Edited by Hein-Anton van der Heijden
The 1960s and early 1970s were marked by dramatic social conflict within most Western societies. The social movement protagonists whose political, social, and cultural challenges often claimed center-stage in those dramas, left a diverse and enduring legacy. In the decades since the 1960s, the political, social, and cultural significance of social movements has become widely recognized. Their agendas and collective action are now integral features of public debate and academic analysis of social change in Europe and North America. Yet, on neither side of the Atlantic did the received academic wisdom of the 1950s and 1960s view social movements in a generally favorable light (Jenkins, 1983; Melucci, 1989). In European analyses were dominated by Marxist conceptions of class conflict in which only the workers’ movement truly challenged capitalist injustices, other movements either fragmented the opposition, or were bourgeois and irrelevant to the political agenda of the Left. In the USA, the most hospitable analyses devalued social movements as temporary disequilibria soon to be reintegrated into smoothly functioning social systems. The renaissance of social movement research on both sides of the Atlantic that began during the 1970s represented a concerted effort by a new generation of scholars to understand the emergence, significance, and effects of the movements of the 1960s. In Europe, this emerging cohort of researchers developed new social movement theory, while their North American counterparts formulated resource mobilization (RM) theory (see Jenkins, 1983; McAdam et al., 1988; Edwards and McCarthy, 2004).
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