Cultural structures and tactical repertoires
Cherry, Elizabeth Regan
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The animal rights movements in France and the United States share a common historical trajectory, moving from animal protection, to early vegetarian societies, to first wave animal rights activism. However, despite similarities in goals, strategies, and tactics, the contemporary, second wave animal rights movement is much weaker in France than in the United States. Why is this French movement less successful than the U.S. movement? More broadly, why do movements with similar histories, goals, strategies, and tactics experience differential outcomes? I answer this question with a comparative analysis of ethnographic data from the movements in both countries, including participant observation and interviews with 72 animal rights activists. My analysis centers on the relationship between culture and agency, and examines how culture impedes and enables the creation, implementation, and reception of strategies and tactics. Activists in both countries faced similar challenges from the dominant culture in which they worked, and their responses to these challenges resembled one another. These similarities were not happenstance, as they stemmed from one particular cultural structure symbolic boundaries between humans and animals. However, just as dominant culture may provide roadblocks to activists, it also provides building blocks for their arguments. I thus analyze the cultural resources activists use in their arguments, and examine how and why such resources resonated differently in the dominant culture of the two countries. Activists in the United States could promote animal rights and vegetarianism by using health, religion, food, and the media, but these arguments did not resonate in France. Having seen which paths may be more or less fruitful to take, how and why do activists choose their strategies and tactics? I compare a micro-level organizational analysis of what activists said in interviews about their strategic and tactical decisions with a meso-level organizational analysis of how activists in social movement organizations actually made those choices in the field. These decisions are best explained by looking to the cultural logic of the social movement itself. Threaded together with the concept of repertoires, these findings explain the differential strengths and successes of the animal rights movements in France and the United States.