Moyer, Bill with JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, Steven Soifer. Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements. New Society Publishers. Gabriola Island, BC. 2001.

“There is no way; we make the road by walking it”.
Antonio Machado

The seriousness of social movements in recent decades can be judged by the fact that many academics who seldom leave the ivory tower deem them worthy and timely to study and joyfully criticize and deconstruct. Their studies are rarely available or of value to working activists.

This book is different; Moyer and the other authors have been deeply committed social activists for many years. Their book is a very practical guide and a clear analysis of movements that activists will find very helpful. Although published in Canada the examples and interpretations are primarily based on the USA where the authors did their work. Allowing for certain cultural differences, the book is still helpful in other places.

They have a theory and explanations of the roles and stages of the beginning, development and end of movements; the end is often because they have succeeded. The issue has become mainstream, political groups and society have absorbed them and often the issues have been resolved. The authors focus on many successful movements – gay and lesbian rights, civil rights in the USA and others. They are essentially very hopeful, seeing success in the increase of movements in numbers and their diversity as well as results. The book helps activists to be realistic and set goals, and to recognize that even when the movement folds, it may be a sign of success. I remember the Anti-MAI movement which started with a copy of a secret trade agreement being leaked here in Victoria; the contents quickly spawned a international movement that folded when the MAI was rejected.

In the conclusion we are urged to create an analysis, vision, and action strategy for transformation of society. We need to integrate social action into our personal and public lives, to eliminate the negative features we bring from our flawed societies – greed, anger, selfishness and competitiveness and create healthy, positive and caring ways to interact within social movements. It is time to recognize activists as important in themselves, not because they are actors or physicists. We need to see that we can be important and effective in bringing ideas and causes from the margins of society into the mainstream as we place our goals of transforming a consumerist and militarist society to one of ecology, justice and sustainability. This book can help us along our way.

(New Society Publishers Website:

Filed under Bill Moyer, Book Reviews, JoAnn McAllister, Mary Lou Finley, Steven Soifer