Toward a Theory of Backlash: Dynamic Resistance and the Central Role of Power

Jane Mansbridge, Shauna L. Shames

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations

Abstract

To understand backlash theoretically, we must first carve out an analytically useful term from the cluster of its common political associations. In colloquial usage, “backlash” denotes politically conservative reactions to progressive (or liberal) social or political change (Faludi 1991 is a classic in this vein). Here, however, we attempt a nonideological definition of backlash embedded in a more neutral approach to its study. In colloquial usage, backlash includes acts of genuine persuasion as well as of power. Here, however, we suggest that it may be analytically helpful to confine its meaning to acts of coercive power. We draw on the sociological literature on social movements and countermovements, as well as the political science literature on power, preferences, and interests. We focus mostly on examples drawn from the United States and relating to feminism and gender. We begin where the process of backlash itself begins, with power and a challenge to the status quo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-634
Number of pages12
JournalPolitics and Gender
Volume4
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science

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