Cycles of Contention
Social movements require more than political opportunity, resource sharing, and shared frameworks. Social movements require continuous and escalating cycles of disruption and challenge. Social movement leaders and organizations need to be continually innovating their campaigns and strategies. Otherwise, the system quickly adjusts to absorb and co-opt these new forms of resistance.
Tarrow, Sidney. Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics. 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 1998. Chapter 7.
“Protect, Defend, Extend: State of the States 2018.” Published by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
What This Means for Social Justice Activists & Academics
Social Justice Activists In order to continually create cycles of disruption, social justice activists need to embrace being iterative and failing fast to learn fast. Embracing these approaches allows social justice activists to continually innovate new strategies when countermovements quickly adjust and co-opt their strategies.
Academics Understanding the cycles of contention is critical in students’ understanding of social movements. When learning about current and past social movements often focuses on political opportunity and resource sharing. By learning about cycles of contention, students gain a deeper insight into the dominant groups that oppose social movements and create countermovements.