Access versus Influence

Have been on one of my periodic reading binges, this time on social movements and networks.

And on ‘agentic deadlock’, which I will discuss shortly (from a wonderful paper by a Keele PhD candidate).

For now though, this one has been rattling around my neurons.

Social Movement Organisations/Lobbyists/Non-governmental organisations are very prone to mistake “access” to the decision makers for “influence”.  Mark Steel has a wonderful quote about this, which I turned into a youtube video.

If you’re running a ‘top-down’ hierarchical outfit, that needs to be able to justify its existence to donors/guilty middle-class people with cheque books, then you need to be seen to be talking to the ‘right’ people.  So when someone from the government/local authority/etc  invites you to sit on an “advisory panel” you say yes.    You get to look important (and maybe even to kid yourself that you are).  THEY get to say that they have consulted widely and broadly, and use you as a fig leaf if they have to. They don’t have to show that you’ve had any influence. If it suits them, they’ll give that impression.

Meanwhile, you’re spending all your time schmoozing, and refraining from rocking the boat.  And the wider ‘movement’ beyond – well, they’re only little people, aren’t they.

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2 Responses to Access versus Influence

  1. leavergirl says:

    It’s called cooptation.
    If you want to be a successful power hog, that is one of the strategies you must master early on.

    Nicely done, the vid. Does it need a whole book?

  2. Hey leaver girl,

    it is indeed. Rather like colonialism, “when they arrived we had the land and they had the bibles. Now we have the bibles and they have the land.”

    I supposed the alternative would be “when we engaged with the bosses from a position of weakness, we had the high moral ground and they had the money and decision-making power. Now we have no high moral ground and they have a fig leaf to disguise what they were going to do anyway.”

    Hmm probably needs some work to make it pithier.

    Mark Steel’s book is bittersweet. It’s basically him having his mid-life wake-up; his long-term relationship slowly falls apart, and he slowly, painfully wakes up to the fact that the Socialist Worker’s Party is a dreary, wrong and unsuccessful attempt at vanguardism. The quote I made into a youtube is just a v. minor aside. [Glad you liked it :)]

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