Other People's Struggles: Outsiders in Social Movements

ISBN : 9780190945862

Nicholas Owen
280 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Sep 2019
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Other People's Struggles is the first attempt in over forty years to explain the place of "conscience constituents" in social movements. Conscience constituents are people who participate in a movement, but do not stand to benefit if it succeeds.
Why do such people participate, when they do not stand to benefit? Why are they sometimes present and sometimes absent in social movements? Why and when is their participation welcome to those who do stand to benefit, and why and when is it not?
The work proposes an original theory to answer these questions, crossing disciplinary boundaries to draw on the findings of social psychology, philosophy and political theory, in search of explanations of why people act altruistically and what it means to others when they do so. The theory is illustrated by examples from British history, including the anti-slavery movement, the women's suffrage and liberation movements, labor and socialist movements, anti-colonial movements, anti-poverty movements and movements for global justice.

Other People's Struggles also contributes to new debates concerning the rights and wrongs of speaking for others. Debates concerning the limits of solidarity-who can be an ally and on what terms-have become topical in contemporary politics, especially in identity politics and in the newest social movements. The work provides a theoretical and empirical account of how these questions have been addressed in the past and how they might be framed today.


1. The conscience constituent reconsidered
2. Adherents and constituents
3. Motivations of the adherent
4. Causes and combinations in the long nineteenth century
5. Problems of accountability in outward work
6. Problems of authenticity in expressive work
7. Problems of agency in empowerment work
8. Problems of belonging in solidarity work
9. On having to be what we cannot be
10. Conjointness restored?
11. Becoming- work
12. Conclusions and future work

About the author: 

Nicholas Owen is Praelector in Politics at The Queen's College, Oxford, and Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. He is the author of The British Left and India: Metropolitan Anti-Imperialism, 1885 - 1947 (Oxford, 2007) and articles in Past & Present, Journal of Modern History, Historical Journal, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Twentieth Century British History and many edited collections.

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