Friday, February 28, 2020

Florence Passy & Gian-Andrea Monsch's "Contentious Minds"

Florence Passy is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Gian-Andrea Monsch is a Senior Researcher at FORS, the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences based at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Contentious Minds: How Talk and Ties Sustain Activism, and reported the following:
Contentious Minds takes us into the head of activists and volunteers. Indeed, the book shows how activists make sense of their commitment. The page 99 test is a perfect illustration of the book’s core argument: that activists perceive state actors differently to the way the general population and volunteers do. Most notably, we show that defenders of migrant’s rights, human rights activists, environmentalists, and unionists have low trust in national executive and legislative authorities. Activists delegitimize federal authorities, whereas volunteers and the general population do the opposite.

More broadly, Contentious Minds argues that activists’ relation to politics and common good are the two most crucial dimensions to understanding why they sustain their commitment. When talk turns to commitment, the failure of state actors to provide the common good activists mobilize for (e.g. equal rights for all) is immediately the heart of the conversation. This allows them to contend that an active and vibrant civil society is needed to challenge and even oppose state decisions. Deep sentiments of injustice also inevitably arise when the conversation moves to the idea that a collective good can be unequally shared between members of a society (protection of autochthonous groups, of worker’s rights, or of the environment and settlement rights for immigrants, etc.).

Contentious Minds further unveils the extent to which supportive networks allow individuals to construct collectively shared understandings through discussions, talks, and disputes. It also crucially underlines how activists’ relation to politics and common good set their intentionality and help them sustain their commitment regardless of their field of action. These community specific understandings of politics and common good are what explain why someone commits to defending the rights of migrants or workers, or prefers to volunteer to care for the poor. The book ultimately shows that there is no one path to active participation in a democracy.
Learn more about Contentious Minds at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue