pp. 165-167

Networks in Contention: The Divisive Politics of Climate Change, Jennifer Hadden

Reviewed by Jessica F. Green





Jennifer Hadden’s book achieves a rare feat for academic studies: it is expansive in its ideas and empirical investigation of them, carefully and cogently structured, and a pleasure to read. Hadden investigates the history and evolution of transnational advocacy networks in the climate change regime. She leverages natural variation—the emergence of competing networks—to investigate the inner workings of the Climate Action Network (CAN) and the more recently established climate justice network. In so doing, she develops the main argument of the book: advocacy organizations choose tactics based on their relationships.

Hadden offers a relational theory of advocacy in which “network embeddedness” is the key explanatory variable. Organizations are more likely to choose contentious forms of action if they are linked to other organizations that do the same. Similarly, more “conventional” organizations will eschew contention and use mainstream advocacy tactics when they are connected similarly conventional organizations. Birds of a feather flock together. She describes three causal effects of network embeddedness. Ties with other organizations give rise to information sharing, resource pooling, and peer pressure, all of which influence the choice of tactics. These effects are illustrated with qualitative evidence drawn from interviews.

Hadden provides extensive empirical evidence to illustrate the bifurcation of the climate advocacy network into two factions. Using membership lists from major transnational climate coalitions, she maps shared membership in the advocacy coalitions. The change in the structure of the network between 2006 and 2009 is stark: a previously unified network has subdivided into three main clusters. The two main groups, CAN and the climate justice movement, differ along several axes, as detailed nicely in Chapters 4 and 5. CAN is a decidedly pragmatist organization, targeting its lobbying and advocacy efforts exclusively on the diplomats negotiating within the intergovernmental process. It is a relatively top-down organization, with a few large organizations dominating the positions and workings of the CAN. Substantively, it focuses on the science of climate change as the justification for urgent climate action. Its aim is incremental progress. The climate justice movement was born, in part, out of frustration with this “light green” approach. It draws members and messages from the global justice movement, broadening the frame to encompass critical issues of decentralized solutions and societal transformations.

Hadden’s book has several strengths. The contribution to the CAN literature is significant. She demonstrates the inner workings of two different CANs, and the contrasts in organizational procedures, strategies, and tactics are stark. As Hadden notes, “scholars have traditionally paid less attention to divided networks than to their more consensual cousins” (p. 167). In turn, this work is important for understanding the dynamics of accountability in civil society. Second, it provides a readable and thorough account of the evolution of civil society activity around climate change. This is an excellent resource for scholars and students alike. Third, and perhaps most impressively, Hadden’s book uses a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, to great effect. She provides a surprisingly readable “network analysis toolkit” that provides the reader with precisely enough background to understand her analysis without burdening the reader with unnecessary technical details. The 15-page methods appendix is evidence of the rigor of the study and will certainly provide thought-provoking material for junior scholars.

The shortcomings of her work are few in comparison to its strengths. While the emphasis of the theory is on the impacts of network embeddedness on organizational tactics, in reality, the book is much broader than this and should be presented as such. It is a history of climate activism, from its very beginnings to the present—an important resource for those interested in understanding an integral component of the climate regime. Second, although the appendix demonstrates the extensive nature of her fieldwork, the findings from these interviews could be more prominently displayed. Nonetheless, Networks in Contention will clearly make a lasting contribution to the field.

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