Date of Completion


Embargo Period



collective action, social movements, political psychology, strategy, tactics, alter-culture, mutualism, commons

Major Advisor

Felicia Pratto

Associate Advisor

Colin W. Leach

Associate Advisor

Adam Sheya

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Drawing from various social scientific literatures, this dissertation focuses on a set of activist communities I term alter-cultures. These groups are communities of practice whose aims and principles coincide in: a) rejecting for themselves (but not for others) significant aspects of dominant cultures and systems of living detrimental to a commons, and b) constructing manifest beneficial alternatives to these systems. Through qualitative and quantitative analyses and comparisons of the rhetoric, relational configurations, and behavioral approaches of different activist groups, I show that alter-cultures are organized to transcend traditional social identity boundaries, and adopt a unique relational model of social interaction (termed social mutualism) that is communal and care-based but neither exclusive nor localized. Social psychologically, I show that these communities are focused on the positive, are systematic, deliberative, holistic, and engaged in commons care for the benefit of themselves, others, and a commons. In contrast, more typical counter-dominant groups and activists are more focused on the negative, on agents, and are more emotional, and adversarial in their approaches to and psychology of collective action.