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 Nordic Party Members: Linkages in Troubled Times, Edited by Marie Demker, Knut Heidar, and Karina Kosiara-Pedersen

The Role of Discursive Opportunity Structure in Legal Mobilisation by Social Movements

Gesine Fuchs
Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
Gesine Fuchs
Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Legal mobilisation in the courts has emerged as an increasingly important social movement strategy also in civil law countries. In the proposed paper, I will present results from comparative research on litigation for gender equality in the workplace in four European countries (France, Germany, Poland and Switzerland) by social movements and trade unions. The study, as well as other research, has used the concept of legal opportunity structures (defined as access to justice and material and procedural law). Its aim is to understand and explain the mechanisms and varying levels of legal mobilization. Whereas LOS can account for some differences, they do not sufficiently explain the existing variations. Other socio-political factors seem to influence the probability of mobilization. These have been labelled discursive opportunity structures (DOS), i. e. structures concerning the ideas and meaning-making institutions in a given society. Relevant components of DOS are media discourses and coverage, collective identity action frames in movements or organizations, legal culture and norms on the subject at stake. The empirical results show astonishing differences in media coverage/discourse of court cases and affirm the determining influence of traditions and identities like notions of equality.
The paper attempts to systematize DOS and discusses the complex interactions of the several components. Thereby it hopefully contributes to the development of a better theoretical understanding of the subject.
The data used includes court decisions, media analysis, and about 60 interviews with claimants, activists and lawyers in the four countries.
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