|Feminism and Politics|
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The 1960s and 1970s saw the resurgence of feminism as a social movement in virtually every Western nation. In each, the movement adapted to the history, culture, and politics of the society (Bouchier 1984). This book focuses on how cultural traits and political institutions have shaped feminist movements in Britain, the United States, and Sweden. As Helga Hernes (1983:33) has pointed out, women in the state occupy similar roles regardless of national boundaries: they are citizens, consumers, clients, and employees. But they are also claimants in the arena of public policy, seeking to gain economic and political rewards and contesting for power and access. This study examines the mechanisms and impact of their role as political claimants helping to identify and influence policies that affect their lives as women.
The purpose of this inquiry is to demonstrate how differences in British, American, and Swedish feminism relate to systemic and cultural differences. A major hypothesis
of this analysis is that such differences, in the respective "political opportunity structures" (that is, institutions, alignments, and ideology), have patterned the development, goals, and values of feminist activists in each nation. In turn, it will be argued, movement structure and systemic differences have affected and constrained opportunities for movement impact within each nation. While the feminist activists in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Sweden share many objectives, they differ significantly in their style of political activism, leadership orientation, and organizational values (Jenson 1983). These differences interact with contrasting political opportunities to shape the success of feminist claims. The analysis defines alternate meanings for the concept of movement success. How the role of women activists themselves shapes political alternatives is a central question of this study.
Other political scientists have questioned the view that autonomous women's groups organized to fight for political power and policy gains are more likely to succeed than groups integrated into prevailing institutions (Adams and Winston 1980). This study will argue, based on the British and American experience and with a briefer look at Sweden, that gender-based women's groups that are separate from institutionalized interests such as parties and unions are more likely to develop independent strategies and political agendas of their own choosing, thus permitting greater political impact. This analysis seeks to demonstrate that autonomous feminist movements play a major role in the achievement of significant social change. Otherwise, women are acted upon as objects of social policy but are not participants in their own destinies (Siim 1982:34).
The three countries studied here were selected because they are all postindustrial Western democracies,
with policies that are superficially similar regarding women's rights. Each has legislation on abortion rights and labor force equality (Sweden was the last to adopt the latter), and each has set up an administrative commission on equal opportunities to monitor sex discrimination laws, albeit with very different powers. Although all three societies have experienced similar trends, their significance for feminist politics differs. For example, while in all three nations women have simultaneously been mobilized and incorporated as new participants into the political process and into the expanding tasks of the modern state, particularly as these relate to women, these developments have proceeded in different ways and with different impacts in each nation (Hernes 1982:7).
The participation of women in the labor force has increased dramatically in each society, as have family "pathologies," such as divorce and female-headed families (although these are not viewed as "pathologies" in Sweden). Paradoxically, Sweden, which is noted world-wide for the equality in its progressive social policies, has the highest level of sex segregation in the labor force as well as the highest percentage of part-time workers who are women. In all three societies women and men are concentrated in specific occupations. Women are further segregated into a far smaller number of occupations than are men. These occupations are lower-paying; many are in the public sector service area. In one study (Jonung 1984:54) an index of sex-based dissimilarity in employment reveals 70.7 for Sweden (282 occupations), 66.1 for Britain (223 occupations), and 65.1 for the United States (441 occupations).[*] Another study has found Sweden
to have a score of 60 percent, the United States 46.8 percent, and Britain 31.1 percent (apparently reflecting at least in part the fact that British men are less concentrated in a few occupations) (ibid.).
This study will focus on 1) the sociopolitical context in which each movement operates, 2) the organization and strategies utilized by each movement, and 3) the impact of each movement on the political process, public attitudes, and public policy. Within the context suggested, the study examines three Western countries that provide three different political models and therefore three different approaches to feminist politics.
To analyze the impact of women's movements on the political process and in helping to structure policy alternatives and outcomes, we will contrast three different models of women's participation and activism: 1) interest group feminism in the United States; 2) left-wing/ ideological feminism in the United Kingdom; and 3) state equality in Sweden.
Interest group feminism is characterized by a relatively open political system, a focus on equal rights and legal equality (although many demands may go beyond mere reformism), and the creation of lobbying groups that may have a mass membership or be staff dominated. Networking and inclusiveness typify the approach to different political orientations within the women's movement.
Ideological, or left-wing, feminism is characterized by insistence on ideological purity and a reluctance to work with groups espousing different viewpoints. This type of feminist politics is decentralized and locally based, largely lacking a national political presence and impact. Fragmentation as well as enthusiastic commitment to sectarian (feminist) views typify this model.
State equality is characterized by the absence of a visible and influential feminist movement. Instead, women are active via political parties and, to a lesser degree, trade unions (as is true to some extent in left-wing feminism, as an alternative to local political action). The state has tended to anticipate or co-opt women's concerns into public policy, even without significant pressure from women's groups. Policies related to women are generally discussed within the framework of "equality" or "family" policy.
In this analysis, movement development, effectiveness, and impact are seen as largely dependent on external factors such as political environment and available resources. Among the environmental variables that appear to be particularly significant are the current political complexion of government, the structure of the central administrative process, and the state of the economy (Whitely and Winyard 1983:1011). Examination of the structure of British politics, economics, and social life suggests a society highly traditional in its structure and values, a stagnant economy, and a centralized, secretive, and bureaucratically dominated system. These factors contribute to a political setting in which feminists tend to be isolated from the formal political system, from feminists with different perspectives and women in general, and from potential allies. Ideological divisions, rooted in class and other conflicts, inhibit the formation of coalitions dedicated to resolving women's political and economic needs.
We focus on the role and structure of feminism in the nations studied by examining two wings of feminism. The first is the women's liberation movement, often characterized as the more radical, or "younger," branch of the movement. Such groups in both the United States
and Britain are distinguished by their emphasis on lifestyle change, provision of alternative services, and decentralization and anti-elitist values (Stacey and Price 1980:180). The second wing of feminism is that segment of the movement operating within the traditional policymaking structure. In the case of Britain, this segment participates in parties and unions that play a dominant role in the political system. In the United States, women tend to be effective primarily as interest group activists, given the primacy of pressure groups in the American political arena (although we will examine the role of women in parties and unions for comparative purposes). These two sets of feminist activists are roughly analogous to "militant" and "reformist" branches of contemporary feminism, although many British feminists would decline the honor of inclusion in the reformist camp. In Sweden, there is only one manifest face of feminism: that represented by women in parties and unions; the minute feminist movement is almost subterranean in character and visibility.
Among this study's major assumptions regarding the distinctions between the American, British, and Swedish systems are the importance in the United Kingdom and Sweden of centralized government and Parliament (called the Riksdag in Sweden) and the primacy of the administrative process.
Crucial variables affecting movement emergence and activism are the degree of corporatism/political centralization and pluralism. Schmitter's (1984) well-known definition characterizes corporatism as interest representation in which constituent units are organized into a limited number of singular, noncompetitive, hierarchically ordered and functionally differentiated categories, recognized or licensed by the state and granted
a deliberate representational monopoly within their respective categories. Pluralism, in contrast, characterizes a society in which multiple, voluntary, competitive self-determined groups have access to state power. Table 1 makes the distinctions between the two approaches clearer. The United States, where strong or strongly structured pluralism prevails, is found on the pluralist/dispersed side of the continuum, while Britain and Sweden are placed close to the corporatist/centralist side.
In Table 2 we show how this structure may be supplemented to account for the organizational role of women's groups in the three nations studied.
The administrative process in the United Kingdom emphasizes ministerial responsibility and neutrality and operates behind closed doors, whereas in the United States there is far greater possibility for public scrutiny and intervention. British courts play a much more restricted role than their American counterparts. The American party system is looser and less dominant in the political system; and because power is fragmentedboth
both in executive/legislative relations and in the federal structureit is more accessible to interest groups of all types. Swedish politics is usually characterized as a "consensual democracy" in which conflict and confrontation are customarily assiduously avoided. It resembles the British model of executive dominance and corporatism, although the political process incorporates a greater variety of groups.
The scope of government differs as well. In the United Kingdom the role of national government intervention in family and welfare policies (for example, the National Health Service) has been more firmly institutionalized, providing some support for British women in areas their American counterparts lack. Examples are child benefits (which are paid to mothers and were formerly called child tax allowances), maternity grants, and maternity allowances.
Welfare state benefits for women and children are greater in the United Kingdom than in the United States, including the non-means-tested child benefit of £5.25
per week, supplementary benefits, family income supplements, and rent rebates, although they are still far lower than those provided in most of the rest of industrialized Europe (the equivalent of $50 in British sterling, compared, for instance, with $93 in Hungary and $218 in France) (Norris 1984:43; Lewis 1985). After 1983, owing to a directive from the European Economic Community (EEC), married women on unemployment and sickness benefit could claim extra allowances for their children, although the new rights to Family Income Supplement and other benefits were significantly qualified by stringent requirements.
The United Kingdom has lower pay benefits for maternity and stricter eligibility conditions than any other European country (Dex and Shaw 1986:5; Coote and Campbell 1987:9091). In comparison with the United States, Britain has legislated more extensive maternity benefits, but many women do not meet the benefit conditions. In the United States nearly half of women employees are provided with paid or unpaid maternity leavelarge corporations are most likely to provide such benefits (Dex and Shaw 1986:14; Kamerman, Kahn, and Kingston: 1983). Thus, despite the existence of statutory maternity benefits in Britain, more American women appear to get such support (albeit from the private sector) because there are fewer restrictions in the United States (Dex and Shaw 1986:14).
The British have the least day-care space available for children of working mothers (ibid.). American women are more likely to depend on paid and out-of-home child care than are their British sisters. British families tend to rely on family-based child care provided by husbands and grandmothers; few utilize institutional or nonfamily care (Employment Gazette , May 1984:209).
In the United States, antipathy to centralized state
power and reluctance to intervene in the family have resulted in a system of categorical grants; policies are fragmented and lack coordination, providing meanstested support only for poor women who are (mainly) single parents. The United States is alone among these three nations (and the democratic West as a whole) in having no national insurance system for childbirth medical expenses, no children's allowances, and no statutory care benefits to cover pregnancy and childbirth. Civil/welfare rights activities in the 1960s did, however, expand the public sector's support of the poor.
In Sweden, a generous policy of support is available to parents (of either sex) for child care, housing, and other benefits to ease the burdens for working family members. In 1971, child allowances were $212 in Sweden, $62 in the United Kingdom, and $0 in the United States; the ratio has not changed much since then (Heidenheimer, Heclo, and Adams 1983:207). The Swedes have sought to develop social programs with a view to labor force and market control; the British have tried to universalize social benefits but at a low level; the Americans have kept state intervention to a minimum. While the Swedish welfare state has sought to develop a minimum level of well-being for each citizen, the United States, via the "residual welfare" model, prefers reliance on the private market and family to meet individual needs.
In the United States, universal social welfare is not seen as a desirable social good; instead, the society provides remedial solutions to politically identified social problems (Boneparth 1984:45; Hagtvet and Buding 1986:291). The concern of American policy is for the family as an institution but not for the individual member of the family (Boneparth 1984:46). Family policy
often tends to be dealt with at the state, rather than the federal, level; resistance to federal public spending in recent years has reinforced this trend.
The institutionalization of the welfare state in Britain has to some degree altered the nature of the debate about such feminist issues as abortion, because of the presence of the National Health Service (NHS). Nonetheless, less than 50 percent of abortions are in fact performed by the NHS, a number that may be limited even further by cuts in the NHS under the Thatcher government (Greenwood and King 1981:180). And there is a great variation in the availability and cost of abortions throughout Britain. As in the United States, politics in recent years has been dominated by conservative interests who have sought to slash budgets and "reprivatize" numerous public sector functions, including those specifically related to women dependent on the state. Even in Sweden, concern over financing the extensive welfare state in an era of a shrinking economy has emerged as a significant political issue.
The emphasis to be placed here on externally caused distinctions among the feminist movements in the three nations should not obscure the many similarities, particularly in comparing the movements in the United States and Britain. Among these have been virtually simultaneous (parallel) historical developments, including the advent of the suffrage movement, the birth control movement, in which each country had a comparable leading figureStopes in the United Kingdom and Sanger in the United States (and Ottesen-Jensen in Sweden)and the "renaissance" of feminism in the 1960s. In addition, the Seven Demands of the women's liberation movement in the United Kingdom (Feminist Anthology Collective 1981) are markedly similar to those
advocated by the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the United States:
It is significant that in Sweden a major statement, "Toward Equality," was adopted in 1969 by the dominant Social Democratic Party. Among its major and primarily economically oriented goals are a society in which rights, obligations, and work are no longer allocated according to sex." This manifesto calls for equality in working life: eradication of sex discrimination in recruitment, promotion, and wages; economic independence for married partners, with the two-wage-earner family as a model; uniform taxes for all; and parental leave (Qvist, Acker, and Lorwin 1984:26566).
Analysis of public policy reveals similar trends. In the area of equal rights, the United Kingdom passed an Equal Pay Act (1970) and Sex Discrimination Act (1975), the latter establishing an Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to enforce the new laws. The Employment Protection Act of 1975 gave women a statutory right to paid maternity leave, protection from unfair dismissal
during pregnancy, and a guaranteed maternity leave of 29 weeks. (However, as will be discussed later, these policies have been made more restrictive by the Thatcher administration, which has institutionalized stringent requirements concerning prior work for would-be recipients [Coote and Campbell 1987:9394.]) With regard to violence and victimization of women and the right to self-determination, the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act (1976) strengthened procedures by which women could obtain injunctions to restrain violent husbands, while the Sexual Offenses (Amendment) Act of 1976 provided better safeguards for a rape victim's privacy during trial (ibid., 37, 42). The 1967 Abortion Act authorized abortion up to 28 weeks of pregnancy in cases where two doctors agreed either that the life of the mother or other children would be at risk or that the baby was likely to be handicapped (Randall 1982:172).
In the United States, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided equal employment protection for women. The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act gave pregnant women equal access to insured maternity benefits.
Abortion rights in the United States were established largely via Supreme Court decisions (whereas in the United Kingdom they were enacted by legislation) and have been the subject of congressional action (primarily restrictive). Domestic-violence legislation (which involved funding for shelters, not procedural reform) was enacted in 1984 at the federal level, and additional funding for victims and shelter expansion, as well as improved police and judicial intervention, has been the subject of considerable legislative activity at the state level.
In Sweden, legislation permitting women to choose abortion freely up to the eighteenth week of pregnancy was passed in 1975 (although abortion after the twelfth week is subject to a special inquiry). After 1982, wife beating became open to public prosecution and, in March 1985, government grants were made available to aid some shelter activities. Equal opportunities legislation that prohibits sex-based discrimination in employment and requires employers to take steps to promote work equality was enacted into law in 1979. Despite the apparently similar nature of public policy related to women in the three nations, however, we will contend that the impact of such policy has depended in large measure on systemic factors and the strength of the organized feminist movement.
Social movements may be described as movements seeking to achieve social change through collective action. Directed groups (with more formal organizational structures) have formal leadership, definitive ideology, stated objectives, and specific programs. Nondirected movements stress a reshaping of perspectives and values through personal interaction (Hanmer 1977:92).
To a large extent, the most visible portion of the American feminist movement belongs to the "directed" category, at least in its formal leadership structure and definite programs of action. To a greater degree, British feminism is of a more "nondirected" nature, with greater emphasis on personal interaction, expression and articulation of feminist values, and the importance of internal democracy.
In addition, coalitional activities across issue and ideological lines are less well developed in the United Kingdom than in the United States. Hence, pressure group politics has not been the primary avenue for feminist
involvement in Britain. However, the absence of formal, structured coalitional groups comparable to those in the United States should not obscure the existence of alternative groups actively involved in other aspects of political life.
As we have noted, in Sweden, feminist movement activity per se has been limited and women's organizations have tended to gravitate toward political parties. Some efforts to create all-party, gender-based groups have been made in recent years, and ad hoc activity has occurred around some women's issues (especially opposition to prostitution, pornography, and violence against women).
This analysis rests on the premise that political structures provide the context for the development of social movement politics. Analysis of political structures includes the assessment of the significance of parties, pressure groups, the bureaucracy, the nature of state power, and the role of the judiciary. In addition, processes of socioeconomic change, including values and issue approaches, must be considered. External factors help structure the type of group mobilization that occurs as well as the character and success of a movement. Because British politics operate within a neocorporatist framework, large, economically labor-related pressure groups are primary actors in politics, although they are less well integrated into regimes dominated by the Conservative Party. There appears to be little support for Samuel Beer's view that British pressure groups are strong when promotional groups are considered. Most students of British politics agree that the nonorganized
and lesser-organized are rarely consulted by policymakers (Richardson and Jordan 1979:45). Gender, rather than economic sources of influence, is inevitably rendered less important in such a system.
Richardson and Jordan (ibid., 122) have characterized the British political system in terms of strategies for group influence; in their view, Whitehall is the primary target for influence; the legislative process comes second, and the public third. To a remarkable degree, the policy-making process is organized in an exclusive fashion (Ashford 1981:8). In fact, it may be suggested that the British political system tends to limit access for non-established, "promotional" groups, which seek social change. While producersor key economic groupsmay enjoy continued access to policy-making, based on sectional and economic roles and well-established relationships, the same is not true for groups, consumers, or others who may oppose them. A consequence of centralization and secrecy is to limit the role of "promotional" or attitude groups seeking changethey tend to be poor in size, finances, and the ability to obtain benefits (Christoph 1974:44; Blondel 1974).
Economic and technical problems are most often dealt with by a system that increasingly emphasizes executive dominance (Smith 1976:6667). The role of Parliament is diminishing in comparison to the administrative sector. Whereas in the United States political power is diffused, in Britain it is highly centralizedin both the horizontal and the vertical structures of policy-making. (Grass-roots lobbying, common in the United States, has little impact in a system as centralized as that in Britain.) The administrative sector is characterized by limited public visibility and the absence of public scrutiny of decision-making (Pennock and Chapman
1969:11). The core of "politically neutral" permanent civil servants and the relatively small size and narrow social backgrounds of the political elite often present significant barriers to change-oriented policies (Ashford 1981; Sampson 1982). Cabinet meetings are secret, and closed doors are the rule in most administrative proceedings.
The system of "tripartism," which includes the government, the Confederation of British Industries (CBI), and unions, limits possibilities for other groups to influence politics (Beloff and Peele 1980:28). Pressure groups may present views but may have little impact on the legislative process or the cabinet (ibid., 23839). Unlike the United States, where appointments to government, including administrative bodies, are often the product of "clientelism," or pressure group influence, in the United Kingdom such appointments are limited to "old boy" lists of the "Great and the Good." Confidentiality prevails, and there is virtually no opportunity for group activists to influence such processes. Traditional pressure group tactics are most successful for groups with high-level political or civil service contacts. (Less conventional forms of political activity, especially protest, may endanger opportunities to relate to government) (Grant 1984:134). The absence of alternative methods of access to the political process virtually forces promotional groups out of the system. The secret process of nomination and appointment is made by the civil service in consultation with the prime minister and "leading mandarins" (Ashford 1981:266). Little is publicly known about patronage politics. Policies are established behind the scenesknowledge is hidden from Parliament and the people. The highly stratified administrative system means that many crucial steps in the policy-making
process are unknown to ministers, the public, and groups interested in specific policies (ibid., 19). Ashford has argued that because, traditionally, civil servants and politicians have not engaged in conflict, the political system has never confronted and subordinated the bureaucracy (ibid.). The feedback and friction generated by implementation politics in the United States are almost entirely absent in Britain, owing to the primacy of appointed, not elected, officials.
Although parties are, by general consensus, declining in importance, they are major agents for the resolution of key political issues. Because of the significance of strong parties within Parliament, legislation of a controversial nature must enjoy government (party) support or at least sufficient neutrality to ensure that a private member's bill is given the time to introduce and nurture legislation. The final stages of the legislative process are less important than the negotiations that precede them (Beloff and Peele 1980:107).
British parties, more than those in the United States, tend to be parties of social integration rather than individual representation. Party policy does not seem to reflect group influence to the extent common in the United States, with the possible exception of the relationship between trade unions and the Labour Party (Christoph 1974:13). In the Conservative Party, the parliamentary structure plays a key role, and the organization is less federal than in the Labour Party. In Britain, where about 50 percent of workers are unionized (in contrast to less than 20 percent in the United States), trade unions play a dominant political role, particularly in the Labour Party. Ninety percent of total Labour Party membership and 85 percent of the funds are derived from unions (Punnett 1980:127). The tradition of class-based ideology,
socialism, and a strong organized left involves many British feminists in Labour Party and trade movement politics.
The passage of legislation is determined by the parliamentary timetable, individual M.P.'s, and the ruling party (Pym 1974:114). Pressure groups may create a climate in which reform is possible but cannot make progress against a hostile government; they cannot dictate a bill's content or guarantee its passage, although they may generate a climate for reform and raise public consciousness about a special issue (ibid., 120). The individual M.P. has little say in drafting or amending bills in parliamentary politics (Ashford 1981:17), so lobbying must have different goals than in the United States. The House of Commons creates or prevents a climate of opinion favorable to legislation proposed by the government (Richardson and Jordan 1979). In the legislature, because of the absence of permanent standing committees, interest group relationships with specialized legislators are less common than in the United States, although contacts with M.P.'s are more frequent than with civil servants. The absence of regularly scheduled elections serves as an additional brake on opportunities for political pressure.
In Britain the courts define themselves as defenders more of the state and the general interest than of individual rights (Nelkin and Pollak 1981:52). The absence of distinct constitutional concepts and rules has limited the ability of courts to interpret (in contrast to applying) law. Judicial review in the American sense does not exist in the British system. Class action suitssuch as those used to aid large groups in the United Statesare limited or nonexistent. The system of administrative justice is a tangled web of appeals tribunals and administrative
agencies with indirect and ambiguous relationships to the courts (Ashford 1981:40). Judicial recourse is limited by the role of industrial tribunals. which hear most discrimination-related cases. There is no general right of appeal from industrial tribunals.
New centers of powerincluding "quangos" such as the EOC (to be discussed in chapter 4), which are largely oriented toward achieving social goalsare autonomous organizations, with advisory, executive, and policy-making functions not unlike those of American regulatory agencies. Because they are not subject to parliamentary control, they have created new loci of power, reducing the role of elected politicians even further (Beloff and Peele 1980:84). Quangos were initially viewed as mechanisms for inadequately represented interests to gain a voice in government in the postwar period, but because of the systemic constraints outlined, they have in fact been hard pressed to play such a role. Appointments to quangos are, as already noted, at the discretion of the ministers and civil service (Ashford 1981:39).
In Britain (and in the United States as well), local government may sometimes provide greater opportunities for political participation than the national arena (Beloff and Peele 1980:262) as there has been an increase in civic pressure-group activity concerned with the quality of life and services.
As noted earlier, the American party system is looser and less dominant in the political system, and the fragmented nature of power makes the system accessible to a wider variety of pressure groups. Politics is less "corporatist"; unions are less socialistic and less politically significant (Heclo 1974:18). Although in the United States there is no analogy to the strong labor union role linked to left and Labour Party politics in Britain, the
Democratic Party most resembles the Labour Party in its organization as a party of groups rather than of individuals (Freeman 1987). The past decade has seen the further decline of political parties and the rise of single-issue pressure politics. The American political culture stresses incremental, nonradical change as well as compromise. With the step-up of federal policy on social and economic concerns in the 1960s, the number of interest groups involved in lobbying at the national level increased greatly. Citizen groups, in particular, expanded their activities, prompted in part by the social unrest of the time, which provided a powerful impetus for change. New regulatory legislation provided a route into the political process for hitherto excluded and unorganized groups. Jack Walker (1983) has shown that citizen groups, including women's groups, were able to gain patrons in the form of members (contributors), foundations, other groups, and/or government, which enabled them to organize and then maintain themselves as political activists.
The American process of interest group activity was given additional momentum with the passage of legislation on campaign finance reform, which helped to further institutionalize group formation in the electoral process in the 1970s and thereafter. In the United States, in contrast to Britain, decision-making is subject to considerable public scrutiny, in both legislative and bureaucratic politics, partly owing to the dispersed process of decision-making not only at the federal level but also at other levels of politics. Students of American public policy have pointed to policy networks, or "subgovernments" (Heclo 1980), that permit specialists in Congress, in the relevant administrative sector, and in pressure group organizations to play a dominant role
in policy-making. While policy networks in many areas have given way to broader and more open and penetrable "issue networks" in the 1980s, this development only accentuates the significance of interest group actors in U.S. policy-making (ibid., 102). Interplay between several sets of political actors, both governmental and nongovernmental, is without parallel in the United Kingdom, at least as far as noneconomic groups are concerned.
To sum up, American politics is responsive to interest group demands if they are seen as legitimate, whereas the British government pays less heed to noneconomic-oriented group demands. (The Swedish government, to be discussed later, promotesand to a degree controlsinterest groups sympathetic to policies that are primarily economically based.)
A further aspect of movement politics in the constitutional/cultural setting is the role of third-party, or support, groups that may facilitate political access and provide needed assistance. Relationships with other reform/change-oriented groups may foster political consciousness and alliances that provide resources, access, and legitimacy for new movements (Parkin 1968). In the United Kingdom, movements such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) helped set the stage for change-oriented politics in the 1950s and 1960s. The CND was probably the first major group to aim its strategies at the publicinstead of only at decisionmakersand in this way was a model for feminists who followed. However, the CND lacked a formal bureaucratic structure and formal membership, and although it was a major political presence and leading force in the mobilization of political consciousness for women, it was unable to provide a continuing institutional base on which
emerging feminists could rely. In the 1960s numerous other social reform and environmental groupsincluding those successful in promoting pro-abortion policy and legalization of homosexuality, and opposing capital punishmentemerged politically, as did groups of university students.
Like their American counterparts, traditional women's groups in the United Kingdom survived the doldrums of the '40s and '50s and continue to have a mass membership base, although it is declining (Rogers 1983; Stott 1978; Randall 1982). While they do not identify with women's liberation, they do support some feminist demands and efforts to achieve them. But such British women's organizations as the Women's Institutes (WI), Townswomen's Guilds (TG), and National Council of Women (NCW) by and large eschew relations with socialist and radical feminists. They have felt little in common with a women's liberation movement perceived by the media and general public as antimale. Hence, the links to civil rights and other movements that provided resources and access for feminists in the United States are weak in the United Kingdom (Costain 1982; Gelb and Palley 1987), although there are important ties to such groups as the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) and the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), as well as a historic relationship to the socialist left, as we shall see.
In the United States, feminists were able to learn from the example of black civil rights groups and to rely on support from traditional women's groups. More recently, feminists have developed relations with a variety of political allies who have broadened their resource base and opportunities for access to the political system.
A final basis for contrast is the area of funding. Economic
resources for promotional groups are scarce in the United Kingdom. In contrast, political scientists such as Jack Walker (1983) have stressed the crucial role played by patrons in the United States who contribute monetarily to both the formation and the maintenance of citizen-based promotional pressure groups, among them feminist groups.
In the United Kingdom, in contrast to the United States, there is relatively little money available for charitable gifts and little incentive for individual donors, who derive no direct financial benefit from contributions. Persons who wish to make annual payments to charities must sign a "covenant" for more than three years that obliges them to an annual payment (the charity receives the tax on earned income in lieu of the government; only individuals in the highest tax brackets are able to escape taxation up to £3,000). Apparently only a relatively few wealthy individuals are motivated to contribute in this manner. As in the United States, charitable status is not given to groups of a primarily political" nature, although some campaigning is usually considered permissible by the Charities Commission. The limited nature of charitable income available in the United Kingdom is evident from a study revealing that 81 percent of charities have annual incomes of less than £500 (Phillips 1982). Of the small number of charitable trusts, few contribute to feminist groups. In the main, only government agencies such as the EOC and the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) have provided any funds for feminist-related activity. Although American feminists are among the poorest of recipient groups, the infrastructure of contributors in the United States from both private and public sources supplies far more resources to emergent groups and movements than is the case in the United Kingdom.
American feminists have been able to rely on continuing, and in some periods even expanding, contributions from members, wealthy individuals, and foundations. For example, contributions increased in the post-1980 Reagan election period after the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) failed to be ratified. Contributions have enabled groups to survive, and in some instances even expand, despite a very real decline in federal government support in the 1980s (Peterson and Walker 1986:7), although the fortunes of membership groups depend in part on issue visibility and changing political orientations. At the same time, lacking formal membership and funding, British feminist groups have tended to remain small and less bureaucratic, and thus further isolated from the centers of decision-making power.
In this analysis, economic and social factors, including values, attitudes toward change, and receptivity to new movements, are viewed as variables that influence the emergence and impact of new political claimants. Thus, they help provide the context in which movements such as feminism may emerge and flourish or, instead, fail to gain political strength and importance. Cultural differences, then, interact with political institutions and ideology to produce a climate in which opportunities for change are structured. In turn, the type of movement that develops and what we have called the "political opportunity structure" create systemic possibilities and/ or constraints that either promote or retard positive policy outcomes and political impact. The concept of political economy suggests the relationship between the state and the ways in which citizens pursue their private ends and satisfy their wants. In Robert Keohane's
terms, if the rules of the game in a particular society allow or require actors in the economy to exert power over one another, then the "economy is political" (quoted in Levine 1986:5).
As noted earlier, British society is distinguished by its traditional structure and values. The British social structure, with its low educational attainment for women, norms of "good" motherhood and marriage, low wages, and a stratified labor market and class system, has greatly narrowed opportunities for political involvements (Hills 1981:13). The traditional family remains entrenched, to a degree unusual in Western society, with marriage rates high and divorce rates relatively low (Norris 1984:43). The rates for divorce continue to be lower in Britain than in the United States, although they have risen dramatically in recent years, as have the rates of out-of-wedlock births. The divorce rate is roughly half that in the United States (2.9 versus 5.3 per 1,000 persons). By 1987, 21 percent of live births were out-of-wedlock in the United Kingdom, in contrast with 20 percent in the United States and 45 percent in Sweden (Bianchi and Spahn 1986:74; Popenoe 198586; Population Trends , Winter 1987:52). The link between female-headed families and poverty is blatantly apparent from an analysis of the data. In the United States, 17 percent of white families and over 50 percent of black families were headed by women in 1984, an increase from 8 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in 1970 (Bergmann 1986:229). Black and Hispanic female-headed families were especially likely to live in poverty. Nonetheless, while there are fewer single-parent families headed by women in the United Kingdom, their numbers doubled between 1961 and 1981, and over 60 percent of Supplementary Benefit recipients are women
(Pierce 1980:84). Single parents received an extra £4.70 a week in Supplementary Benefits in 1987 (Social Welfare in Britain 1987:159).
Participation in the labor force by women, including married women with small children, has increased dramatically in Britain, the United States, and Sweden, as it has in virtually all Western countries. About 59 percent of British women are in the labor force, over 61 percent in the United States, and almost 80 percent in Sweden. Nonetheless, while in all three nations (and universally) women are concentrated in lower-paying, lower-status jobs, the situation in Britain appears to be worse than that in the United States and Sweden, at least partly because of Britain's serious economic recession, which has resulted in an even greater increase in unemployment for women than for men (although, as we shall see, the difference may be more apparent than real).
In the United States about 23 percent of women work part-time, limiting access to maternity leave, pensions, and job-training programs. In addition, part-time workers are usually first to be fired in cases of cutbacks and layoffs (UNESCO 1983). In Britain the part-time component (working 35 hours or less) of the labor force is especially large compared with that of other European nations (except Sweden) and the United States (Equality Ministry 1985:12). The most accurate assessment places the number of female part-time workers at about 42 percent in the United Kingdom, and rising steadily (the number is 46.2 percent in Sweden (International Labour Office Staff 1985:425, 459). Women often experience downward mobility when returning to work and are more likely to work at semiskilled or manual jobs. In 1982, 14.9 percent of British women were unemployed
(in contrast with 9.4 percent in the United States [Edgell and Duke 1983:358] and about 4 percent in Sweden), although the unemployment figures for all countries appeared to be lower by the mid-1980s.
In the United Kingdom, several studies suggest that female unemployment is less than that of men because men have been disproportionately affected by the decline in manufacturing opportunities. (Thus, the statistics may reflect the ways in which unemployment data are gathered as much as actual statistical validity.) There was a perceptible narrowing of wage differentials between men and women during the 1970s when, perhaps in response to the passage of the Equal Pay Act (to be discussed in Chapter 4), women's gross hourly earnings increased from 63 to 74 percent of men's from 1970 to 1977 (Phillips 1983:15). Nonetheless, even these figures reflect hourly wage rates for full-time employees over the age of 21, so they considerably exaggerate the scope of the gains made (Spare Rib , Sept. 1979:22). More recent evidence suggests a falling back to widened wage gaps based on gender (Coote and Campbell 1987:18; New York Times , Jan. 16, 1984:B10).
The backwardness of the economy has further constrained opportunities and value change for women in the class-ridden, elitist British society, reinforcing the concept of the "family wage," which entrenches the leading economic role of male breadwinners and limits opportunities for women in the labor force (Land 1983). At present the contracting nature of public-sector employment and concomitant reduction in education and social welfare subsidies have reinforced these tendencies (Rothwell 1980:161).
Norms of political efficacy are unusually low in the United Kingdom, no doubt owing to difficulties of access
in a centralized bureaucratic state, suggesting that political participation in general is likely to be limited (Barnes and Kaase 1979). Participation and efficacy are related to high income and educational attainment, both of which are especially lacking for most British women (only one-twentieth of themin contrast with one-fifth of American womenhave college degrees).
Although the women in all three societies analyzed here are more likely to be clients of the state and workers for it than power wielders within it, this chapter has sought to suggest that opportunities for the British feminist movement are constrained by the values inherent in a traditional society, a declining economy, and a highly centralized, closed political system. The next three chapters will explore the two wings of feminism by examining the structure of women's liberation and mainstream feminist activities in both Britain and the United States in order to develop a sense of how the "political opportunity structure" has affected movement strategy, style, and impact. We will then consider a different model, that posed by Sweden's "state equality," in which movement activism has tended to be absorbed by or incorporated in partisan and other institutions. In the concluding chapter, we will assess, within the comparative framework we have established, the meaning of movement "success" in each nation studied. Finally, we will evaluate autonomy versus integration as models for feminist aspirations.