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Social Movements and the Transformation of American Health Care$
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Jane Banaszak-Holl, Sandra Levitsky, and Mayer Zald

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388299

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388299.001.0001

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The Limitations of Social Movements as Catalysts for Change

The Limitations of Social Movements as Catalysts for Change

(p.23) 2 The Limitations of Social Movements as Catalysts for Change
Social Movements and the Transformation of American Health Care

Constance A. Nathanson

Oxford University Press

Nathanson examines the challenges of mobilizing for health care policies that address the needs of the poor. She argues that socioeconomic and racial inequalities in the health of Americans are both profound and largely invisible in public and policy discourse. This invisibility is the product of a political system in which the interests of poor and marginalized populations are systematically underrepresented by unions and political parties. Nathanson argues that in the absence of three sets of conditions—(1) the mobilization of left‐leaning party and/or movement actors; (2) social, political, and/or economic crises that create opportunities for these actors to mobilize; and (3) the presence of elected officials or bureaucrats prepared to work with those actors to advance the interests of the poor—there is little hope for social movements to advance the health interests of the poor through public policy reform. Instead, she concludes, successful policy action to benefit the health of the poor must aim to encompass all Americans.

Keywords:   social movements, collective action, health care, inequality, poor, mobilization, policy reform

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