SLAM as a New Social Movement

Looked over my readings again, and found a suitable theory for this community.

Craig Calhoun, in Delanty’s (2003) article, talked about traditional community and how they form an important basis for collective mobilization (pp. 41-2), which I think can be aptly represented by the Melbourne independent music community, and in particular by the SLAM supporters.

“Communities provide a social organizational foundation for mobilization, as networks of kinship, friendship, shared crafts, or recreations offer lines of communication and allegiance’

(Calhoun, 1983, p. 897 cited in Delanty, 2003, p. 42).

To fully understand Calhoun’s concept of community, I’d have to look at the original article from Calhoun’s 1983 book, but someone else borrowed it from the library before I could… so I’d have to wait till that person returns it!

But for now, I got a hold of one of his articles “Postmodernism as Psuedohistory: Continuities in the Complexities of Social Action” from Agency and Structure: Reorienting Social Theory (ed. Piotr Sztompka, 1994, pp. 167 – 196). In it, he talks about New Social Movements (NSMs) and how its production need to be seen as a continuous feature of modernity, not a sign of postmodernity (p. 189). But without going into his argument on postmodernism, I wanted to include an excerpt from his article, where he listed out key features to distinguish NSMs (pp. 180-1):

  1. These movements focus on identity, autonomy and self-realization rather than material benefits, resources and instrumental goals…in this sense,…these movements….stay largely within the realm of civil society rather than addressing themselves primarily to state or economic actors.
  2. Mobilization for the NSMs is as much defensive as offensive…
  3. Membership cuts across class lines because socioeconomic categories are losing their salience…
  4. Organisational forms are themselves work objects of movements, which aim to be nonhierarchical with direct democracy as an ideal.
  5. Membership is generally only part-time, with potential multiple and overlapping commitments.
  6. Activities are generally outside the official legislative system and often use unconventional means.
  7. In the NSMs, an attempt is made to politicize aspects of everyday life formerly outside of the political.
  8. Finally there is less tendency toward unification under some larger umbrella form or still less a master narrative of collective progress…

He gives some examples of NSMs, including women’s movements, ecological movements, youth movements, peace movements, and other struggles for legitimation of personal identity or lifestyle such as gay/lesbian movements, animal rights movements, anti-abortion and pro-choice movements (p. 181). But he also mentions that there are other sorts of mobilizations that are part of class struggles, such as struggles to defend a community’s occupations, though these may be more unidimensional as compared to NSMs (p. 181).

I think in some ways, the SLAM Rally is characteristic of a social movement. Comparing the SLAM movement to the eight points brought up by Calhoun:

  1. SLAM is autonomous. In a way, they intend to be self-governing by reacting to LLV’s new laws by rejecting it, protesting against it, in order to protect something that has been imperative to their survival as musicians – their music venues – which are being affected negatively by the new laws. In a sense, then, they’re protecting their livelihood and their identities (which would be at stake otherwise).
  2. SLAM was built up as a defense against the LLV laws.
  3. SLAM members consist of musicians and music lovers in support of protecting music venues. They are definitely not dependent on class lines.
  4. The community does not seem to be hierarchical. They are in a way representative of a democracy, representing themselves, the ‘people’, and are themselves the ‘movement’ and participants of the rally which took part on the 23rd of February, 2010.
  5. Members definitely have other commitments, and are not dedicated to the movement full-time. They are musicians, music lovers, and supporters who just joined in for the cause.
  6. Activities are outside the legislative system, and they used unconventional means. This seems totally applicable, and I consider the SLAM rally as unconventional because it wasn’t just a rally or a protest. They used social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace) and word-of-mouth to spread the word and “collect” supporters to join the rally before the actual date. They are currently still using social media to gain supporters, they sent a petition to Parliament (on the 7th of April 2010 – though they are still collecting signatures due to popular demand), and there are a multitude of blogs and new support groups that have spun from the SLAM rally alone.
  7. The live music scene was formerly non-political… but since the authorities (LLV) introduced the new laws, it has made the survival of the music scene politically dependent. If the laws don’t change, more music venues will be at risk of closing down.
  8. In my opinion, there is less tendency towards SLAM unifying with other groups under some larger umbrella form because I feel that SLAM is itself already a big movement, and if anything, other new ‘movements’ have spun off them, such as ‘Music Doesn’t Make You Violent’ and ‘Save The Tote’ (see ‘related links’ at the sidebar for the links)

In this sense, then, SLAM is really a community, mobilized for action, and the rally was in fact a new social movement. Unfortunately the article in this particular book didn’t talk about community, so I’d really have to wait for his 1983 book to be returned before I can read about his explanation of community.

But for the documentary part now, I will need to think of appropriate and strategic questions to ask!!!

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One Response

  1. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

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