Convincing Elites, Controlling Elites


Within the legal mobilization framework, sociolegal scholars identify elite support as a key indirect benefit of litigation. Court-centered strategies generate support from influential state and private actors, and this support helps a movement to achieve its goals. Instead of assuming elite support to be a decidedly positive step in a movement’s trajectory, a more contextual analysis situates elite support as a complex, dynamic factor that movement advocates attempt to manage. Such support may at times create political and legal risks that jeopardize a movement’s progress. My analysis of the marriage equality movement suggests a tentative typology with which to approach elite support: Elite support appears generally productive for a movement when it leads to action consistent with the movement’s strategy. On the other hand, elite support may pose significant risk when it prompts action inconsistent with the movement’s strategic plan, even if it is consistent with the movement’s substantive positions.

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