Date of Award

12-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Embargo Date

2-21-2013

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Advisor(s)

Kristi Andersen

Keywords

Chile, Czech Republic, policy feedback, social movements, women, women's movements

Abstract

This study relies on the cases of the Czech Republic and Chile to examine the ways in which state policies affect women's movements' emergence under both authoritarian and democratic political regimes. As such, this dissertation provides some important clues into how citizens' experience with certain policies enhances or delimits their future political action, and how it affects their beliefs and attitudes. Gaining a better understanding about the relationship between policies and civic participation is particularly important in the case of young democracies, which are trying to overcome their authoritarian past, and whose new democratic political regimes are in some instances yet to be fully consolidated.

This dissertation suggests that the policy context within which social movements operate is an important factor in shaping what social movements can do. The research presented here reveals that when grievances are present, such as accusations of gender inequality, women are more likely to mobilize in protest in situations when the state uses public policy to define women's role narrowly in terms of traditional division of labor. In contrast, if public policies are enabling women to reconcile their maternal and public roles, women are less like to organize on the basis of their gender identity to protest the state.

This occurs on both the individual and group level. In-depth interviews with Czech women reveal that if the state provides policy support to women to reconcile their traditional and public roles, women become less conscious of the state's role in their lives. They tend to view the state as a diffuse set of actors and ideas that do not create a coherent whole. In contrast, if state policies provide little support for women's participation in the public sphere, individuals find it much easier to articulate who the state is and how it affects their lives. Furthermore, public policy also affect movements on the group level - complex policies supporting both women's traditional and public roles are likely to create multiple camps within a formerly unified movement and lead to movement fragmentation and demise. In contrast, policies emphasizing women's traditional roles only make it easy for movement leaders and actors to identify key issues and subsequently organize for collective action.

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Open Access

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