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Journal Article

Citation

Luders JE. Polity 2005; 37(1): 108-129.

Copyright

(Copyright © 2005, Holtzbrinck Springer Nature Publishing Group)

DOI

unavailable

PMID

unavailable

Abstract

This investigation revises the two main explanations for the successes of the civil rights movement: the backlash thesis and business moderation theory. While both theories hinge on the political significance of severe anti-rights violence, neither approach adequately explains variation in the intensity of this contention. Introducing a political mobilization perspective, which draws attention to the competition between segregationist and moderate business organizations, I argue that the structure of local electoral rewards determined the likelihood of official instigation or toleration for anti-rights violence. Case studies of four civil rights campaigns are used to demonstrate that the severity of anti-rights contention depended upon the relative political capacities of these interests. Refining the backlash thesis, it is suggested that the civil rights movement triggered the dramatic clashes necessary for advancing national legislation only where key economic interests lacked the will or political influence to challenge successfully segregationist political mobilization. Recasting business moderation theory, this analysis indicates that victories at the state and local level prior to substantive federal legislation depended not only upon the political leverage of moderate business organizations, but on a corresponding weakness among segregationists.

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