An Analysis of Constraints and Conditions in the Emergence of a Social Movement of At-Risk Persons: The Case of Collective Action among Homeless People in Japan

By David Antoine Malinas

Japanese poverty has increasingly become a major social concern in recent years. As a consequence, the actions and leaders of anti-poverty activism have been meticulously followed by the press to a point where the movement's origins, though never studied in detail, have become misunderstood. Through a case study of the Shinjuku Renraku Kai (SRK), one of the first organizations to support the homeless, we analyze the conditions and constraints of the emergence of this now-mature social movement. This Japanese case study confirms the fact that collective action of the very poor depends highly on external sources of support. Prior to the origins of the movement, its external donors were dedicated to other charitable endeavors, and became interested in the cause of the homeless for the first time. Because of this fact, they provide us with the opportunity to examine why and how social activists become converted to a new cause: an innovative research perspective.

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