As a sociology major and social justice & social policy minor, I am interested in studying why people get involved in social movements, the exigence for such organizing, and what makes organizers effective. This last semester I took Gowri Vijayakumar’s class on the sociology of social movements where I was able to explore these ideas and questions. One thing I learned in that class that feels relevant to my work with IfNotNow is the idea of resource mobilization.
The theory of resource mobilization is best stated by scholar Aldon Morris in his study “Black Southern Student Sit-In Movement: An Analysis of Internal Organizing.” He states, “social movements have no distinct inner logic and are not fundamentally different from institutionalized behavior. Organizations, institutions, pre-existing communication networks, and rational actors are all seen as important resources playing crucial roles in the emergence and outcome of collective action” (Morris 1981). In other words, social movements do not hold a fundamental difference in logical structure from other large social factions, so pre-existing structures can be mobilized by activists. He goes on to make the point that because outside people can provide resources (namely time, money, and participants), these resources can benefit the social movement.
Morris’ theory feels significant to me because it acknowledges that social movements do not have to start from the ground up. Rather, there are structures in place that can help the social movement build. Resource mobilization is strategic; it forces activists to ask each other, how can we efficiently move our agenda and utilize what resources we already possess in our favor?
As I enter my seventh week working for IfNotNow, I realize that this theory has informed my thinking around this organizing work. For example, when IfNotNow began in 2014, there were chapters, known as swarms, that started in communities that already had bustling Jewish communities. There were already Jewish people in these places who were interested in doing anti-occupation work, so it made the formation of the movement and subsequent swarms easier. Additionally, Morris’ theory makes me wonder how Jewish organizing groups can foster relationships with Palestinian organizations who also doing anti-occupation work. Primarily, resource mobilization theory prompts me to think about how IfNotNow can use its resources to help center Palestinian struggle and liberation.
Resource mobilization theory also informs the specific work I am doing this summer with IfNotNow Boston. First, knowing that there are people and structures in place already, such as synagogues, Jewish youth movements, and other activist groups, makes the work feel less daunting. When we need people in the movement to help out with phone banking, constituent meetings, or an action, we know there is a pool of people who are willing to commit their time and energy to do whatever task. Having connections to the existing Jewish community of greater Boston, there is a plethora of people who can help provide us with extra support when we may need it. Having a group of people who are in the IfNotNow Boston swarm makes me feel confident that our anti-annexation and anti-occupation work is strategic and meaningful.