A movement society evaluated: Collective protest in the united states, 1960-1986

Sarah A. Soule, Jennifer Earl

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


In an attempt to make sense of shifts in the social movement sector and its relationship to conventional politics over the past forty years, some have proposed that Western nations are increasingly becoming "movement societies." Accordingly, there are four key characteristics of the movement society: (1) over time expansion of protest; (2) over time diffusion of protest; (3) over time institutionalization of protest; and (4) over time institutionalization of state responses to protest. Using newly available data on over 19,000 protest events occurring in the U.S. between 1960 and 1986, we evaluate these four claims. Our findings suggest that movement society scholars are correct in some respects: the size of protest events has grown over time, the percentage of events at which at least one social movement organization is present has increased over time, the number of distinct protest claims has increased over time, and violent forms of protest policing have decreased over time. However, our findings call into question other movement society claims: the number of protests has declined over time, fewer organizations were present at each protest event over time, fewer new groups initiated events over time, fewer new claims emerged over time, and there was more significant activity by groups on the right in the 1960s and 1970s than expected. We suggest potential explanations for some of the negative findings in an attempt to refine the movement society arguments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-364
Number of pages20
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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