstate organizations – by describing the defeat of activists in a transnational environmentalist network, which advocated for a UNESCO-offshoot institute, by domestic opponents, whose protest targets included that institute.
A fourth “political interest” orientation is associated with the extension of crossnational social movement/collective action studies across borders. It conceptualizes activists “as ‘international pressure groups,’ acting in the international political system on behalf of particular interests, as national or local interest groups do in national systems.” (Feraru 1974:32–33).
Building upon Meynaud’s (1961) political interest orientation, Feraru (1974) seeks to advance a conceptualization of (environmental) SMOs as “international pressure groups” not necessarily engaged with state actors or antisystemic, but rather oriented by specific (public) interests. Accordingly, contrary to juridicalists’ and transnationalists’ typical expectation of close state–society interactions, Feraru (1974:51–5) brings UNCHE and UNEP data to bear on eight pre-existing propositions and concludes that one hypothesis about such interactions could not yet be tested: “INGOs [international NGOs] are likely to develop a community of interest with members of the [interstate] secretariat in which the INGOs advocate policy – which the officials, as international civil servants, are not supposed to do” (White 1951:253 citing Pickard 1936:8). In Feraru’s (1974:54) view, another pre-hypothesized proposition “seems applicable” to the involvement of activist groups with “UN environmental policymaking”: “It is difficult to get concerted action by groups of INGOs, because of the diversity of their interests and positions on a wide range of subjects” (Meynaud 1961:255, Feraru’s translation). Without mentioning duel-functionalists (e.g., Falk 1970, 1971), Feraru ends with a rebuttal of antistatism: “If one expects that the transnational associations, on behalf of a global environmental protection policy, will combine forces to mount a concerted assault against the fortresses of archaic national sovereignty, disappointment is certain” (1974:55).
In another political interest contribution, diplomat Castro (1972) analyzes an environmentalist mix of elite advocacy and social movement expanding within industrialized nation–states. Such activism was “not confined [only] to the…scientific community” but also included “fuzzy agitation” in schoolchildren cleanup “crusades” and college-student-organized “demonstrations” (Castro 1972:401–7). Castro exposes a subset of environmentalists who forecasted catastrophes and went on to advocate survivalist, lifeboat ethics that would “freeze” non-industrialized nation–states in “underdevelopment” “in the name of the survival of mankind” (1972:403–8). He perceived such environmentalism as part of a wider tendency for activists no matter how cosmopolitan to focus primarily on change in the developing world because they find targets in developing nation–states relatively more vulnerable to their advocacy. In Castro’s (1972:404–11) view, environmentalist activists’ “commitment to conservation” motivates them to maximize their effectiveness. However, the strategic pursuit of that cause within structures of uneven industrialization leads them to “a commitment to conservatism” inasmuch as the locus of their activism perpetuates the initial distribution of power/vulnerability both within targeted nation–states and between differentially-targeted nation–states. Regarding “conservatism” within targeted nation–states, Castro (1972:404–16) contributes a scenario: Transnational activism of insufficient sensitivity to crossnational specificities in environmental degradation would distort southern national policy priorities – from pollution of poverty, such as sanitation and housing conditions, to pollution of affluence, such as “vast Kruger Parks” and “green area reserves.” As for “conservatism” between differentially targeted nation–states, Castro (1972:411–2) offers as an example a loss of southern sovereignty due to population-focused environmental(ist) activism in and around an intergovernmental organization for financial assistance, the World Bank.
Boulding (1973:101–12) provided another political-interest analysis of activism – in private charity, foundations or governments – that he claimed is “constantly doing harm in the name of doing good.” According to Boulding (1973:105–112), as the age of economic growth fades away due to a planetary biophysical constraint/limit, “the relative role of grants and exchange” shifts toward grants and becomes “one of the most crucial elements” to determine the form and possibility of “human survival.” During that shift “a whole new set” of “grants” ideas and institutions “that have not previously adapted well to survival” under growth will become necessary in a future without growth if humanity adjusts “rapidly enough” to survive. In an illustration of one out of three conceptualized grant “pathologies,” Boulding (1973:23–5, 98–101) compares the Ford Corporation and the Ford Foundation, then the major funding sources for transnational activism on population control/planning and the green (agricultural) revolution: “There is very little selective process that eliminates foundations with frivolous or unproductive purposes, in the way that there is a selective process operating to eliminate firms which do not produce something for which people are willing to pay. […] Where there are a large number of grantors facing a large number of potential recipients at least an analog of the competitive market in the exchange sector begins to appear [in the grants/SMO/NGO/third sector].” Thus, Boulding’s (1973) contributions include a focus on activist relationships. This focus makes indeterminate Castro’s (1972) hypothesized maximization of inequity due to competition driven selection of effective activism.
Finally, a fifth “resistance” cluster analyzes subtle, everyday forms of resistance to perceived injustice. The strategies it typically considers include shirking, foot dragging, slacking off, working slowly, showing up late, taking long lunch breaks, dissimulating, feigning ignorance, careless performance on duty, robbery (including wildlife poaching and theft of wood in forests), illegal land clearing (often through fire), squatting, land invasions, and escape (Scott 1985; Lichbach 1994:392–4). This strand only included a brief exchange on the (transnational) origins of the – salt, cotton etc. – satyagraha campaign for India’s independence (Herman 1969; Hunt and Herman 1970).
REACTS in the 1977–91 period can be distinguished from its earlier version in three ways. First, the issues covered shift to emphasize violence/conflict, counter environmentalist backlash, seal hunting, whaling, rural energy (improved bioenergy cookstoves), and possibly baby foods, though the earlier concerns with population, (nature) conservation, interstate conferences and survivalist/lifeboat ethics continue. Second, the resistance literature is considerably consolidated. Third, there is a quantitative change in the attention that environmental activism itself received within the pre-existing orientations – be it more (transnationalist and juridical) or less (duel-functionalist and political-interest).
The REACTS resistance stream was strengthened by at least two sets of causal hypotheses. Soroos considered international aid policy changes resulting from lifeboat advocacy. Such advocacy was “receiving a responsive audience among foreign-aid-weary [U.S. citizens] who look[ed] upon rapid population growth trends in the [global south] as the primary ecological peril of [their] times” (1977:648). He cautioned that making international food assistance conditional on southern nation–states limiting population growth would lead to food shortages and exacerbate instabilities within the south, and financially impact the north through violent transnational and national activism. Grove (1990:25–50) offered a chapter advancing “towards a global synthesis” of resistance to environmental/resource policies. He critiques Scott’s (e.g., 1985) theorizing of the resistance approach for “skirt[ing] the critical part played by ecological pressures in guiding peasant action” (Grove 1990:16–17, 43). Revealing significant transnational linkages and synchronies, Grove (1990:25–50) sifts through cases ranging from the earliest recorded (e.g., ancient Roman Empire in Tunisia) to the contemporary (e.g., India into the 1980s).
The political-interest cluster was reinvented with a lower volume of theory-building (see Wenzel 1991). Allen (1979) provided an organizational analysis of transnational environmentalist activism as an “industry.” He analyzed cause oriented groups as firms seeking organizational perpetuation, and explained why resources were devoted to stopping the seal hunt “in defiance of rationality” given that the species was not endangered, threatened nor treated as brutally as many others. Maniates (1990) later provided a more empirical and unconstrained, but less transnational analysis in a similar organizational vein.
In the early 1980s, three scholars resumed transnationalist REACTS more substantially than fellow transnationalists whose contributions on the topic had continued to be fleeting (Coate 1978; Jacobson 1979).
Mandel (1980) engages duel-functionalism by conceptualizing the conditions necessary for a type of “transnational resource conflict” initiated by transnational activists toward nation–statenation–states. The transnationalist contribution approaches such nonviolent conflict as “an essential addition to the arsenal of the environmental activist” precipitated by “global resource scarcity.” In one conflict Soviet whalers faced the U.S. Greenpeace office. Another dispute featured Japanese whalers, along with non-whaling businesses whose Japanese exports to the U.S. were boycotted, versus the U.S.-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), along with 21 other environmentalist activist groups. Earlier and more explicitly than others since, Mandel uses such transnational activism to challenge Falk (1971) on the need for “grand schemes…[of] international authority…in order to deal with global environmental problems” (see Garner 1991; Wapner 1996).
The chapters in Willetts (1982), aim at cumulativeness and at balancing the transnationalist cluster’s uneven treatment of profit maximizing above cause oriented non-state actors. Along with activist Burke’s (1982) descriptive chapter the overall volume defines “cause-oriented” actors and transposes such “pressure groups” to the transnational level from domestic pluralism debates. They fail to refer to Meynaud (1961) or Feld (1972). Meynaud had already accomplished a similar definition and transposition, and even used both the “cause-oriented” and “pressure group” terminology. Already by 1972 Feld had also overlooked Meynaud’s even treatment of profit maximizing and cause oriented non-state actors, and had offered a similar leveling of the transnationalist terrain.
Sikkink contributed a transnationalist article on the relations of activists with both (inter)governmental and (multinational) business organizations. She analyzes a campaign on infant formula and other alternatives to breast milk that proved hazardous in the developing south, where they were marketed due to the demographic (population) transition in the developed north; but that in terms of environmental (un)activism only mobilized a minor number of environmental health scientists (1986:816, 820–1).
Boardman (1981) reopened the juridical cluster, which continued with a rich descriptive focus on relationships between environmentalist activists and law making (inter/trans)governmental regimes, organizations, commissions, and/or conferences (Caldwell 1984, 1988; Willetts 1989; Yap 1989; Maniates 1990; Garner 1991). Boardman (1981) documents the “formative” impact of said activists on interstate environmental policymaking in the late 1800s and early 1900s, complementing a similar attention directed to more recent events by other juridicalists before 1976 and again in the late 1980s.
The duel-functionalist approach continued into this period with hardly any REACTS content which combines both environment and transnational activism, not just either one – so its discussion is deferred to the post-1992 era, below (see Farer 1977; Falk 1978; Beer 1979; Michalak 1980; Galtung 1986; Arrighi et al. 1989; Deudney 1990; Boulding 1991; but see Falk 1987; Garner 1991).
IV. New Directions in Post-1992 Transnational REACTS
Into the post-1992 era the thematic array of transnational REACTS expanded even further as additional issues made it to the agenda in international and environmental studies. Each of the five pre-existing strands of literature also expanded
In the duel-functionalist stream, the WOMP’s indirect, intergenerational contribution to REACTS prominently included Falk chairing a dissertation (Wapner 1996:ix) and influencing works by students of neofunctionalist Ernst Haas (Lipschutz 1992; Conca 1994b, 2002b:10–39). A subsequent generation elaborated – without awareness/reference – on Bull’s (1972) succinct dismissal of Falk (1970, 1971) in its own reactions to Falk-inspired 1990s duel-functionalism. This next generation (Hurrell 1994; Eckersley 2005; see Keck and Sikkink 1998:209–210) remained unconvinced by the REACTS of post-1992 duel-functionalism. At the same time, cumulative if not entirely generative compromise did occur. Wapner’s uniquely cumulative work (1995b, 1996) was not only a reaction to the state-centric backlash in 1980s’ transnational (sub)disciplines (Guzzini 1998), but also a synthesis of Falkian theses and antitheses.
Without awareness or reference, Wapner (1995b, 1996) elaborates on Bull’s (1972) and Mandel’s (1980:121) deployment of transnational interactions to reject the Falkian necessity of a worldwide environmental central guidance often (mis)characterized as an environmentalist world government. Awareness of the Falkian exchange disentangles critiques of Wapner’s (1996) work for simultaneously failing to be interested in states (Newell 2000:163), and for being too much, rather than too little, interested in interstate organizations – to the point of coming to certain overestimated “conclusions about the local action of NGOs” (Chartier 2006:52; see Princen and Finger 1994:46). A non-state analysis restricted to the activist-society relations of “world civic politics” is required to fulfill his purpose. Wapner’s (1995a:319, 1996) goal is to show that states are not necessary for environmental sustainability.
The shape of discussions regarding the roles of nonstate actors is summarized in Table 1, to which this essay now turns.
Simultaneous but incompatible (theory-laden) interpretations of the same state–society phenomena – as featured in Table 1 – illustrate that not all cumulative research is generative (see Elman and Elman 2002), in duel-functionalist, political interest or transnationalist REACTS as much as in other research programs. The next three paragraphs elaborate on this point by transposing to REACTS Skocpol’s (1977) constructive criticism of another research program, world systems theory, that has avoided conventional nation–state units of analysis. The following discussion closely reviews two leading examples that are representative of vast volumes of REACTS:
Skocpol (1977:1089) explains a source of stagnancy even in these cumulative pieces of REACTS that engage earlier contributions. She warns that a “mirror image” trap plagues attempts “to create a new paradigm through direct, polemic opposition to an old one.” Skocpol identifies a risk of stagnancy whenever innovators “uncritically carry over outmoded theoretical categories” and “define new ones mainly by searching for the seemingly direct opposite of the old ones.” She cautions that “what seems like a direct opposite may rest on similar assumptions, or may lead one (through the attempt to work with an artificial, too extreme opposition) around full circle to the thing originally opposed.” Instead, Skocpol recommends that scholars ask themselves what new units of analysis would allow cutting into the evidence in new ways to examine “exactly the problems or relationships that the older approaches have neglected.”
Table 1 Post-1992 REACTS in Light of Pre-1992 Legacies
“Contrast the picture of international environmental[ist] NGOs drawn by [Peluso and Wapner]. How can we account for the dramatically different interpretations of these two observers?” (Conca and Dabelko 2004:338)
“When transnational environmental[ist] activist groups empower local communities, they are…not focused primarily on states. Rather, by working to improve people’s day-to-day economic lives in ecologically sustainable ways, they bypass state apparatuses and activate [social] governance that operates at the community level. […] In places like Kenya and Malaysia, where environmental[ist] NGOs are part of broader opposition groups…outside aid to local groups may be perceived as foreign intervention trying to diminish state power.”
“In Kenya and other Third World countries, …the outside environmental[ist] [activist] community may be weakening local resource claimants who possess less firepower than the state. While some [external] conservationists are also “arming” local non-government organizations with symbolic and financial support, their ultimate goal is as much or more to influence state policy as to empower local resource users. […] [O]n the ground, these conservation groups seek ultimately to change state policy and practice. Unfortunately, [their] coercive conservation also strengthens or extends the state’s military capacity” (see also Barkin and Mumme 1993; Princen and Finger 1994:23, 46).
“Being stung…by an ecological sensibility…is a type of [cultural] governance [disseminated by transnational environmentalist groups]. It is a sensibility not restricted to governments nor exclusively within their domain of control. […] It defines the boundaries of good conduct and thus animates how a host of actors – from governments to voluntary associations and ordinary citizens – think about and act in reference to the environment.”
“Some tropical developing states use conservation ideology [disseminated by external environmentalist activists] to justify coercion in the name of conservation. […] The ethics underlying the [transnational] spread of Western conservation ideologies [by environmentalist activists], without considering their inevitable transformation when accepted or appropriated by developing states, require close reexamination.”
For REACTS, Skocpol’s advice suggests a harder look at use of the concept of actor, and particularly the distinction between state actors and non-state actors. A bypass around “mirror image” stagnancy that corrects state related distortion emerged in REACTS through Keck and Sikkink’s pioneering transnationalist contributions. They introduced a unit of analysis – network campaigns – that hybridizes actors and structures, state and nonstate actors (Keck and Sikkink 1992, 1998; see also Hall 1992; Hurrell 1992; Hogenboom 1996:991–1004; Nelson 1996, 2002; Zhouri 2000b; Hochstetler 2002; Rodrigues 2003; Steinberg 2003; Khagram 2004; Park 2005; Wu 2005; Connelly 2006; Schaper 2007). Some duel-functionalist and/or political interest scholars immediately incorporated this generative transnationalist move (e.g., Conca 1994a, 1995:443–54; Lipschutz 1996:73–9; della Porta and Rucht 2002; Tarrow 1998, 2005). This innovation allowed for cumulative finetuning of pre-1992 transnationalist models, as in a “boomerang pattern” that adapted earlier network diagrams by changing focus from actor position – e.g., location in non-state organization – to actor role – e.g., cause-orientation in any organization (compare Keck and Sikkink 1998:2–9 to Nye and Keohane 1971a:333–5; coincidentally Wu 2005 to Feld 1972). In effect, Keck and Sikkink elaborate on a half-century older proposition about a disobedient “community of interest” between transnational SMOs (TSMOs) and rebellious intergovernmental civil servants (Feraru 1974:54 citing White 1951:253 and Pickard 1936:8).
In keeping with Skocpol’s (1977:1089) concern, non-statism suffers from a “mirror image” of the same sort of problem that Wapner (1995a) originally opposed in pre-1992 contributions on transnational (environmentalist) activism: less interest in understanding activism than in taking a position in a “statist” (sub)discipline. Pre-1992 duel-functionalist research (e.g., Falk 1970, 1971; Boulding 1991) displays that prioritization of state related theory over empirics. This review does not substantiate Wapner’s generalization about such priorities for all strands of pre-1992 transnational REACTS (e.g., Crampton 1972; Feraru 1974; Mandel 1980; Boardman 1981; Grove 1990). Princen and Finger’s (1994:1) political interest REACTS features a substantive interest in NGOs similar to Wapner’s (1996) but their theoretical focus is on NGO relations with other actors, regardless of whether non-state. These different theoretical foci largely explain why Princen and Finger’s (1994:23, 46) interpretation of the same, simultaneous phenomena featured in Table 1 converges with Peluso’s (1993) alternative view to Wapner’s duel-functionalism; and point to a non-statist tension between state related empirics and theory in duel-functionalist research inherited from Falk’s ambiguous sense that activists “are, or should be” (present or future) antistatists. Non-statism distorts not only state actors, but also non-state actors in so far as the latter are impacted by the former.
The generative potential of the transnationalist innovations – campaigns of “transnational advocacy networks” and actor–role/orientation – has yet to gain full appreciation in REACTS applications. Conca (2002a) finds that while environmental activism has been one of three particularly popular scholarly topics in TESS since the early 1990s, it has been studied in an “increasingly narrow and routinized way” that devotes disproportionate attention among other non-state actors “to the more comfortable (and no doubt easier-to-study) category, the…environmental[ist] NGO” (see also Görg and Hirsch 1998; Paterson 2006; Kelly 2007). Reviewing REACTS, Betsill (2006) detects both that “most scholars explicitly narrow” their primary actors to either NGOs or transnational networks, and that, even when such researchers ostensibly apply the campaign unit of analysis associated with transnational networks, they frequently resort back to a focus on NGO actors considered prominent in these networks. Such operational ease bordering on non-statism can perpetuate an unnecessary and thorny theoretical–empirical tension.
A network campaign unit of analysis does not fit all purposes, and its limitations remain less than fully appreciated despite several previous scope specifications. Indeed, the analytical unit tends to blur relationships between actors within the network (Jordan and van Tuijle 2000; Rodrigues 2003; Bob 2005; Betsill 2006:177; Hertel 2006; von Bülow 2007) as well as differences between ideational persuasion and material coercion in the character of network pressure/leverage on targets (Hurrell 1992; Clark 1993; Payne 1996, 1997, 2001; Nelson 1996, 1997; Price 2003; Landolt 2004; Eschle and Stammers 2004; Doyle and Doherty 2006; Busby 2007). Until recently, Bob (2005, but see Forthcoming) confused such overshadowing in transnationalist REACTS (e.g., Keck and Sikkink 1998) for an optimism regarding SMOs that ostensibly is shared with the duel-functionalist analyses (e.g., Falk 1987; Lipschutz 1992; Wapner 1996) onto which he spread the brunt of much antagonistic critique.
Highly influential as it has been, Bob’s (2005) own political interest contribution also cumulates unselectively by carrying over non-statist stagnancy and confusion from the duel-functionalist REACTS it challenges. Bob’s (2005:10–13) publication comes well after transnationalists’ hybridizing breakthroughs, but still generalizes, without due specification, beyond the abnormally non-statist cases it covers. Perhaps owing to non-statist legacies inherited from pre-1992 WOMP research, duel-functionalist REACTS scholars concede too much to Bob’s book by reviewing the latter as “absolutely right that there is a morality market animating global civil society” (Wapner 2006). No similar concession has emerged from transnationalists who are increasingly demonstrating a contingency incommensurable with a determinate “marketing of rebellion” inside activist networks: Such a different reaction may be because transnationalist analyses have typically revealed that (inter/trans)governmental relations with non-state activists are an integral variable shaping relations among such societal activists (e.g., Eccleston 1996; Rodrigues 2003; Zhouri 2000b; Hertel 2006; von Bülow 2007; Bertone 2008; see Pathak 1999; van Koppen 2006). Bob (2005) also cautions that activists seeking to strengthen their counterparts who request transnational support might instead, counterproductively, irresponsibly embolden (e.g., from constant activism to martyrdom/oblivion) and ineffectively distract (e.g., as per Castro (1972), from pollution of poverty to pollution of affluence). However, whether Bob’s (2005) conclusions of marketing and backfiring follow or not would depend on a premise – crucial among others – that his own non-statist theorizing obscures: the (inter/trans)governmental institutions around which activists interact (or not).
Bob’s case selection ultimately weakens the plausibility of his claims. On the one hand, he selects most-likely cases of runaway marketing by unpromising, obscure candidates for transnational NGO support, soundly situating them to highlight strategic cause-packaging (e.g., separatist cause wrapped in environmentalist issue) and market-like “exchanges” between activists bartering “resources” and “legitimacy.” On the other hand, Bob (2005) simultaneously generalizes too widely from deviant cases which ensure that if overseas support is at all available to be obtained, it will be on terms less amenable to the cause of recipient activists. Bob (2005) selects “non-statist” case studies of armed activism (potentially violent) in which there is idiosyncratically little foreign support available from (inter/trans)governmental actors (not to mention business actors). (Inter/trans)governmental support or support brokerage is likely to be so critical a variable in transnational “exchanges”/relationships between societal activists as to make contingent Bob’s (2005) general characterization of activists, in the “marketing” pole on a spectrum with the other pole being “principled” (see e.g., Cooley and Ron 2002; Avant 2004; Sell and Prakash 2004). If northern/grantor non-state activists oriented by causes other than armed rebellion (e.g., environmentalism) are the only potential sources of overseas support, then a “monopolistic industrial organization” of transnational activism favors these northern/grantor societal activists at the expense of their southern/grantee counterparts – not reciprocally, but rather in an entire uneven activist industry/community. As Boulding (1973:25) put it “If there is only a single grantor, such as the government” or “non-government,” “we have a monopoly situation that may lead to an undesirable concentration of power in the hands of the grantor. Where there are many grantors and many grantees, a grantee who does not get a grant from one granting agency can try another one. Hence, the grantee is less at the mercy of the whims of any particular grantor and is much more likely to find somebody who will support his idea.”
Bob’s (2005) contribution epitomizes the political interest approach not only in the weakness of distorting the transnational institutional setting into which the orientation forays from the crossnational level, but also in the strength of being precise about the interests/causes and interactions of societal activists. It suggests to REACTS scholars that they would do well to avoid loosely labeling transnational grantee (southern) activists as environmentalist in a sense other than materially strategic and/or equivalent to (northern) grassroots groups campaigning against a specific locally unwanted land use (see e.g., Broad 1994; Fisher 1994; Michaelson 1994; Keck 1995; Meyer 1995, 1997a; Egan 1996; Conklin 1997, 2002; Mawdsley 1998; Wright 2002; Carter 2007:155–60; Holzer 2007).
Recent political interest contributions to REACTS have boldly resumed analysis of activists as market organizations (or vice-versa) (Meyer 1995, 1997a, 1997b; Jordan and Maloney 1997; Luke 1998; Burke 1999; Cooley and Ron 2002; Amalric 2004; Sell and Prakash 2004; Bailey 2006). Making Castro (1972), Boulding (1973), Allen (1979), Maniates (1990) and Bob (2005) cumulative is one among many examples of the political interest cluster’s untapped potential.
The political interest stream could help overcome stagnancy in the Castro–Bob, 1973–2005 hypothesis about “conservatism” within transnationally targeted nation–states by considering efforts that might otherwise have been if external supporting (northern) actors had not lured internal recipient (southern) actors away from non-industrialized causes (e.g., from conservation to preservation, from pollution of poverty to pollution of affluence, or from human rights to environment). This set of (un)activism REACTS is particularly neglected (see a singular piece by Tesh and Paes-Machado 2004; see also Pathak 1999; Lewis 2003; Perlman and Sheehan 2007:181–5; Widener 2007).
In one of two related strategies to invigorate knowledge of such (un)activism, REACTS can extend beyond the crossnational level the increasingly sophisticated methods of macro-organizational analysis that uses a complete population or community of activist organizations as the unit of analysis (see Minkoff 2002). There is also potential to transpose insights from the last two decades of transnational “brain drain” debates (see Moses 2005:72 citing Dowty 1987:147–66 and Faini 2005). The latter have moved from the static to the dynamic by now complementing the possibility of a drain with that of an anticipatory gain. Accordingly, a gain could come from potentially “drainable” skills that are only developed in the first place due to a prospect of drain/distraction into transnational activism which might increase the incentives for individuals to become skilled activists. Recipient nation–states may be producing more skilled activists than would otherwise be the case without the potential for transnational distraction, possibly more than offsetting losses to the eventual distractions awaiting that influx. In other words, the prospect of transnational activism on the externally supported issue might or might not spur sufficient initial gain in activism to offset or even exceed subsequent drains from the externally unsupported cause to the externally supported one.
Tackling Castro’s hypothesis of conservatism between differentially targeted nation–states also depends on overcoming inconclusive, overestimated findings about activist capacity to challenge nation–states, a stagnancy since at least Meynaud (1961). New work needs to balance the current deluge of research on successful transnational (environmentalist) activism, most frequently targeting relatively less powerful nation–states; by analyzing failed or inexistent (environmentalist) activism, which would likely include (un)activism most often aimed against relatively more powerful nation–states (Price 2003; Hirata 2004; see Crampton 1972; Shaffer 2001; Wright 2002; McCright and Dunlap 2003; Mason 2004; Sasser et al. 2006; Carpenter 2007; but see Hall 2002).
Combined with interest in global civil society (GCS) (e.g., Garner 1991; Falk 1987; Lipschutz 1992, 1996), duel-functionalist contributions’ mutation of Falk’s antistatism into non-statism (e.g., Wapner 1995b:319) raised a cloud of confusion over the entire strand and all of REACTS. First, that haze allowed subsequent juridical and political-interest analyses, to ignore much earlier research by explaining transnational (environmental) activism as primarily a result of inter/trans-governmental activities (Young 1997; Tarrow 2001, 2005); and to grow seminal and unquestioned for several years (but see O’Brien 2008; Pinto 2008, Forthcoming). Second, it encouraged scholars researching transnational activism as well as crossnational analysts extending their work into the transnational political-interest cluster to confuse REACTS contributions from the duel-functionalist strand with claims of a cosmopolitan environmentalist activism.
Juridical and political-interest scholars pursuing the inter/transgovernmental hypothesis continue to ignore the possibility that transnational (environmental) activism is caused to a comparable extent by lack of inter/transgovernmental activity and by the non-state/socioeconomic flows of activist targeted businesses, societies and cultures (but see e.g., Sikkink 1986; Wapner 1995a, 1996; Paterson 1999; Murray and Raynolds 2000; Zhouri 2000b; Newell 2001; Broad 2002; Conca 2002a, 2006; Haufler 2003; Masjuan and Martínez-Alier 2004; van Koppen 2006). Although cumulating transnationalist and other political-interest REACTS contributions that are only partly environmental (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Bob 2005), Tarrow (2002:233, 2005) specifies the environment as one of four predominant areas of focus in the GCS “tradition.” He concludes that GCS studies suffered from “major flaws that prevented them from providing an effective bridge from [socioeconomic] globalization to [activism];” flaws such as rare specification and demonstration of concrete causal mechanisms connecting socioeconomic globalization to activist outcomes (Tarrow 2002:233).
The three sets of causal mechanisms that Wapner (1995a:317–320, 1996), for one, did offer are as forgotten as his foresight about a risk of repeating “premature closure” in the study of transnational activism. Wapner (1995a:317–320) warned that explanations hypothesizing that transnational activism is “derivative of interstate behavior” – as does Tarrow’s (2005) inter/transgovernmental hypothesis a decade thereafter – risk silencing research on activism in state-centric transnational studies. That REACTS is still catching up on the role of business based actors in transnational activism is more a major blind spot than a state-centric abstraction with explanatory power (e.g., Burke 1999; Lewis 1999; Bhagwati 2000:287–290, 2002:128; DeSombre 2000; Holzer 2001, 2007; Micheletti 2003; Raynolds 2002, 2004; Schurman 2004; Auld et al. 2007; Bartley 2007).
In the other cumulative opportunity lost, GCS “global/world” terminology combined with interest in cosmopolitan integration was also overwhelmingly misinterpreted as cosmopolitanism by crossnational or state-centric REACTS analysts newly/occasionally venturing into transnational or societal inquiry, respectively. Respectively, GCS scholars used the confusing “global” or “world” prefixes to “civil society” or “civic politics” mostly replacing “transnational” by a term in starker contrast with “international” in totality across institutional domains/sectors; and a term more (Lipschutz 1996) or less (Wapner 1995a, 1995b, 1996) inclusive of the state along with its market and society counterparts. Duel-functionalists’ intended terminology was similar to but less clear than that of political interest analysts less interested in cosmopolitanism within studies of NGO/SMO relations in world (environmental) politics (Princen and Finger 1994:1–48; Smith 1997). TESS scholars received cumulatively duel-functionalists’ intended emphasis on “civil”/“civic” rather than “global”/“world,” and sharply criticized GCS’ state–market–society distinctions (e.g., Raustiala 1997a; Gale 1998; Newell 2000; Ford 2003; Görg and Brand 2003; Amoore and Langley 2004; Conca 2005). In contrast, CESS scholars’ extensive critique of a misunderstood “global”/“world” in GCS marked a wasted opportunity for REACTS cumulativeness, amounting to the most notable but not quite cumulative reaction of crossnational scholars to TESS research (e.g., Kellow 2000; Soyez 2000; Rohrschneider and Dalton 2002; Rootes 2002, 2004; Dalton 2005; Carter 2007; see Doyle and Doherty 2006; Torgerson 2006). The misunderstanding, by some transnational scholars as well (e.g., Heins 2000; Shaffer 2001), merely validated a hypothesis that political interest scholars Meynaud (1961) and Feraru (1974) had suggested a few decades earlier: A GCS, global network, global social movement, global NGO or global resistance of cosmopolitan environmentalist activists is “a triumph of abstraction or of aspiration over experience” (Rootes 2004).
Conventional scholarship in both REACTS branches is splintering from GCS toward conceptualizing either a worldwide “green public sphere” (GPS) or a cosmopolitan activist/citizen identity. Such a GPS is more inherently divided between and within nations, and more hybridized across domains (e.g., Doyle and Doherty 2006; Torgerson 2006; Eckersley 2007; Alkoby 2008; but see Amoore and Langley 2004). It remains to be seen whether this first trend holds more generative potential or whether the GPS non-material deliberative focus merely replaces one REACTS confused stagnancy – duel-functionalist nonstatism – by another – transnationalist blurring of persuasion and coercion. As for the nationality/cosmopolitanism in individual activists’/citizens’ identities, after three decades without an environmental application (Angell 1969:129–146; Kriesberg 1974), REACTS is reinventing duel-functionalist consideration – without earlier awareness/references – of whether activist allegiance is to one nation–state in comparison with another (Conca 2002b:10–39; Steinberg 2003) or to one in comparison with all others (Tarrow 2005; Doherty 2006). It remains to be seen whether this second trend holds more generative potential in proving more tractable or whether the identity focus merely makes political struggles internal and less easily identifiable than did the earlier GCS cosmopolitanism (see Wenzel 1991; Zhouri 2000a; Fox 2005).
Overall, the contributions of the juridical strand to transnational activism (sub)disciplines generally, environmental or other, still do not compare to those of the transnationalist, duel-functionalist and public-interest strands (Risse 2002; Price 2003; Eschle and Stammers 2004). The juridical strand’s empirical materials on the UNCHE, UNEP, and UNESCO have proved relatively cumulative (see Princen and Finger 1994; Conca 1995; Clark et al. 1998; Maio and Sá 2000:976–83). For example, building on some of the pre-1992 juridical cluster, Willetts (1996) and Morphet (1996) still considered the level of SMO participation at UNCHE as high relative to other UN conferences. The rare subsets of juridical works that theorize with broader applicability have missed cumulative opportunities to minimize redundancy (e.g., follow Haufler 1993; Hufty and Muttenzer 2002; Lipschutz and Fogel 2002; Inoue 2004; Conca 2005, 2006). That said, with these and other subsets the juridical cluster has grown increasingly mainstream, cumulative, and generative within TESS-based REACTS (Arts 2001; Betsill 2006; e.g., Gallagher and Gallagher 1992; Clapp 1994; Ringius 1997; Lallas 2000; Newell 2000; O’Brien et al. 2000; Hogenboom 2001; Brown et al. 2008; Conconi 2003; Duffy 2003, 2006; Myint 2003; Khagram 2004; Ostry 2005; Park 2005; Charnovitz 2006; Betsill and Corell 2008).
Carving out a strength from the negotiations typically analyzed in the juridical strand, Newell (2000:156–7) has emphasized that TESS-based research on the forms of power that NGOs exercise is “underdeveloped” (also see Luke 1995; Epstein 2005). Newell’s chapter on anticipatory (re)actions by environmentalist SMOs, non-decisionmaking scenarios, and tacit forms of power benefiting some states and businesses remains singular: Newell (2000:156) shows such “NGOs internaliz[ing] the perceived acceptability of their policy prescriptions to decision-makers, and self-censor[ing] proposals that are considered to be politically unpalatable to those they are trying to influence. This confers power upon the state.” That bargaining power can come at the disempowerment of the other already weaker state, additional juridical REACTS might specify (see e.g., Hurrell 1992, 1994; Raustiala 1997a).
The juridical cluster may be uniquely well positioned to seize a potential for generative REACTS that transnationalists have left untapped: Contrary to the trajectory of social science on politics within nation–states, transnationalist scholarship on politics between nation–states has rather discouraged attention to power in state–society relations; such that an opportunity remains to fully transpose to TESS-based REACTS knowledge from a rigorous debate on state theory in the broader CESS literature on the policymaking process (i.e. pluralism and its discontents) (see Crenson 1971; Polsby 1972; Almond 1983; Hay et al. 2006; Carter 2007; see seeds for such a transposition in Nowell 1983; Newell 2000; Ottaway 2001; Kellow 2002; Sell and Prakash 2004). Transnationalist research, perhaps dismembered by unit of analysis and ideational (rationalist–constructivist) debates, fostered a split transposition to the transnational level of state theory’s components of interests, ideas and institutions. Transnationalists did not transpose the interest-based “structural” power distribution along with the ideational “advocacy coalition framework” and the institutional “policy network analysis” that such scholars coupled into “transnational advocacy networks” (see Keck and Sikkink 1998; Litfin 2000; but see Sell and Prakash 2004). Domestic variants of pluralist analyses examine the power of competing groups in order to explain barriers to change in governance outcomes, and thereby barriers to (environmental) activists as “infrastructures of change.” (Sikkink and Smith 2002; see Reich 1984) Their combined, complete analytical framework assembles its complementary explanations out of the (1) ideational systems – ideas, information, and analysis – and/or (2) institutional structures – from policy community/iron triangle to issue network – through which (3) competing interest groups bring their power distribution to bear on the policymaking process by interacting and sharing interests with state politicians and bureaucrats (Carter 2007). Until this gap remains, it will continue to be a misnomer to use the “pluralist” label as equivalent to any/all of the research strands that this essay identifies as transnationalist, duel-functionalist, juridical, political interest, and resistance (e.g., Willetts 1982; Reinalda 2001; Paterson 2006).
Reconsidering the resistance cluster, Grove’s (1990) theoretically oriented historical account did more than open original lines of REACTS that are re-emerging promisingly (Sunseri 2005; Holmes 2007) even where unaware of Grove’s solid foundation (Peluso 1993; Taylor 1995; Fisher 1994; Paterson 1999; Martins and Zirker 2000; Stonich and Bailey 2000; Dryzek 2001; Lipschutz 2001; Peluso and Watts 2001; Bordwell 2002; Maniates 2002; Duffy 2003; Leader and Probst 2003; Avant 2004; Hirata 2004; Liddick 2006; Blok 2008; Vanderheiden 2008; Magra 2009). In hindsight, Grove (1990:17, 32) anticipates a critique of and a corrective for subsequent work in this resistance cluster that has since been inconclusive, partly due to its disproportionately greater attention to activism resisting “sheep” than “deer” and/or lack of “sheep” – i.e. resistance to economic growth more than to environmental management and/or lack of growth (see Pathak 1999; Tarrow 2002:233–4; Geisler 2003; Price 2003; Adams 2004; Bray and Anderson 2005; Brockington and Igoe 2006; Holmes 2007; Matheka 2008). As Grove (1990:17) put it: “conservation structures…were frequently just as destructive or oppressive in their effects on indigenous societies as direct ecological destruction and appropriation of environments and common rights by private capital. The…resistance movements which rose to these new forms of ecological control…deserve their own narrative.”
V. State of the Art in REACTS
Whereas others have noted that post-1992 transnational REACTS often strays from activism to go into more conceptual explorations focused on GCS processes, (Eschle and Stammers 2004; Betsill 2006; Paterson 2006) this essay would connect that tendency back to pre-1992 research, and also add other post-1992 REACTS offshoots. Most of these other contributions address either global governance or democracy (Jancar 1992; Lipschutz 1992; Peluso 1993; Hurrell 1994; Raustiala 1997a; Görg and Hirsch 1998; Lewis 2000; Khagram 2004; Duffy 2003; Rootes 2004; Goulet 2005; Shandra 2007). An even smaller extension considers the effects of activism on state “sovereignty transformation” (e.g., Keck and Sikkink 1998).
Coverage of these REACTS broader explorations is subject to space limitations (see Paterson 2006; Betsill 2006; Kelly 2007), but that restriction does not affect this essay’s conclusion on a generally stagnant state of the art (see Elman and Elman 2002). To touch on the example of the most substantial outgrowth, GCS conceptual problems were recently reviewed as having become especially pervasive and distracting (Hogenboom 2001:191; Tarrow 2002; Stevis and Bruyninckx 2006; see Dryzek 2001; Alkoby 2006; Paterson 2006; Stevis 2006).
Closer to the core of post-1992 REACTS itself, the sovereignty excursion not only epitomizes stagnancy in the literature generally, but is also indicative of Stevis’ (2006:38) TESS-based assessment that such research “has tended to underplay distributive questions.” In fairness, part of the distributive underrating around sovereignty results from environmental activism being lumped with non-environmental activism rather than analyzed in keeping with its additional transboundary/global biophysical layer of sovereignty. Keck and Sikkink (1998) notably conceptualize transnational environmental activism that softens the sovereignty of its targeted (typically less powerful/industrialized) nation–states to govern their territory. However, they do not recognize that such targeted governing could otherwise biophysically (e.g., through global atmosphere) reduce the sovereignty of the nation–states (typically more powerful/industrialized) that are allied within the advocacy networks. The leverage that the networked nation–states join activists in applying upon the targeted nation–states has not been conceptualized on its (re)distributive biophysical basis, as simultaneously “transforming” the sovereignty of both state actors in opposite directions. This is only one glaring silence about distributive outcomes in a most influential and relatively distributive contribution within transnational REACTS. Overall, sovereignty considerations in REACTS have not since maintained the rigor of a singular article (Conca 1994a) that TESS research has only built upon in analysis not focusing on the activism studies which primarily sparked the said article (see e.g., Litfin 1998; on potential, see Laferrière 1994; Kolk 1996; Nelson 1996, 1997, 2002; Hochstetler 2002; Linaweaver 2003; Duffy 2006).
In a review of transnational REACTS from the early 1990s onwards, Betsill (2006:178, 186) echoes Risse (2002) in suggesting that “early case studies provided a rich history of transnational actors’ engagement;” that scholars then considered “how transnational actors participate in specific political processes and with what effect by treating them as independent variables;” and that “as it becomes clear that transnational actors are shaping environmental politics in a variety of ways, scholars have returned to the question of who these actors are, looking more closely at their origins and internal operations.”
In contrast, including an older literature and CESS-based research suggests a more stagnant transnational branch of REACTS: a TESS fragment with fewer changes and less cumulative research. In terms of foci, complementing Betsill (2006), the pre-1992 literature reviewed in this essay also mainly offered a combination of rich description and consideration of activist participation in and impacts on political processes.
Remarkably suggestive of stagnancy, once the CESS and TESS branches of REACTS are combined, changes in the crossnational research agenda have been merely the reverse of the transnational one. Della Porta and Rucht (2002) review the trend in the focus of crossnational REACTS: from “the newness of environmental concerns;” to the “institutionalization of environmental groups, their moderation, and the pragmatic interactions between environmental organizations and businesses, trade unions, and state authorities;” to “radical environmental conflicts” in “broad descriptions” and case studies “that offer rich empirical details but often lack theoretical guidance.” Whereas REACTS based in CESS has moved from analyzing environmentalist activism as a dependent variable and gone on to research a rich history of environmentalist activism, the TESS branch of REACTS has moved in precisely the reverse direction.
The casual manner of the swap is itself indicative of the fragmented literature’s untapped potential for advancing knowledge, by filling the middle path between the divergent, parallel branches of REACTS. In the TESS branch, examples of such transdisciplinary research are still new, precious few and varied in degree of cumulativeness from CESS predecessors: postmaterialism (Bob Forthcoming), new middle class (Guha 1997), new social movement (Tarrow 2005:90–92), biophysical environment (Pirages 2007:619), and new politics application to TESS-CESS research on growth-environment and poverty-environment linkages (Dietz et al. 2005).
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I am thankful for a fellowship from the Harrison Program on the Future Global Agenda, which was invaluable to the writing of this essay. I am grateful to M.J. Peterson, Ken Conca and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this essay. I am also thankful to Beth DeSombre and David Sonnenfeld for initiating email exchanges through the Gep-Ed listserv that fostered the decision to feature this essay, and that informed me of the opportunity to author it. This essay and this author were completed with the loving support of Andrea C. Sonstrom Pinto.