collective effectiveness. This finding illustrates how the impact of social ties on individuals’ perceptions manifests itself in different ways. Moreover, it shows that there is a privileged path (highlighted with bold arrows in Figures 1 and 2) leading to strong participation in social movements. Of all perceptions, individual effectiveness is the factor in the decision process that most closely influences the level of participation in both the Bern Declaration and the WWF. Prospective members with a strong feeling that if they engage in protest, their participation will serve at least to a certain extent to bring about social change will actualize their potential for mobilization at ...view middle of the document...
Close embeddedness in such relational structures tends to push prospective members to the highest level of participation. Second, networks intervene before
prospective members join a social movement organization by providing those culturally sensitive to the issue with an opportunity to participate. Here networks structurally connect potential participants to a social movement organization. For this function of networks in particular, the structure of meanings arising from the relations between recruiters and recruits affects the intensity of participation. Trust, which is so important for entry into the public space (either through conventional action or through protest), is a key concept in explanation of why certain types of social ties are more important than others for individual participation. Social ties provide individuals with specific meanings structures which significantly affect their perceptions of participation in social movement organizations. In this respect, close friends (especially in the case of organizations without salient public visibility), and participants already involved in the organization at the highest level of participation, are better able to provide prospective members with trust than other types of ties. Finally, networks intervene when people decide to join a movement organization. They influence the definition of individual perceptions which enable potential participants to decide on their involvement and its intensity. Again, networks as envelopes of meanings impinge upon the meanings of the action, which in turn affect individual participation. Survey data provide empirical support for the theoretical definition of these three functions of networks in the participation process. As said, quantitative methods and data are not the most convenient basis for empirical assessment of these three functions of social networks, especially the decision-making one. Qualitative data would have shed clearer light on how social interactions provide individuals with structures of meaning that help them to define individual perceptions and preferences. Moreover, qualitative data allow scholars to take serious account of the notion of time, in that the definition of individual perceptions does not take place once and for all but is a continuous process occurring in the ebbs and flows of social interactions. Nevertheless, although the data set used here is not fully
convenient and certainly underestimates the weight of social ties in the definition of preferences, it confirms that networks play an important role in this phase of the participation process. Social networks indeed matter, but the way in which they influence individual participation varies according to the nature of participation processes. Here I have compared two processes of individual participation which differ according to their degree of visibility in the public space. As I hypothesized, the degree of public visibility affects the...