Despite extensive theoretical debates over the utility of "political opportunities" as an explanation for the rise and success of social movements, there have been surprisingly few serious empirical tests. Contention in Context provides the most extensive effort to date to test the model, analyzing a range of important cases of revolutions and protest movements to identify the role of political opportunities in the rise of political contention.
With evidence from more than fifty cases, this book explores the role of the state in protest, the frequent overemphasis on political opportunities in recent research, and the extent to which opportunity models ignore the cultural and emotional triggers for collective action. By examining new directions in the study of protest and contention, this book shows that although political opportunities can help explain the emergence of certain kinds of movements, a new strategic language can ultimately tell us far more.
About the authors
Jeff Goodwin is Professor of Sociology at New York University. James M. Jasper is Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. They are coeditors of The Social Movements Reader: Cases and Concepts (2009) and The Contexts Reader (2007).
"Debates about the concept of political opportunity structure remain vivid and strongly divisive. This book clearly highlights the variety of theoretical conceptualizations in the field and offers path-breaking proposals that will be very useful in future discussions about the actual effect of political contexts on the fate of social movements."
—Olivier Fillieule, University of Lausanne
"This book edited by two renowned social movement scholars addresses a fundamental debate in the field regarding the impact of political opportunity on social movements and other forms of political contention. A must read for students and scholars alike, it proposes a synthetic but more strategic approach that takes into account the micro-structural processes and mechanisms beneath the political contexts that inspire collective action."
—Verta Taylor, University of California, Santa Barbara