Biographical Availability

Do you have kids? Sick aging parents?  A (horrible) long-hours job? Other responsibilities that mean you don’t have the time, energy or inclination to sit in boring meetings that never seem to achieve anything?  That’s biographical (un)availability, and social movements are mostly hopeless at coping with it.


“In the context of social activism, biographical availability refers to the “absence of personal constraints that may increase the costs and risks of movement participation, such as full‐time employment, marriage, and family responsibilities” (McAdam 1986: 70). Individuals who have spouses, children, or less time‐flexible occupations are expected to be less willing and likely to participate in collective action because familial and occupational commitments can reduce the amount of time and energy available for activism and increase the risks associated with it. Theoretically, biographical availability should be more significant in cases of costly or risky social activism, with costs referring to the time, money, and energy requirements of participation and risk referring to the anticipated dangers of participation, such as physical harm or social, financial, and legal repercussions (McAdam 1986). For example, while signing petitions does not involve significant time away from work or children, participating in protest events does, and because this activity could result in arrest, there is potentially an additional risk for those who are employed or who are primary caregivers of children.”



See also recruitment, decruitment, significant life experiences

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