In one of the chapters from my book Other People’s Struggles I provide a critical account of one part of social movement theory: the theory of the conscience constituent. I develop a new definition, based on motivations rather than expected outcomes, renaming the conscience constituent as the adherent: someone motivated to participate in social movement in order that others should benefit. The adherent, in my account, is contrasted with the constituent, who is motivated to participate by standing to benefit herself.
Constituents and adherents, I argue in the book, can sometimes (not always) operate differently in a social movement’s work. Sometimes it matters a great deal whether you are motivated as a direct beneficiary of the movement or standing outside it, as an adherent. The difference in motivation can affect how, whether and when you can speak for the movement, or represent its views to others. It can affect your ability to understand its demands, since some demands are harder, perhaps even impossible, for the outsider to understand. If part of the purpose of the movement is self-empowerment, the help of others who are already-empowered may be of mixed value. It can sometimes be hard for actors to build a common movement identity, or movement solidarity, if they are positioned differently by their motivation
It is part of the argument of Other People’s Struggles that these difficulties do not have to arise. Whether they do so or not is a function of what I call the orientation and ambition of the movement’s work
IMAGE CREDIT: ODOARDO FIALETTI, TITLE PAGE AND DUE BUSTI DI GIOVANI UOMINI CON CAPPELLI FROM HIS DRAWING MANUAL, IL VERO MODO ET ORDINE PER DISSEGNAR TUTTE LE PARTE ET MEMBRA DEL CORPO HUMANO (VENEZIA, 1608) (ETCHING).