The two-volume Encyclopedia of American Reform Movements will examine popular movements for social, economic, and political change in U.S. history. The Editors will recruit contributors to prepare entries from among the leading academics in the various social science disciplines as well as those in the fields of history, philosophy, and American Studies. This interdisciplinary focus is intended not only to make the Encyclopedia useful to a broad range of scholars and students but to produce entries of interest to both high school and and first-year college students and their instructors. The Encyclopedia will appeal to the widest possible reading audience.
The Editors plan to engage leading scholars on the topic of social movements in such social science fields as sociology, anthropology, political science, and economics. The Editors will encourage contributors to address current leading theories of social movements in their entries, including Resource Mobilization, which posits that for reform movements to coalesce and thrive their members must be able to acquire and utilize available sources of material, social, cultural, and human capital to effect social change; Political Opportunity, which argues that the political and social climate must be conducive to change in order for reform movements to grow and succeed; and Framing, which contends that reform movements can be effective only when they “resonate” with the cultural understandings of the general public. The Editors also will ensure that older theories explaining social movements by such writers as Antonio Gramsci, Karl Mannheim, Erich Fromm, and Robert K. Merton also will be addressed in the Encyclopedia’s effort to present a balance of scholarly viewpoints. (The Editors do not contend that this list provides exhaustive coverage of social movement theory; the Encyclopedia will include a thorough treatment.)
The Encyclopedia will also appeal to scholars across the broad range of the humanities and be written in clear and accessible prose geared to high school and college students. Encyclopedia entries will explore the intellectual and cultural forces that have fostered popular participation in an incredible range of movements for changes during the nation’s history. The humanities also will be utilized to explore how not only the goals and tactics, but the very perception of social problems requiring reform, are products of complex value systems. Many Encyclopedia entries will focus on biographical subjects and probe the personal motivation for, as well as individual contributions to, successful activism. Finally, Encyclopedia entries will assess the impact of reform movements upon the development of American culture and beliefs and present forecasts of the potential for continued reform activities in the new century.
While the Editors will seek authors with the highest possible credentials to prepare Encyclopedia entries, they will not lose sight of the readers’ need for a clear and lively text. A special effort will be made to minimize “jargon,” and where such terms prove necessary to explain them cogently. Where appropriate, tables and illustrations will be employed to make the Encyclopedia more attractive to the eye and accessible to the mind of its readers.