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Dynamics of Contention (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics) Paperback – September 10, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0521011877 ISBN-10: 0521011876

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics
  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521011876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521011877
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,322 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'Dynamics of Contention - written by three of the leading scholars of social movements and 'contentious politics' - is undoubtedly the most ambitious, and arguably the most important, book on social movements (and related phenomena) written in the past two decades.' Sociology

Book Description

Over the past two decades the study of social movements, revolution, democratization and other forms of nonroutine, or "contentious politics," has flourished as never before. And yet theory and research on the topic remain highly fragmented. The first of these divisions reflects the long-standing view that various forms of contention are indeed distinct and should be studied independent of others. A second traditional approach to the study of political contention denies the possibility of general theory, in deference to a thorough grounding in the temporal and spatial particulars of any given episode of contention. Finally, overlaid on these two divisions are stylized theoretical traditions--structuralist, culturalist, and rationalist--that have developed largely in isolation from one another.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Faruk Ekmekci on April 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
Charles Tilly and his colleagues' effort in Dynamics of Contention is a colossal one. They aim to develop a new way of looking at contentious politics and try to gauge similar patterns in what have so far been regarded as distinct phenomena. Such an effort ends up having merits as well as handicaps, though. I will try to address three issues in this paper (one merit and two handicaps).

The place of case studies in comparative research has long been an issue of debate. Given that all empirical analyses in Dynamics of Contention are eventually case studies, the virtue of the arguments developed in this book might support/undermine the overall virtue of case studies regarding comparative research. Obviously, the arguments and conclusions of Tilly and his colleagues cannot be generalized from their pair-studies, and these scholars admit this from the very start anyway. Yet if we consider theory-building a process comprising of several steps, rather than an end point where we finalize our propositions, case studies become useful tools that we can benefit from in most of the steps of theory building. What makes case studies in general and Tilly and his friends' research in particular important is that via thorough analyses of individual cases, this type of research is better equipped to capture the "mechanism" and "processes" that connect relevant phenomena. And this gives them a relative advantage over large-N studies in speculating about causal relationships. Indeed, then, if Dynamics of Contention is not a theory-building research, it is a very good hypothesis-generating one.

Yet it seems to me that Tilly et al. are doing what Sartori once criticized as excessive abstraction.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By varmint on September 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you are an academic involved with the field of social movements, you need to read this book, simply because so much of the current debate in the field is about it. If you are not such a person, don't bother. Dynamics of Contention is immensely disappointing. Within the field of social movement studies, the authors are supposed to be the equivalent of Olympic-level divers--but what they deliver is a spectacular bellyflop. I give the book two stars because the core ideas lying behind it are good. The authors want to break down the artificial academic barriers separating various fields that all deal with "contentious politics"--social movements, revolutions, ethnic conflict, etc. They also want to move beyond their own structurally oriented work, so central to the academic field of social movements, to try to incorporate the ideas of their cultural constructionist critics, plus introduce more of a focus on social relations. Instead of trying to create an invariant model, they want to search for patterns that recurr in widely different types of social conflicts, with different outcomes. Finally, their methodology of comparing unlike cases to find the common patterns is intriguing. Unfortunately, they never really develop a solid intellectual framework for all this. They identify some common patterns, but never explain the dynamics underlying them or why they are so common. They are rather inept in their attempts to bring culture into the picture, engaging in very thin description. In their attempt to create a more relational approach, they completely abandonn all the valuable structurally oriented work they've done. Finally, despite their attempt to focus on relationships and dynamic social actors, human agency--as in so much academic work on social movements--falls out of the picture. Although the authors obviously put a lot of work into this book, it just does not come together.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 18, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is ambitious in scope in both good and bad ways. The value added is that the authors try to break down disciplinary walls in the study of contentious politics. However, this ends up with a broad, unwieldy framework that essentially boils down to "it depends." There isn't a whole upon which to base social scientific research or test hypotheses. Moreover, when the reanalyze the cases of the U.S. Civil Rights movement and the French Revolution, their "new" framework doesn't really add anything to the traditional version of those events. It's worth heeding their clarion call to take a more nuanced view of the interactions between identity and action in contentious politics, but this work alone doesn't really add much more to our understanding.
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