Mobilising and organising in precarious times: Analysing contemporary collective action in South Africa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The paper argues that the field of social movement studies has been dominated by a movement organisation-centric approach. This organisational bias has constrained the analysis of collective action, especially in the Global South. The purpose of this paper is to contribute towards a reconceptualization of social movements which links them not to organisations but understanding social movements as a praxis linked to the material experiences of everyday life. Furthermore, the paper uses this expanded definition of social movements to revisit debates about mobilising and organising through reference to the contemporary South African context. Design/methodology/approach: The empirical findings of the paper are based on ethnographic, qualitative and quantitative research on collective action in South Africa that has been carried out by the author since 2009. Findings: The paper presents three case studies of collective action which demonstrate the variability, strengths and weaknesses of different forms organising and mobilising in contemporary South Africa. Originality/value: The paper contributes to re-conceptualising social movements in a way in which the concept is better able to travel across the Global North and South as a heuristic device. Furthermore, the paper situates debates about the strengths of mobilising with and without organisations within the South African context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-628
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Disruptive power
  • Mobilizing
  • Organizing
  • Social movements
  • South Africa
  • Working class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)


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