Bill McKibben's Effect on the US Climate Change Debate: Shifting the Institutional Environment Through Radical Flank Effects

53 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2017  

Todd Schifeling

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Erb Institute

Andrew John Hoffman

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Date Written: April 2017

Abstract

This paper investigates the presence and influence of radical flanks on field-level debates. We study the ability of radical flank actors to shift the focus of these debates by increasing the legitimacy of pre-existing but peripheral issues. We apply this conceptual model to the empirical context of the climate change debate in the United States and the efforts of Bill McKibben and 350.org to pressure major Universities and Colleges to divest their financial investments in fossil fuel assets. As these new actors and issue entered the debate, we find that, while divestment itself gained limited traction, liberal policy ideas, which had previously been marginalized in the U.S. debate, gained increased attention and legitimacy. Using network text analysis, this paper expands theories of how social movements affect organizational fields through a discursive radical flank mechanism while also illuminating key dynamics in climate change politics.

Keywords: Radical flank effects, institutional change, climate change, fossil fuel divestment

Suggested Citation

Schifeling, Todd and Hoffman, Andrew John, Bill McKibben's Effect on the US Climate Change Debate: Shifting the Institutional Environment Through Radical Flank Effects (April 2017). Ross School of Business Paper No. 1364. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2957590

Todd Schifeling (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Erb Institute ( email )

Dana Building
440 Church Street
Ann Arbor, MI, MI 48109-1041
United States

Andrew John Hoffman

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street, R4390
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States
734.763.9455 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.andrewhoffman.net/

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