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Social movements, contentious politics and transnational resistance : a structural analysis of Falun Gong Noakes, Stephen W.

Abstract

This thesis shows how Falun Gong, as a transnational social movement, uses a horizontal structure to coordinate its campaign against the Chinese communist party. It presents the results of survey research conducted in Vancouver, British Columbia, illustrating that the group's horizontal structure promotes the growth of social capital, which it then applies to its struggle. In 1999, the Chinese government initiated a crackdown on the movement, denouncing it as an evil sect and a threat to single-party rule. Continuing repression has prompted Falun Gong practitioners in over forty countries worldwide to demonstrate against the Chinese government in an attempt to end the persecution. Traditionally, proponents of resource mobilization theories have focused on how social movements use centralized, vertically-arranged hierarchies to overcome collective action challenges and apply pressure on their targets. Strong central leadership, it is argued, allows movements to control flows of money, information and human resources that result in useful, effective forms of activism. This thesis does not reject the viability of vertical structures or resource mobilization theory writ large, but demonstrates the inability of these to account for political activism in an under-explored case.

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