Article

Civil Rights

David Cunningham and Nicole Fox

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online September 2013 | | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0147
Civil Rights

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Unlike many standard sociological concepts, “civil rights” is rarely interrogated as a phenomenon sui generis or in relation to other categories of rights, and instead is typically invoked in reference to a range of political claims, statuses, entitlements, and outcomes. Though foundational accounts of citizenship situate the sources and boundaries of civil rights, by far the most frequent usage of the term is in relation to the US civil rights movement, which has served as the central case informing prevailing theories of social movements. The movement’s canonical status and sweeping impacts on political, economic, and social life has given rise to a loosely bounded conception of an associated era, with much scholarship focusing on the contours of racial discrimination and mobility in the “post-civil rights” decades that have followed. Another area of movement influence relates to the encoding of civil rights protections in legislation and court decisions. A particularly robust literature has engaged with the implementation and enforcement of various provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as its impact on subsequent related legislation, such as the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. The legacy of the movement is also evident in its influence on subsequent civil rights movements, both tactically and through their ability to advance “civil rights” claims in familiar and resonant ways. The unique and familiar character of the civil rights movement, then, has ensured that conceptions of civil rights remain prevalent within a variety of sociological literatures––from social movements, to organizations, gender, race and ethnicity, and the sociology of law––while perhaps paradoxically discouraging focused research on the definitional and political contours of the term itself.

Article.  9993 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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