Our aim in this chapter is to step outside the mental health policy arena to consider the place which mental health service user movements might occupy in the context of broader shifts in the nature of social action and the contribution that may make to social change. We argued in Chapter 1 that empowerment needs to be addressed within a broad social context and here we offer an analysis of user self-organisation which can address ways in which this wider concept of empowerment may be achieved. In this analysis our perspective is on the movement as a whole, rather than on individual user groups or specific examples of user-led projects, although we will use these to illustrate how specific groups or projects may be contributing to a broader design. In order to address user self-organisation from this perspective we apply analyses developed to understand what have been termed ‘new social movements’ and to relate such analyses to post-structural analyses of power relations. We start by providing a brief introduction to new social movements (NSMs) and theories that have sought to account for their development, strategies and impact.
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