Laughing Saints and Righteous HeroesEmotional Rhythms in Social Movement Groups

Laughing Saints and Righteous HeroesEmotional Rhythms in Social Movement Groups

Erika Effler

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226188652

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Why do people keep fighting for social causes in the face of consistent failure? Why do they risk their physical, emotional, and financial safety on behalf of strangers? How do these groups survive high turnover and emotional burnout? To explore these questions, the authors of this book undertook three years of ethnographic fieldwork with two groups: anti-death penalty activists STOP and the Catholic Workers, who strive to alleviate poverty. In both communities, members must contend with problems that range from the broad to the intimately personal. Adverse political conditions, internal conflict, and fluctuations in financial resources create a backdrop of daily frustration—but watching an addict relapse or an inmate's execution are much more devastating setbacks. This book finds that overcoming these obstacles, recovering from failure, and maintaining the integrity of the group require a constant process of emotional fine-tuning, and it demonstrates how activists do this through thoughtful analysis and a lucid rendering of their deeply affecting stories.