Towards a Temporal Theory of Social Movements: Vectors and Events in the Neoliberal Timescape
Conference of Kevin Gillan
This article responds to an ongoing failure in social movement theory to offer a temporally-informed understanding of the dynamics that shape multiple movements over time. Kevin Gillan develops and illustrates two new concepts. Vectors highlight evolving relational patterns with distinct magnitudes and directions of travel.
Examining the interplay of different vectors, and accounting also for the unfolding character of historic events, enables the apprehension of an overarching timescape within which movements move. This new theoretical terminology is illustrated with an examination of three significant periods of transnational contention associated with the Alter-Globalization, Anti-War, and Occupy movements. Vector analysis enables a compelling explanation of continuities and changes across these movements, each of which is shaped by a dynamic neoliberal timescape.
Three types of dynamic are revealed: the production of conflict; the unfolding interpretation of events; and the generation of symmetry between movements and other collective actors. This article closes by indicating conceptual connections between the approach outlined here and recent advances in relational theories of social action, which suggests that a temporally sensitive understanding of social movements can fruitfully inform a broader sociology of social change.