Edwin Amenta

Picture of Edwin Amenta
School of Social Sciences
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1989, Sociology
Phone: (949) 824-2143
Fax: (949) 824-4717
Email: ea3@uci.edu
University of California, Irvine
4207 Social Science Plaza B
Mail Code: 5100
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Political Sociology, Social Movements, Social Policy, Historical and Comparative Sociology, News Media, American Political Development, Formal Qualitative Methods, Sport.
Research Abstract
Edwin Amenta received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of in 1989. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Irvine in 2005, he was Professor of Sociology at New York University, where he served as the Director of Graduate Studies and Chair.

Professor Amenta’s research has centered on U.S. politics and society in comparative and historical perspective. He has studied the development of U.S. social policy, the influence of US social movements in politics, and the politics of news media and political organizations across the twentieth century. He has a particular interest in historical and formal qualitative methods, especially qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), and has published empirical and methodological articles about their usage.

Professor Amenta’s explanation for why modern social policy in the United States was late to develop and remains relatively backward compared to the policies of other rich, capitalist democracies differs from standard accounts. Conventional views focus on the weakness of the U.S. labor movement, its lack of a labor party, its underdeveloped bureaucracy, its many political institutional veto points, or its failure to suffer greatly in the Second World War. He attributes these policy deficits instead to the relative underdevelopment of democracy in the United States.

Professor Amenta is well known for his work on the consequences of social movements, and his political mediation theory is central to this field. It argues for a refocus away from the characteristics of movement actors to their interactions with political officials and interest groups, with far greater attention to political contexts in which movement actors engage. He has developed similar ideas to explain the news attention received by social movements and other cultural consequences of movements. In journal articles and books, he has analyzed the impacts of several key U.S. social movements, including the labor, old-age pension, 1930s populist, 1960s civil rights, LGBTQ, animal rights, and right-wing movements, as well as Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party.

With Neal Caren, Professor Amenta has founded the Political Organizations in the News (PONs) project. This project has centered on locating and analyzing every news article mentioning a national social movement organization in the twentieth century, across national, regional, and African American news sources. PONs provides the only data of that compares all major U.S. social movements regarding any important indicator of them across a long historical period.

Professor Amenta is the author of four books and the co-editor of the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Political Sociology. His articles have appeared in the American Sociological Review, Annual Review of Sociology, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Sociological Methods and Research, Social Problems, Studies in American Political Development, Sociological Forum, Contemporary Sociology, Research in Political Sociology, Mobilization, Politics and Society, Sociology Compass, Journal of Policy History, and International Journal of Comparative Sociology. He has written guest essays published in the Boston Globe, PBS Newshour, Salon, Chronicle of Higher Education, San Francisco Chronicle, Conversation, and Knowable Magazine. His research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Ford Foundation, Commonwealth Fund, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

Professor Amenta was elected to the Sociological Research Association in 2008. He has been an associate editor of the American Journal of Sociology and has served on the editorial boards of the American Sociological Review, Sociological Methods and Research, American Journal of Sociology, Contemporary Sociology, and the American Sociological Association’s Rose Monograph Series. His book Bold Relief: Institutional Politics and the Origins of Modern U.S. Social Policy won the Distinguished Publication Award of the American Sociological Association’s Political Sociology Section. His American Sociological Review article (with Neal Caren and Sheera Joy Olasky) “Age for Leisure? Political Mediation and the Impact of the Pension Movement on Old-Age Policy” won the Best Article Award from the ASA Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements. He has served as the chair of both sections. His dissertation won the University of Chicago’s Susan Colver Rosenberg Award.

He was a member of the “Fast Fatigable” intramural teams that won five UCI championships in basketball and softball in the 2010s.
Rough Draft of History: A Century of US Social Movements in the News (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2022), with Neal Caren.
The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Political Sociology (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), with Kate Nash and Alan Scott.
Weijun Yuan, Neal Caren, and Edwin Amenta, “What Drives the News of U.S. Social
Movements?” Social Forces (2023): forthcoming.

Edwin Amenta, Neal Caren, and Weijun Yuan, “How to Analyze the Consequences of
Social Movements with QCA: Combinational Hypotheses, Venn Diagrams, and Movements in the News.” Research in Social Movements, Conflict and Change 47 (2023): forthcoming.

Francesca Polletta and Edwin Amenta, “Changing the Narrative.” Mobilization 27 (2022): 381-388.

Edwin Amenta and Qindian Chen, “Social Movements and ‘Social Security:’ Policy
Ideas, Discursive Implementation, and the US Old-Age Pension Movement.” Mobilization 27 (2022): 445-465.

‘Why US Conservative Movements Are Winning: It’s Not Trump, It’s the Institutions.” Mobilization 27 (2022): 27-45.

“Elections Really Matter.” Mobilizing Ideas, January 20, 2021.

“What legacy lies ahead for Black Lives Matter.” Knowable Magazine, October 16, 2020.

“To achieve a new New Deal, Democrats must learn from the old one.” The Conversation, June 26, 2020.

Edwin Amenta and Thomas Alan Elliott, “What Drives Progressive Policy? Institutional Politics, Political Mediation, Positive Policy Feedbacks and Early U.S. Old-Age Policy.” Sociological Forum 34 (2019): 553-571.

Edwin Amenta, Thomas Alan Elliott, Nicole Shortt, Amber Celina Tierney, Didem Türkoglu, and Burrel Vann Jr., “Making Good News: What Explains the Quality of Coverage of Civil Rights Movement.” Mobilization 24 (2019): 19-37.

“Andrew Yang's 'freedom dividend' echoes a 1930s basic income proposal that reshaped Social Security.” The Conversation, October 15, 2019.

Edwin Amenta and Francesca Polletta, “The Cultural Impacts of Social Movements.” Annual Review of Sociology 45 (2019): chapter 11.

“Statistics ruined baseball by perfecting it.” The Conversation, March 26, 2019.

Edwin Amenta, Kenneth T. Andrews, and Neal Caren, “The Political Institutions, Processes, and Outcomes Movements Seek to Influence.” Chapter 25 in The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, eds. David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi, and Holly J. McCammon. (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2018.)

Edwin Amenta and Thomas Alan Elliott, “All the Right Movements? Mediation, Rightist Movements, and Why U.S. Movements Received Extensive Newspaper Coverage.” Social Forces 96 (2017): 803-830.

Edwin Amenta, Thomas Alan Elliott, Nicole Shortt, Amber Celina Tierney, Didem
Türkoglu, and Burrel Vann Jr., “From Bias to Coverage: What Explains How News Organizations Treat Social Movements.” Sociology Compass 11 (2017): 10.1111/soc4.12460

Thomas Alan Elliott, Edwin Amenta, and Neal Caren, “Recipes for Attention: Policy
Reforms, Crises, Organizational Characteristics, and the Newspaper Coverage of the LGBT Movement, 1969-2009.” Sociological Forum 31 (2016): 926-47.

“How the first ‘horse race’ poll changed American political history.” The Conversation, June 15, 2015.

“How to Analyze the Influence of Movements.” Contemporary Sociology 43 (2014): 16-29.

Edwin Amenta and Natasha Miric, “Sports Fandom.” Chapter 21 in A Companion to Sport, eds. David L. Andrews and Ben Carrington (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), chapter 18.

“Failure Is Not an Option.” Mobilizing Ideas, December 3, 2013.

Edwin Amenta, Neal Caren, and James E. Stobaugh, “Political Reform: Explaining the Historical Trajectories of Newspaper Coverage of U.S. SMO Families in the 20th Century.” Social Forces 90 (2012): 1073-1100.

“The Potential Political Consequences of Occupy Wall Street.” Mobilizing Ideas, January 1, 2012.

Edwin Amenta, Beth Gharrity Gardner, Amber Celina Tierney, Anaid Yerena, and Thomas Alan Elliott, “A Story-Centered Approach to the Newspaper Coverage of High-Profile SMOs.” Research in Social Movements, Conflict, and Change 33 (2012): 83-107.

Edwin Amenta, Neal Caren, Elizabeth Chiarello, and Yang Su, “The Political Consequences of Social Movements.” Annual Review of Sociology (2010) 36:14.1–14.21

Edwin Amenta and Kelly M. Ramsey, “Institutional Theory.” Chapter 2 in The Handbook of Politics: State and Civil Society in Global Perspective, eds. Kevin T. Leicht and J. Craig Jenkins (New York: Springer, 2010).

Edwin Amenta, Neal Caren, Sheera Joy Olasky, and James E. Stobaugh, “All the Movements Fit to Print: Who, What, When, Where, and Why SMOs Appeared in the New York Times in the Twentieth Century.” American Sociological Review 74 (2009): 636-56.

“Making the Most of An Historical Case Study: Configuration, Sequencing, and Casing and the U.S. Old-Age Pension Movement.” Chapter 20 in The SAGE Handbook of Case-Based Methods, eds. David Byrne and Charles Ragin. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009.
“Softball and the Social Scientist.” Contexts 6 (2007) 2: 38-43.

“The Social Security Debate: Now and Then.” Contexts 5 (2006) 3: 18-22.

Edwin Amenta, Neal Caren, and Sheera Joy Olasky, “Age for Leisure? Political Mediation and the Impact of the Pension Movement on Old-Age Policy.” American Sociological Review 70 (2005): 516-38.

“Political Contexts, Strategies, and Challenger Mobilization: The Impact of the Townsend Plan.” Chapter 2 in Routing the Opposition: Social Movements, Public Policy, and Democracy, edited by Helen Ingram, Valerie Jenness, and David S. Meyer. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

“State-Centered and Political Institutional Theories in Political Sociology: Retrospect and Prospect.” Chapter 4 in the Handbook of Political Sociology, eds. Robert Alford, Alexander Hicks, Thomas Janoski, and Mildred A. Schwartz. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Edwin Amenta and Neal Caren, “The Legislative, Organizational, and Beneficiary Consequences of State-Oriented Challengers.” Chapter 20 in The Blackwell Companion to Social Movements, edited by David A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, and Hanspeter Kriesi. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

“What We Know about the Development of Social Policy: Comparative and Historical Research in Comparative and Historical Perspective.” Chapter 3 in Comparative and Historical Analysis, eds. Dietrich Rueschemeyer and James Mahoney. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003: chapter 3.

Edwin Amenta, Neal Caren, Tina Fetner, and Michael P. Young, “Challengers and States: Toward a Political Sociology of Social Movements.” Research in Political Sociology 10 (2002): 47-83.

Edwin Amenta and Drew Halfmann, “Who Voted with Hopkins? Institutional Politics and the WPA.” Journal of Policy History 13 (2001): 251-87.

Francesca Polletta and Edwin Amenta, “Second that Emotion? Lessons from Once-Novel Concepts in Social Movements.” “Conclusion” to Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements, eds. Jeff Goodwin, James M. Jasper, Francesca Polletta. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Edwin Amenta, Chris Bonastia, and Neal Caren, “U.S. Social Policy in Comparative and Historical Perspective: Concepts, Images, Arguments, and Research Strategies.” Annual Review of Sociology 27 (2001): 213-34.

Edwin Amenta and Drew Halfmann, “Wage Wars: Institutional Politics, the WPA, and the Struggle for U.S. Social Policy.” American Sociological Review 65 (2000): 506-28.

Edwin Amenta and Michael P. Young, “Democratic States and Social Movements: Theoretical Arguments and Hypotheses.” Social Problems 57 (1999): 153-68.

Edwin Amenta, Drew Halfmann, and Michael P. Young, “The Strategies and
Contexts of Social Protest: Political Mediation and the Impact of the Townsend Movement in California.” Mobilization 4 (1999): 1-24.

Edwin Amenta and Michael P. Young, “Making an Impact: The Conceptual and Methodological Implications of the Collective Benefits Criterion.” Chapter 2 in How Movements Matter: Theoretical and Comparative Studies on the Consequences of Social Movements, eds., Marco Giugni, Doug McAdam, and Charles Tilly. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Edwin Amenta, Ellen Benoit, Chris Bonastia, Nancy K. Cauthen, and Drew Halfmann, “Bring Back the WPA: Work, Relief, and the Origins of American Social Policy in Welfare Reform.” Studies in American Political Development 12 (1998): 1-56.

Nancy K. Cauthen and Edwin Amenta, “Not For Widows Only: Institutional Politics and the Formative Years of Aid to Dependent Children.” American Sociological Review 60 (1996): 427-448.

Edwin Amenta and Jane D. Poulsen, “Social Politics in Context: The Institutional Politics Theory and State-Level U.S. Social Spending Policies at the End of the New Deal.” Social Forces 75 (1996): 33-60.

Edwin Amenta and Jane D. Poulsen, “Where to Begin: A Survey of Five Approaches to Selecting Independent Measures For Qualitative Comparative Analysis.” Sociological Methods and Research 23 (1994): 21-52.

Edwin Amenta, Kathleen Dunleavy, and Mary Bernstein, “Stolen Thunder? Huey Long's Share Our Wealth, Political Mediation, and the Second New Deal.” American Sociological Review 59 (1994): 678-702.

“The State of the Art in Welfare State Research on Social Spending Efforts in Capitalist Democracies since 1960.” American Journal of Sociology 99 (1993): 750-63.

Edwin Amenta, Bruce G. Carruthers, and Yvonne Zylan, “A Hero For the Aged? The Townsend Movement, The Political Mediation Model, and U.S. Old-Age Policy, 1934-1950.” American Journal of Sociology 98 (1992): 308-39.

Edwin Amenta and Yvonne Zylan, “It Happened Here: Political Opportunity, the New Institutionalism, and the Townsend Movement.” American Sociological Review 56 (1991): 250-65.

“Making the Most of a Case Study: Theories of the Welfare State and the American Experience.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 32 (1991): 172-94.

Edwin Amenta and Sunita Parikh, “Capitalists Did Not Want the Social Security Act: A Critique of the 'Capitalist Dominance' Thesis.” American Sociological Review 56 (1991): 124-9.

Edwin Amenta and Bruce G. Carruthers, “The Formative Years of U.S. Social Spending: Theories of the Welfare State and the American States During the Great Depression.” American Sociological Review 53 (1988): 661-78.
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