Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Leisure Consumption and Political Action in a State Motorcyclists' Rights Organization
by Setchfield, Scott David, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2019, 163; 27663314
Abstract (Summary)

Little research has explored the possibilities of leisure consumption identities to inspire and sustain political action. This dissertation is an ethnographic study of ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) of Indiana, the largest state motorcyclists’ rights organization (SMRO) in the United States. Drawing from five years of participant observation and fifty interviews with members, this dissertation explores how and why ABATE of Indiana mobilized against government regulation and how it survived and grew as an organization after achieving its main political goal of repealing Indiana’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law. It provides evidence that social movements based on a leisure consumption identity are not necessarily as fragile or short-lived as some theorists would predict and explores how stability and longevity can be achieved by such movement organizations.

Activists mobilized against the mandatory helmet law because they believed that it interfered with the “freedom” of motorcycling and was not the best way to increase motorcyclists’ safety. By becoming involved in all facets of motorcycling, ABATE has been able to attract members who are interested in motorcycling as a pursuit in leisure consumption, and who may not be concerned with legislative issues that affect motorcyclists. Growing the organization around motorcycling as a pursuit in leisure consumption rather than just focusing on legislative issues has allowed the organization to maintain its strength to legislatively advocate for motorcyclists even in times when it does not face legislative challenges. It also describes how the motorcyclists’ rights movement is rooted in an understanding of safety that differs from the focus of health and safety experts. Members of ABATE do not believe that motorcycle helmet laws increase safety because motorcycle helmets do not help prevent crashes. Members prioritize “crash avoidance” over “safer crashing,” which they describe as the focus of mandatory motorcycle helmet laws. As theoretical contributions, this study aims to explore the political mobilization of leisure cultures, how leisure cultures may help create communities that help sustain a political movement, and how they can construct and disseminate understandings of safety that conflict with expert knowledge.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Powell, Brian, Rojas, Fabio
Commitee: Hallett, Timothy, Thoits, Peggy A.
School: Indiana University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Sociology, Organizational behavior, Political science, Recreation
Keywords: Leisure consumption, Motorcyclists' rights, New social movements, Social construction of safety, Social movement abeyance
Publication Number: 27663314
ISBN: 9781392538579
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