Politics is not merely a series of policy battles, but an ongoing struggle for the primacy of our favored understandings about both how the world is and how it ought to be. In this way, politics is a contest between diverse meanings that political actors make. Comparing the trajectory of two contemporary social movements—the fight for marriage equality and the struggle for a living wage—Woodly plays out the implications of the idea that a part of what it means for a social movement to be successful is not only that it win discrete policy battles, but, more importantly, that it rewrite the political field in its own favor. Social movements achieve lasting success not primarily through pursuing political changes, but by changing politics itself.
By Deva R Woodly · Published 2013
Deva Woodly, Friends of the Institute for Advanced Study Member in the School of Social Science, and Assistant Professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research, focuses on the impacts of civic discourse on democratic practice, especially from the point of view of ordinary citizens, political advocates, and social movements. She has examined public discourse both theoretically and empirically and is a student of American public opinion and political behavior, as well as the study of political and politicized media. These interests are focused, supported, and invigorated by her long-time work as an activist and facilitator in a variety of venues. The primary focus of her many projects has been the development and cultivation of the voices and views of ordinary citizens with a special emphasis on providing the space and the tools that enable all members of the polity to express themselves and their interests in intelligible and effective ways.