The question of elite facilitation of social movements has been debated for decades. Sociologists who participated in student, civil rights, feminist and antiwar movements help contribute to the demise of a collective behavior tradition of social movements, which saw movements as a response to some sort of systemic "strain," and emphasized the irrationality of participants. The resource mobilization perspective that emerged focused on elite facilitation of social movements. An organization like Greenpeace, with a large subscriber membership supporting a handful of high profile activists fits the resource mobilization model best. Somewhat later, but nearly alongside this perspective, a "political process" view emerged which looked at the way in which indigenous organization seized moments of "expanding political opportunities." Both Aldon Morris and Doug McAdam hold that the civil rights movement is actually the poster child for a view of social movements as emerging from indigenous organization, based as they were on the triad of black churches, black colleges and Southern chapters of the NAACP.
Do elites sponsor social movements? Absolutely. Do they emerge from indigenous organization? Clearly. Is light a wave or a particle? Neils Bohr said that the opposite of a profound truth is often another profound truth.
The degree to which the local food movement is elite-sponsored is an empirical question. Perhaps, as with the Farm Worker's movement, we will find simultaneous roles for elite sponsorship (support for boycotts), indigenous organization (UFW), and expanding political opportunities (decline of the bracero program).
Does Dan Barber need to apologize for highlighting the role of elites and ideas in furthering local food? I don't think so. Do social scientists need to explore empirically the sources of "the food revolution," and the possibility that there are multiple antecedents? Absolutely.
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