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Washington State University
School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs Capstone Book

The Project—In 1998, RNGS agreed that at the end of the project we should do an overview analysis of our results across the five policy areas using both the quantitative and qualitative data findings from the project. Referred to as the capstone analysis, this part of the project has been just as, if not more complicated and time consuming as the qualitative and quantitative phase. The capstone book, co authored by Dorothy McBride and Amy Mazur, with the participation of Joni Lovenduski, Joyce Outshoorn, Marila Guadagnini, Birgit Sauer and the help of Diane Sainsbury, The Politics of State Feminism: Innovation in Comparative Research (2010, Temple University Press), presents an integrated mixed methods exploration into state feminism. It integrates statistical analysis, qualitative comparative analysis and case studies of causal mechanisms to investigate the role of women’s policy agencies in enhancing the influence of women’s movements in the affairs of the state through representation—in other words their role in achieving state feminism. The book has two parts—the first develops a theory of state feminism through a systematic mixed methods analysis; and the second presents separate chapters by Outshoorn, Lovenduski and Guadagnini, Sauer, and Mazur and McBride that go “beyond state feminism” to examine the implications of RNGS data for theories of women’s movements, political representation, framing and gendering and feminist institutionalism. While it uses RNGS data as a launching pad, the capstone study and findings are a separate contribution to both feminist and non feminist research and the study of democracies, movements, representation and policy in a comparative perspective. Temple University Press publishes The Politics of State Feminism, August 2010.

The Findings (excerpt from the book) “In Western postindustrial democracies, women’s movements have had remarkable success in achieving procedural access and policy response since the 1970s. However, contrary to social movement theories as well as the state feminism framework used in the book, there is no one recipe for success—not resource mobilization, not political opportunity structure, not support of the Left, and not alliances with women’s policy agencies inside the state. Movement actors make their claims on government in a variety of contexts, some more favorable than others, and while agencies may help from time to time, they are not necessary. Rather, their role has tended to be one of back-up, stepping in to make the difference when usual favorable conditions, such as open policy arenas, supportive governing majorities, or welcoming policy cultures are not present; otherwise movements can usually succeed on their own.

Nevertheless, a majority of women’s policy agencies support women’s movement goals that oppose the status quo and many of those help gender the terms of policy debates. They thus represent the women’s movement despite their place inside the state and their closeness to traditional structures of power. Agencies rarely work to bury women’s movement aims; they are, however, Symbolic in a minority of debates and thus disappoint those seeking women friendly outcomes. There are no easy explanations for different levels of agency activities: there are no regional groupings where agencies conform to specific patterns. There is also no blueprint for designing a movement ally inside the state. Administrative resources and policy capacity do not portend agency effectiveness nor do identifiable levels of Women’s Movement Resources, Favorable Policy Environments or Left Support. The new politics of state feminism is complex, context specific, and conditional.”