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Organizational growth and ecological constraints: The growth of social movements in Sweden, 1881 to 1940

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2001-10-01
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SAGE Publications
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Based on the theoretical framework of organizational ecology, I argue that social movement organizations are inert structures that rarely exceed their initial size. The ecological concept of organizational growth is tested by using membership data from Sweden for the period 1881 to 1940 for virtually all local social movement organizations (29,193 organizations) in three major social movements: the temperance, free church, and trade union movements. Findings show that the organizations in two of the movements have average growth trajectories close to zero. The ecological argument is then expanded to include information on the movements’ organizational niches and intra- and inter-movement density development. Findings reveal that the remaining variation in aggregate membership, after controlling for the local organizations initial size, was more likely to be dependent on the population and niche dynamics that organization ecologists focus on than on the capacity of the movements local organizations to expand. Moreover, these findings are consistent for all three movements. The ecological argument and the findings presented here are contrary to almost all research on social movements, which takes for granted that social movement organizations are units that are necessarily capable of individual growth
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Sandell, R. (2001).Organizational Growth and Ecological Constraints: The Growth of Social Movements in Sweden, 1881 to 1940. American Sociological Review , 66 (5), pp. 672-693.