Kevin Bondelli of the Young Democrats is exploring what he calls the Progressive Youth Movement in what he says “will most likely be a large series” of blogposts “entitled ‘Lessons from Sociopolitical Movements.'” It’s an exciting project, and I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes it.

I do, though, have some questions. 

In his first post, Bondelli situates the Progressive Youth Movement (I’ll call it the PYM, for short) in the context of other American sociopolitical movements, and in his second he conducts a survey of the categories of organizations that, he says, make up that movement. He’s laying groundwork with these two posts, but I think he’s skipped over some necessary background.

Here are a few things I’m wondering:

1. Why “Movement” rather than “Movements”?

It’s not obvious to me that all of the groups Bondelli is talking about fall under the same movement. I’d be interested in hearing why Bondelli conceptualizes them that way — where does this impulse come from? What kinds of analytical benefits does it offer? How, if at all, does he see that decision as risky or problematic?

2. Why the organizational focus?

In his second post, “Composition of the Youth Movement,” Bondelli describes the PYM as being made up of “different types of organizations.” Does he mean to exclude activists who aren’t part of organizations from his conception of the movement, or is he just using the organizations as examples of different movement tendencies? If PYM is a movement, in other words, what makes it a movement? How can you tell whether someone’s a part of that movement or not?

3. What are the ideological boundaries of the PYM?

Bondelli includes non-partisan organizations in his list, and I’m curious as to why. (I’m not saying he shouldn’t, just wondering why he does.) He states up front that he’s excluding right-wing groups, but he doesn’t say anything about where the leftward frontier of his movement lies, and I’d like to hear how he approaches that question. Which brings me to my next question…

4. Which big groups, if any, fall outside the PYM?

Bondelli states up front that his list of organizations shouldn’t be taken as comprehensive, but I was struck by the fact that three high-profile activist groups — United Students Against Sweatshops, the Campus Antiwar Network, and Students for a Democratic Society — are absent from it. Do each of these three groups fall under the PYM umbrella, in Bondelli’s conception of it? 

5. What about youth vs. students?

Some of the organizations Bondelli cites are youth groups, and some are student groups, but he refers to the movement as a youth movement. The distinction between youth movements vs. student movements is a blurry one, but an important one, I think. I’d be interested in whether he agrees, and if so how he understands the difference.

As I said at the top of this post, I think this is a useful and exciting discussion to be having, and I’m interested in hearing how Bondelli conceptualizes it going forward. I don’t mean to disrupt his flow with all these questions, and I expect that the answers to a lot of them are probably “Slow down! I’m getting there!” But I do think that defining terms is an important early step in a project like this.

Update: Bondelli has posted a thorough, point-by-point response to this post. Some of his answers raise questions of their own, but I’ll hold my follow-ups for now. Like I say, I’m looking forward to seeing where he’s going.