EDWARD T. WALKER
Department of Sociology, UCLA
I am a sociologist interested in the political activities of corporations and social movements.
I am Professor, Vice-Chair, and Director of Graduate Studies
in the Department of Sociology at UCLA.
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.
See my UCLA faculty page for more information.
I can be found on Twitter @edwardwalker.
See also my profile on Google Scholar.
Work and Organization Colloquium
May 2, 2019
February 28, 2019
Workshop on corporate political accountability
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
October 12, 2018
June 14, 2018
Workshop on Corporations
and Public Policy
April 30, 2018
Dept. of Sociology
UCLA MARSHAK COLLOQUIUM
April 26, 2018
Jacob Marschak Interdisciplinary Colloquium on Mathematics in the Behavioral Sciences
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
April 13, 2018
Dept. of Political Science
Environmental Politics Workshop
Brown Bag Talk
SOUTHERN SOCIOLOGICAL SOCIETY
April 6, 2018
Panel on "Market-Centered Protest and Counter-mobilization in the Age of Trump"
November 13, 2017
Center for Public Leadership
August 30, 2017
Centre for Corporate Reputation
Panelist, "Reputation in the Age of Trump and Brexit"
July 7, 2017
Colloquium on the Political Organization of Markets
UCLA PUBLIC POLICY
June 1, 2017
Public Policy Department
Brown Bag Talk
SAN DIEGO STATE
May 5, 2017
May 4, 2017
Brown Bag Talk
Our Recent Posts
GRASSROOTS FOR HIRE
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
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.
RESEARCH IN PROGRESS
AUTHENTICITY IN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
FORTHCOMING 2019, MOBILIZATION
with Lina M. Stepick
Scholars of contentious politics expect that social movement organizations (SMOs) are valued according to their ability to craft resonant frames or to enact displays of worthiness. We offer an alternative, relational perspective highlighting the critical role of authenticity in shaping an SMO’s perceived value. Unlike frames and intentional displays, calculated efforts to proclaim authenticity often backfire. We distill two orthogonal types: grassroots (in)authenticity, based on idealized notions of civil society, and institutional (in)authenticity, rooted in cultural-cognitive schemas used to judge fit with established SMO categories. Grassroots authenticity benefits an SMO’s fundamental legitimacy, while lacking it entirely (i.e. “astroturfing”) severely harms public support. Institutional authenticity increases resources and survival chances, intelligibility to elite observers, and clarity of collective identities; still, lacking this (via hybridity) may assist in recruitment and outreach. We build propositions that elaborate these expectations and argue that authenticity should become a more central concept in social movement research.
"ASTROTURFING" AND ORGANIZATIONAL REPUTATIONS
with Andrew N. Le
Much research has documented how reputations intermediate environmental influences. Yet we know little about how reputations are affected by stigma linked to organizations’ nonmarket strategies; in particular, illicit political strategies. Building from Mishina and colleagues’ (2012) distinction between capability and character reputations, we examine how illicit nonmarket strategies differentially affect these evaluations. Studying the widespread yet stigmatizing practice of “astroturfing” in which an organizational sponsor covertly ventriloquizes political claims through a front, we examine how capability and character reputations are affected by revealed astroturfing. Two survey experiments varied subjects’ exposure to astroturfing according to whether the revealed backer (respectively, a firm or think tank) was originally (1) high (2) low, or (3) of unknown reputation; the sector comparison is instructive because firms enjoy stronger capability reputations while think tanks are known for character. Beyond the expected finding that ex ante reputation often buffers against stigma, our primary finding is that for firms and think tanks alike, illicit nonmarket strategies harm character reputations much more than capability reputations, as they signal a failure to meet stakeholder expectations but only weakly harm appearances of capability. This research bears implications for conceptualizing reputation and for understanding the consequences of covert organizational political activities.
DIVERSITY IN SOCIAL MOVEMENT TEAMS
With Tijs van den Broek, Michel Ehrenhard, and Anna Priante
Research on team dynamics has investigated the influence of cultural diversity, communication styles, status and reputation differences, authority, and the division of labor on team effectiveness and innovation. Yet, how teams manage internal diversity alongside environmental complexity and are affected by contextual factors in the communities and regions in which they operate require deeper investigation. Also, we know little about team dynamics in organizations advocating for change in society compared to firms and other conventional organizations. In our research, we build on a large-scale geographic database of SMO teams containing information on their effectiveness in generating participant fundraising, while studying how contextual factors such as the levels of community civic engagement, the role of large employers, and the socio-demographic characteristics of local residents influence team dynamics. We examine 3350 teams (located in 255 metro areas) active in the Movember campaign, a large-scale advocacy campaign raising awareness of and funds for prostate cancer. We find that forms of diversity that may thwart collective identity formation are associated with less effectiveness in fundraising; on the other hand, forms of diversity that enhance a team’s reach and scope tend to be associated with more effective fundraising. We also find at the community-level that factors related to resources, political opportunities, and the presence of large employers all increase team fundraising; strikingly, we find only weak associations between prostate cancer incidence and team fundraising effectiveness. This research contributes to organizational theory on team dynamics, as well as to theory and research on social movement teams and broader contextual influences on social movement organizations.
INDUSTRY CONTENTION OVER FRACKING
With Bodi Vasi
Industries engaged in controversial practices often face stigmatizing challenges from social movements and other stakeholders. Some of these challenges, we argue, bring about focused stigma that highlights specific problems with particular industry practices and their impacts, whereas others raise diffuse stigma that draws attention to broader questions of an industry’s legitimacy. We maintain that diffuse stigma encourages industry impression-management efforts that are generally pro-social but which ignore, in most cases, the particular merits of their challenger’s case. Focused stigma, on the other hand, forces a direct response, whether on the merits or by “shooting the messenger” (i.e. directly attacking a challenger’s credibility). How industries respond to these claims, in turn, has consequences for the industry politically. In this study, we examine contention surrounding the industry of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas, employing Structural Topic Models (STMs) to investigate industry discourse. We highlight implications of this work for theory and research on social movements and stakeholders, the energy sector, public relations strategies, and organizational theory on stigma and reputation management more broadly.
Walker, Edward T. and Lina Stepick. Forthcoming 2019. "Valuing the Cause: A Theory of Authenticity in Social Movements." Mobilization. (SocArxiv preprint)
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.
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.
COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR / SOC 133
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 / SOC 182
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.
CORPORATE POWER / SOC 191
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.