Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 32, Issue 4, pp 355–377 | Cite as

Ambivalence and Control: State Action Against the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan

  • David CunninghamEmail author


Models that purport to explain the interplay between dissidents and the state generally assert, either explicitly or implicitly, that the path from state interests to action to outcomes is a linear one. Using the case of the United Klans of America (UKA) in North Carolina, I argue that state efforts to exert social control upon a perceived threat are shaped by a range of internal and external contingencies. In particular, I undertake a comparative analysis of two state agencies to demonstrate how a particular mechanism—ambivalence, here conceptualized as the relational consequence of a mismatch between organizational culture and organizational goals—leads to distinct, and sometimes heterogeneous, actions and outcomes not directly traceable to organizational mandates. Findings lend insight into how endogenous organizational processes shape contentious political outcomes in potentially divergent ways.


Repression-mobilization nexus State repression Ambivalence 



Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2007 Hixon-Riggs Forum on Science, Technology, and Society hosted by Harvey Mudd College, and at the American Sociological Association’s 2007 Annual Meeting in Boston. I thank participants in those sessions, in particular Gary Marx and Christena Nippert-Eng, as well as Wendy Cadge and Sara Shostak, for their helpful comments on early drafts.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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