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Bill Moyer and JoAnn MacAllister, Mary Lou Finley and Steve Soifer, 'Doing Democracy. The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements'

New Society Publishers 2001. ISBN 0 86571 418 5. 256 pp

This book is long overdue. Since Bill Moyer developed the Movement Action Plan (MAP) in the early 1980s, it has only been available in newspaper format, and in two separate parts. Doing Democracy now not only presents the entire MAP, it also includes five case studies, showing how MAP can help in analysing a movement.

The first time I heard about MAP was probably at a seminar in 1993. The eight stages and four roles of social movements then proved to be very helpful in understanding the position of the small environmental movement I was involved in at the time. It explained why we were stuck!

The Movement Action Plan is predominantly a model that shows how social movements develop, and what strategies they need to adopt at different stages - from “normal times” in stage 1 over “ripening conditions” (stage 3), “take off” (stage 4), “majority support” (stage 6) to “success” (stage 7) - to be successful. In addition, it shows how the four major activist roles in social movements - citizen, rebel, reformer and change agent - need to work together to bring about a movement's success (see PN 2423, March 1998). This might sound very simplified, but in fact MAP is not that simple. In my nonviolence training work I found that MAP could be applied as well to the anti-Castor-movement in Germany as to the antimilitarist movement in Turkey.

In Doing Democracy Mary Lou Finley and Steven Soifer show that MAP overlaps with many social movement theories, but the benefit of MAP is that it combines many aspects and does so from an activist perspective. While several movement theories are more concerned with explaining social movements, MAP is aimed to provide activists with a tool to develop their strategies.

For me the most interesting part of the book is the case studies - but maybe that is because I already knew MAP. A wide range of movements - the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti Nuclear Energy Movement, the Gay and Lesbian Movement, the Breast Cancer Social Movement and the Globalisation Movement - are all described in terms of the MAP. Although these case studies are of a varying quality, the examples show how MAP can be used and what answers MAP can give when analysing your own movement.

From an international perspective there is unfortunately one big minus: the book is too US-centred. And it reinforces the critical question of whether MAP can be of any use in non-democratic societies.

This might be linked to a second criticism: I'm missing a discussion on the limitations of MAP. While MAP is useful for campaigning for civil rights or against nuclear energy, what does it have to offer when it comes to racism or homophobia, where the power structures are not so clear-cut?

In spite of these limitations, MAP is a useful tool in our campaigning, and I wish there were a MAP book which included non-US case studies.

Topics: Strategy