Strategy matters: The contingent value of social capital in the survival of local social movement organizations

Bob Edwards, John D. Mccarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Social capital plays a central role in facilitating the mobilization of social movement organizations (SMOs). Do the initial mobilization advantages of social capital persist, however, as movement organizations evolve? And do the strategies pursued by social movement organizations affect these advantages? We investigate these questions through a broad empirical analysis of factors affecting the short-term persistence of local chapters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Reasoning that multiple forms of social capital would each have a positive impact on survival, we assess the independent effect of several indicators of social capital with mixed results. Consistent with prior research, we find that access to patronage at founding and a greater stock of weak ties in the community confer survival advantages. Yet SMOs that emerged from preexisting groups and those with leaders previously tied to one another through civic engagement were less likely to persist, raising a first cautionary flag about the generality of advantages of resource co-optation and "bloc recruitment." The effect of preexisting, strong ties among group leaders varies by how much emphasis the group placed on victim aid activities. Those ties conferred expected survival advantages on groups that did not strongly emphasize victim aid activities. The implications of these results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-651
Number of pages31
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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