Fellowship at Stanford CASBS for 2021-22
During my sabbatical leave from UCLA in 2021-22, I have been offered a fellowship at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the...
Department of Sociology, UCLA
I am a sociologist interested in the political activities of corporations and social movements.
I am Professor in the Department of Sociology at UCLA
and (for 2021-22) CASBS Fellow at Stanford University.
My research has investigated how corporations intervene in public life through mobilizing grassroots campaigns and partnering with nonprofit organizations, how business contexts structure the tactical choices of protest groups, and the relationship between professionalized (or “non-membership”) advocacy organizations and traditional membership organizations. I have also studied community-based organizations’ efforts to build power for underrepresented citizens, charitable giving by firms in the health sector, and media coverage of protest.
More recently, my research has investigated the politics of hydraulic fracturing, in a series of projects respectively with Bogdan Vasi and Colin Jerolmack. The first paper with Vasi, on the influence of the Gasland documentary on fracking politics, was published in the American Sociological Review and won article awards in 2016 from both the ASA Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements and the ASA Section on Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology. The paper with Jerolmack appears in the American Journal of Sociology.
My book, Grassroots for Hire: Public Affairs Consultants in American Democracy, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. The book won the Charles Tilly Award from the American Sociological Association section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements.
My research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Sociological Association.
At UCLA, I am a faculty sponsor of the Movements, Organizations, and Markets Workshop and an affiliate of the Comparative Analysis Seminar.
See my UCLA faculty page for more information.
I can be found on Twitter @edwardwalker.
See also my profile on Google Scholar.
Winner, Charles Tilly Award, American Sociological Association
Although 'grassroots' conjures up images of independent citizen organizing, much mass participation today is sponsored by elite consultants working for corporations and powerful interest groups. This book pulls back the curtain to reveal a lucrative industry of consulting firms that incentivize public activism as a marketable service. Edward Walker illustrates how, spurred by the post-sixties advocacy explosion and rising business political engagement, elite consultants have deployed new technologies to commercialize mass participation. Using evidence from interviews, surveys and public records, Grassroots for Hire paints a detailed portrait of these consultants and their clients. Today, Fortune 500 firms hire them to counter-mobilize against regulation, protest or controversy. Ironically, some advocacy groups now outsource organizing to them. Walker also finds that consultants are reshaping both participation and policymaking, but unethical 'astroturf' strategies are often ineffective. This pathbreaking book calls for a rethinking of interactions between corporations, advocacy groups, and elites in politics.
Selected academic reviews: Administrative Science Quarterly, Contemporary Sociology, Social Forces, Mobilization, American Journal of Sociology, Interest Groups and Advocacy, Political Science Quarterly
Selected media: New York Times (1, 2, 3, 4), Washington Post (1, 2), The Atlantic, TIME, CNN, CSPAN BookTV.
Edited with Caroline W. Lee and Michael McQuarrie, with a foreword by Craig Calhoun
Opportunities to “have your say,” “get involved,” and “join the conversation” are everywhere in public life. From crowdsourcing and town hall meetings to government experiments with social media, participatory politics increasingly seem like a revolutionary antidote to the decline of civic engagement and the thinning of the contemporary public sphere. Many argue that, with new technologies, flexible organizational cultures, and a supportive policymaking context, we now hold the keys to large-scale democratic revitalization.
Democratizing Inequalities shows that the equation may not be so simple. Modern societies face a variety of structural problems that limit potentials for true democratization, as well as vast inequalities in political action and voice that are not easily resolved by participatory solutions. Popular participation may even reinforce elite power in unexpected ways. Resisting an oversimplified account of participation as empowerment, this collection of essays brings together a diverse range of leading scholars to reveal surprising insights into how dilemmas of the new public participation play out in politics and organizations. Through investigations including fights over the authenticity of business-sponsored public participation, the surge of the Tea Party, the role of corporations in electoral campaigns, and participatory budgeting practices in Brazil, Democratizing Inequalities seeks to refresh our understanding of public participation and trace the reshaping of authority in today’s political environment.
Selected academic reviews: Contemporary Sociology, Mobilization, Social Movement Studies
Walker, Edward T. and Ion Bogdan Vasi. Forthcoming. "Industry Repertoires: How Transgressive and Conventional Industry Associations Seek to Counter Anti-Fracking Contention." American Behavioral Scientist.
Walker, Edward T. 2021. "Organizational Theory in Political Sociology.'" Sociology Compass 15(3, e12860):1-13.
Walker, Edward T. and Lina M. Stepick. 2020. "Valuing the Cause: A Theory of Authenticity in
Social Movements." Mobilization 25 (1): 1-25. (SocArxiv preprint)
McCarthy, John D., Patrick Rafail, Clark McPhail, Andrew W. Martin, and Edward T. Walker.
2020. "Issueless Campus Riots: Toward a Structural Account of Disorderly Gatherings, 1997-2007."
Social Forces 99(2): 870-894.
Jerolmack, Colin and Edward T. Walker. 2018. "Please in My Backyard: Quiet Mobilization in Support of Fracking in an Appalachian Community." American Journal of Sociology 124(2): 479-516. (Media: Faculti, Contexts).
Rafail, Patrick, Edward T. Walker, and John D. McCarthy. 2017. "Protests on the Front Page: Media Salience, Institutional Dynamics, and Coverage of Collective Action in the New York Times, 1960-1995." Communication Research.
Walker, Edward T. and Christopher M. Rea. 2016. "Pediatric Care Provider Density and Personal Belief Exemptions to Vaccine Requirements in California Kindergartens." American Journal of Public Health 106(7): 1336-1341.
Vasi, Ion Bogdan, Edward T. Walker, John Johnson and Hui Fen Tan. 2015. "`No Fracking Way!' Documentary Film, Discursive Opportunity, and Local Opposition against Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States, 2010 to 2013." American Sociological Review 80(5): 934-959. (Press release 1, Press release 2, Press release 3) (Media: The Guardian, Reuters, Boston Globe, Pacific Standard, Pittsburgh Business Times)(Awards: ASA Collective Behavior and Social Movements Best Article Award; ASA Communication, Information Technology, and Media Sociology Best Article Award).
Walker, Edward T. and Christopher M. Rea. 2014. "The Political Mobilization of Firms and Industries." Annual Review of Sociology 40: 281-304. (SSRN Preprint)
King, Brayden G. and Edward T. Walker. 2014. "Winning Hearts and Minds: Field Theory and the Three Dimensions of Strategy." Strategic Organization 12(2): 134-141.
Walker, Edward T. and Lina M. Stepick. 2014. "Strength in Diversity? Group Heterogeneity and the Mobilization of Grassroots Organizations." Sociology Compass 8(7): 959-975.
Esparza, Nicole, Edward T. Walker, and Gabriel Rossman. 2014. "Trade Associations and the Legitimation of Entrepreneurial Movements: Collective Action in the Emerging Gourmet Food Truck Industry." Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 43(2):143S-162S. (Award: Honorable Mention, Best Article Award, ARNOVA)
Walker, Edward T. 2013. "Signaling Responsibility, Deflecting Controversy: Strategic and Institutional Influences on the Charitable Giving of Corporate Foundations in the Health Sector." Research in Political Sociology 21: 181-214.
Walker, Edward T. 2012. "Putting a Face on the Issue: Corporate Stakeholder Mobilization in Professional Grassroots Lobbying Campaigns." Business & Society 51(4): 619-59.
Walker, Edward T. 2012. "Social Movements, Organizations, and Fields: A Decade of Theoretical Integration." Contemporary Sociology 41(5): 576-587.
Walker, Edward T., John D. McCarthy, and Frank R. Baumgartner. 2011. "Replacing Members with Managers? Mutualism among Membership and Non-Membership Advocacy Organizations in the U.S." American Journal of Sociology 116(4): 1284-1337. (Media: Stanford Social Innovation Review)
Walker, Edward T. and John D. McCarthy. 2010. "Legitimacy, Strategy, and Resources in the Survival of Community-Based Organizations." Social Problems 57(3): 315-340.
Walker, Edward T. 2010. "Industry-Driven Activism." Contexts 9(2): 44-49.
Walker, Edward T. 2009. "Privatizing Participation: Civic Change and the Organizational Dynamics of Grassroots Lobbying Firms." American Sociological Review 74(1): 83-105.
Walker, Edward T., Andrew W. Martin and John D. McCarthy. 2008. "Confronting the State, the Corporation, and the Academy: The Influence of Institutional Targets on Social Movement Repertoires." American Journal of Sociology 114(1): 35-76.
Walker, Edward T. 2008. "Contingent Pathways from Joiner to Activist: The Indirect Effect of Participation in Voluntary Associations on Civic Engagement." Sociological Forum 23(1): 116-143.
Alwin, Duane F., Jacob L. Felson, Edward T. Walker, and Paula Tufs. 2006. "Measuring Religious Identities in Surveys." Public Opinion Quarterly 70(4): 530-564.
McCarthy, John D. and Edward T. Walker. 2004. "Alternative Organizational Repertoires of Poor People's Social Movement Organizations." Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Supplement to 33(3): 97S-119S.
Although listed as a course on the sociology of “collective behavior,” we will focus primarily on one particular collective phenomenon: social movements and their manifestation in the society and culture. In this course we will develop an understanding of the sources, methods, issues, processes, and ultimate outcomes of social movement activity. We will focus primarily on social movements in the U.S. and other Western democracies, and we will also explore movements in diverse international settings and initiated by diverse societal actors.
Political sociology is a subfield that is deeply rooted in the discipline and linked back to the thinking and writing of classical sociological theorists, including especially Marx and Weber. Political sociology investigates the sources and uses of political power, with “politics” defined very broadly. Political sociologists are also centrally concerned with the relationship between politics and a variety of other institutions in society, including the economy, religion, media, and the family, as well as how politics are shaped by inequalities in class, race, and gender.
This seminar is about the social and political power of the modern business corporation. Diverse analysts and commentators have drawn attention to the importance of understanding corporate power in a context of rising inequality, popular distrust of political and business leadership, and new models of governing the corporation. At stake in these debates is an understanding of the extent to which corporate power is (in-)compatible with democracy both in the broader polity and also within corporations themselves.