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The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy (Oxford Studies in Digital Politics) [Kindle Edition]

David Karpf
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Internet is facilitating a generational transition within America's advocacy group system. New "netroots" political associations have arisen in the past decade and play an increasingly prominent role in citizen political mobilization. At the same time, the organizations that mediate citizen political engagement and sustained collective action are changing. They rely upon modified staff structures and work routines. They employ novel strategies and tactical repertoires. Rather than "organizing without organizations," the new media environment has given rise to "organizing through different organizations."
The MoveOn Effect provides a richly detailed analysis of this disruptive transformation. It highlights changes in membership and fundraising regimes - established industrial patterns of supporter interaction and revenue streams - that were pioneered by and have spread broadly within the advocacy system. Through interviews, content analysis, and direct observation of the leading netroots organizations, the book offers fresh insights into 21st century political organizing.
The book highlights important variations among the new organizations - including internet-mediated issue generalists like MoveOn, community blogs like, and neo-federated groups like It also explores a wider set of netroots infrastructure organizations that provide supporting services to membership-based advocacy associations.
The rise of the political netroots has had a distinctly partisan character: conservatives have repeatedly tried and failed to build equivalents to the organizations and infrastructure of the progressive netroots. The MoveOn Effect investigates these efforts, as well as the late-forming Tea Party movement, and introduces the theory of Outparty Innovation Incentives as an explanation for the partisan adoption of political technology.
Written by a political scientist who is also a longtime political organizer, The MoveOn Effect offers a widely-accessible account of the Internet's impact on American politics. Operating at the intersection of practitioner and academic knowledge-traditions, Karpf provides a reassessment of many longstanding claims about new media and citizen political engagement.

Editorial Reviews


"Amidst all the attention to social media, the transformation of political organization is still poorly understood. Drawing on his activist and academic experience, David Karpf not only claims - but demonstrates - that the real impact of the new media environment comes not through politics without organizations but from new forms of organization. This engagingly written book will tell both activists and academics how it is being done."--Sidney Tarrow, Cornell University, author of Power in Movement

"David Karpf's deep understanding of his subject matter is evident on every page of this book: I ran MoveOn, and there are things in here even I didn't know about us. For anyone who wants to understand how new organizational models are changing the advocacy world and politics more generally, The MoveOn Effect is indispensable."--Eli Pariser, Board President,

"This book provides a thorough and insightful look at the organizational layer of political advocacy in the digital media age. Karpf dives deftly into the depths of online politics in a way that is informed theoretically as well as rich in the details of real political advocacy. He advances a number of new concepts and models for understanding contemporary politics."--Bruce Bimber, Professor of Political Science and Communication, University of California-Santa Barbara

"One of the strengths of Karpf's pioneering work is undoubtedly fueled by his professional
background. Because of his roots in both political advocacy and academia, Karpf offers a
uniquely and richly nuanced account of the changing political organizations landscape, infused with a mix of practical and theoretical insights. The book is thus highly relevant not only to political scientists and pundits, but to grassroots political activists and Internet democracy advocates seeking to rally citizen support. In the face of the many divisive issues in contemporary society, The MoveOn Effect is no doubt a timely and valuable contribution to our understanding and practice of political organizing in the 21st century."--International Journal of Interactive Communication Systems and Technologies

"Highly recommended."--CHOICE

About the Author

David Karpf is Assistant Professor in the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, as well as a Faculty Associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics and a Visiting Fellow with the Yale Information Society Project

Product Details

  • File Size: 1163 KB
  • Print Length: 254 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199898383
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00829LGSQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,415 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Without a doubt, Dave's work has critically shaped the way that I think about making change. More clearly than any other writer I have read, Dave shows how technological advances enable disruptive innovations in organizational structure and mission.

In "Here Comes Everybody," Clay Shirky writes that "Communications tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. The invention of a tool doesn't create change; it has to have been around long enough that most of society is using it. It's when a technology becomes normal, then ubiquitous, and finally so pervasive as to be invisible, that the really profound changes happen, and for young people today, our new social tools have passed normal and are heading to ubiquitous, and invisible is coming."

The MoveOn Effect is a brilliant description of the exact way in which new communications tools have become "socially interesting" and is a must read for anyone interested in figuring out how to make the next decade even more socially interesting than the last one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping account of the rise of online advocacy May 29, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What I appreciate most about Karpf's account of the rise of online advocacy organizations like MoveOn is that he is able to address both academic and popular audiences. This book advances the thinking about what has come to be known as the "netroots" by offering a theory of how the Internet has changed the organizing and advocacy models that dominated U.S. politics for so long. But supporting this theoretical foundation is actually a superb and readable narrative history that should be of great interest not only to scholars but to journalists and citizens who care about the new politics of the Internet. This is not to missed, as it is sure to become the foundation for future thinking about the role of digital media in American politics for years to come.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for academics and activists alike May 28, 2012
"The MoveOn Effect" is a thoughtful and thought-provoking look at the changing landscape of American political advocacy. A promising young political scientist with years of on-the-ground organizing experience, Karpf is able to speak clearly and engagingly to academics and activists alike. He deftly explores the shift from legacy organizations to a new, leaner generation of political organizations, with changing approaches to membership, fundraising and political engagement. This is a must-read for anyone working in or studying political organizing, and a fascinating look at the key organizational players in a contentious election year.
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