In It Together? A Study of Transnational Activism on the Financial Transaction Tax: Coordination Advocacy Across Borders

Benjamin Bertelsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


I make two arguments in this thesis. First, plenty of scholars have sought to explain how normative actors in international relations (IR) changes national political behaviour through different strategies, yet few have reversed the arrow of causality and asked what national institutional environments do to the normative actors themselves (Risse, 2012). I argue that factors linked to national institutional contexts affect how domestic networks “do” advocacy. Secondly, rarely have scholars asked how transnational coordination takes place between networked NGOs when considering their ‘domesticated’ strategies and practices (Stroup, 2012). Despite varied national advocacy approaches and degrees of salience on the complex case studied, I argue, these approaches can co-align and functional coordination can be achieved in a transnational setting, if issue attributes are permissive.
I conduct a comparative study of campaigns for the financial transaction tax (FTT) in Britain, Germany and France. Based on interviews and secondary sources, my findings demonstrate that variation in advocacy approaches can be explained on three indicators related to the domestic institutional context; the domestic NGO-environment, characteristics of NGO-government relations and the presence of normative entrepreneurs. Together these factors suggest variations in the political opportunities (i.e. access) offered for activists. Interviews with relevant campaigners and advocates further implied that the coordination taking place among civil society can best be conceptualized as a transnational advocacy network (TAN) (Keck and Sikkink, 1999). In the TAN I find contentions within and across networks as a product of national differences and conflictual organizational interests and identities. However, actors reveal motivations for further collaboration in part through; i) the value-added provided by exchanging information with likeminded advocates; ii) together with trust and experience in the network. My discussion points to actors implicitly are motivated for further collaboration by another two reasons. Clever framing of issue attributes, as conceptualized by Keck and Sikkink (1999), to iii) ensure the issue frame organizationally ‘fit’ actors identity and interests in the networks, and assists to iv) dampen critique by heightening the emotional valence (Cox and Béland, 2013) of the idea of an FTT.
The present study therefore shows national institutional context varies and matters, even in single-issue advocacy campaigns in relatively similar neighbouring European countries. Differences can be overcome when both tangible motivations for actors are in place (e.g. value-added and trust/experience in the TAN) together with issue attributes (e.g. that enable ‘fit’ and increase the emotional valence of the issue).

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages77
SupervisorsLeonard Seabrooke