The MoveOn Effect

The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy

David Karpf

The MoveOn Effect

The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy

David Karpf






7 Jun 2012


Print on demand


$83.95 AUD

$95.99 NZD

Add To Cart


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.


Preface Chapter 1: The New Generation of Political Advocacy Groups Chapter 2: The MoveOn Effect: Disruptive Innovation in the Interest Group Ecology of American Politics Chapter 3: Political Blogs as Politcal Associations Chapter 4: "Online Tools for Offline Action" Neo-Federated Political Associations Chapter 5: Netroots as Networks - Building Progressive Infrastructure Chapter 6: Don't Think of an Online Elephant Chapter 7: Innovation Edges, Advocacy Inflation and Sedimentary Organizations Research Appendix Bibliography Index


David Karpf , Assistant Profesor of Jounalism and Media Studies, Rutgers University

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


"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