SOC 521 Social Movements

SOC 521 Social Movements

SOC 521-- Social Movements

Fall 2008Dr. Regina Werum

Friday 1:30-4:30pmTel: 727-7514 or 727-7510 (messages)

Tarbutton 104Office: Tarbutton 204

Office Hours:

Mo 9-10am, Wd 1-2pm, or by appointment



What causes social movements? Under which conditions do they succeed or fail? Why and under which conditions do individuals participate? How is the rise and decline of social movement "cycles" related to economic trends, developments in certain social institutions, or cultural and ideological shifts? How do we define social movements and "countermovements"?

The purpose of this course is to introduce Sociology students to classical and contemporary theories about social movements, and to help them prepare for qualifying exams and dissertation research. In addition, we will cover a range of 20th-century movements, focusing mostly on the U.S. and Western Europe. During the first month, students will become familiar with micro-level as well as macro-level theoretical traditions, such as relative deprivation, rational choice, resource mobilization, and frameworks that bridge traditional theoretical divides and address issues related to, e.g., recruitment and participation or the role of the state. Movements covered include the labor movement and the "new" left/student movement of the 1960s, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the lesbian/gay rights movement, and environmental/peace movements.

Throughout the course, we will deal with the so-called "theory-method-data-link." In other words, students will learn how other researchers have pursued their empirical/substantive interests. Our ability to answer specific questions is shaped by the specific movement we study, the historical context in which it occurred, and by inevitable data constraints and methodological choices. In the process of the course, students will become familiar with various methodological approaches to the study of social movements (both qualitative and quantitative).

By the end of the semester, students should be familiar with theoretical and methodological issues surrounding social movement research. They should also have a clear historical understanding of social movements in this country and abroad. Each student will write a research proposal due at the end of the semester made to resemble a grant proposal. In exceptional circumstances, advanced students may choose instead to submit a dissertation/thesis chapter. Students will negotiate parameters of each paper with me.


I expect students to come to class prepared; this includes having read the materials for each class before we meet. In addition to participating in class on a regular basis, students will turn in several written assignments, give in-class presentations, and write a research paper.

Written Assignments: 25% of final grade

This course is designed to provide students with an overview of theoretical and empirical research in the field. The best way to learn new material and retain it is through critical evaluation--i.e., discussion and writing. In the best possible scenario, this course will influence your research interests for years to come. More pragmatically, it should also prepare you for a possible prelim specialty area. For this purpose, students will turn in a total of three critical syntheses of a week's worth of required readings (mere summaries do not suffice). Varying in length, these short essays are due at the beginning of each class. These reflective essays will comprise 25% of your final grade. I will discuss explicit guidelines in class.

  1. Theory paper: 10% of final grade

The first paper is due by noon on September 26. The previous week marked the end of the theory section. The purpose of the paper is to have you compare/contrast/critique 2 theoretical frameworks of your choice with regard to their usefulness in explaining social movement dynamics (n.b: you need to come up with a good question for your paper on your own, or in consultation with me). That paper should be 8-10 pages long and will count for 10% of your final grade. More details in class.

  1. Reflection papers: 15% of final grade

Throughout the rest of the semester, you will do 2 more papers of your choice. To help you pace yourself, I require that you submit one paper in October and one in November/Dec. Do not let these short papers interfere with research requirements due at the end of the semester. Shoot for 5 pages each; each paper is weighted equally, together comprising 15% of your final grade. Please take these essays seriously. I do not accept late assignments.

The purpose of these short papers is to help you prepare for prelims. To practice this skill, I will have you reflect on the readings, and put them in perspective. This means: relate them to each other (where feasible), to readings from other weeks (where feasible) and pay close attention to the theoretical frameworks on which they draw. Use this lens to ascertain how/why arguments complement or contradict each other.

Another way to approach these three assignments is to start out with a question that begs an accompanying response/ explanation for each of the week's readings. You may but do not have to ask a question that encompasses all readings, nor do you need to write several questions (or answers) for different readings. One good question and one comprehensive answer will do. Draw on all relevant materials from this course to answer your question and feel free to draw on related, relevant materials you have encountered in other seminars. Just make sure you stick to the issue you raised in the beginning.

I prefer that these assignments contain three parts:

$Your summary (brief!) of the most important point(s) of the week's core readings. This should include a discussion of the links between the readings (or lack thereof).

$One or several question(s) of clarification, interpretation, relevance etc. you would like us to address is class. You may ask abstract theoretical questions, raise conceptual issues, issues concerning textual analysis/interpretation, or even methodological questions for the empirical pieces assigned.

$For the question you ask, make sure you explain why is that question important? What's at stake? Try to find an answer to your question, but keep in mind that you do not have to have answers to everything in advance. It is my hope that the seminar discussion will serve that purpose--finding answers to questions.

As I said, pace yourself. I strongly advise against “blowing these assignments off" until the end of the semester. The more thoughtful your essays, the more lively our seminar discussions.

In-Class Presentations and Participation: 30% of grade

In all, each student will give two oral presentations during the semester, whenever possible in pairs. Together with your general in-class participation, these presentations will comprise a total of 30% of your final grade. We will discuss explicit presentation guidelines in class. For these presentations, you will provide an integrated summary and discussion guide to the week's readings. (I will provide such a guide the first week). Please make these papers available by email to every seminar participant BY 1:00 P.M. the WEDNESDAY before class, so that everyone has a day to read and ponder it. Your papers should discuss each required reading (main point; strength and weaknesses) and explain how it fits in the theoretical and empirical literature at large (e.g., in terms of the theoretical framework or related research on that topic).

Rather than thinking of this as giving a lecture, the purpose of your presentation should be to lead class discussion that day and to involve your peers in an in-depth debate about the readings. Working in pairs, you will lead the course for that week. The students who wrote the integrated summary will provide integrative, summative, and empirical questions and serve as interlocutor, responding to questions and inviting peers into conversation based on the written paper. It might make sense to do these for the same weeks for which you plan to turn in your reflection papers.

That day, you will be in charge for class discussion during the first hour of the seminar. Presenters are responsible for:

  1. Raising an interesting question (or set thereof) about the required readings and trying to provide an answer. Though everyone has done those readings, I am sure your peers would appreciate a succinct, written summary of each reading.
  2. Summarizing the week's supplemental readings and raising an interesting question to the class that relates the supplemental material to the required readings everyone has done. All group participants must complete the supplemental readings that week and be ready to discuss them in seminar. Remember that your peers have not read them! Providing them with a written summary will certainly help.

For the first part, you should stimulate discussion about your own group's question(s) about the week's readings. This may be a question you take from your written assignments, or you may come up with a different one which interests your group. You should also prepare to answer your own questions in ways that complement answers emerging from group discussions. For the second part, you should provide us with a succinct summary of the main points raised by the supplemental readings, including explanations of new concepts. Try to relate these readings to or "bounce them off" of the week's required readings – or other readings that relate to the issue.

In your presentations, please aim for interaction rather than lecture style. Remember to adjudicate what's conceptually important and what's interesting for discussion purposes.

The assignments outlined above serve as preparation for seminar discussions. Nonetheless, your active participation in seminar throughout the semester constitutes a separate element of your final grade. I expect active and constructive participation. One of the purposes for having you write critical essays on a week’s readings is to encourage and enhance your in-class participation. This gets me to the next course requirement...

Research Paper: 45% of final grade

The final paper, which will comprise the remaining 45% of your course grade, should be modeled after a grant proposal. Depending on the student’s status, this may be a pre-dissertation, dissertation, or even post-doctoral grant proposal. In selecting your audience/agency for this mock-proposal, you will be able to choose between different formats. Part of your challenge will be to figure out who your audience and thus your potential grantors might be. Examples include e.g., NSF, MacArthur, SSRC, Aspen, Fulbright, or Lilly. Again, more detailed information on different funding agencies and their priorities is forthcoming.

I also encourage you to contact the graduate school concerning external funding sources, as well as consult our online grants site

The main purpose of this assignment is to help you integrate things learned in this seminar with your own research interests. Some advanced students may decide instead to write a dissertation chapter or provide an ongoing research project with the theoretical framework necessary to submit a paper for publication. In that case, you must also do more than simply provide a literature review.

The length of these papers will vary depending on their purpose, but you should aim for about 18-20 pages. To help you get an early start on this paper, please discuss your paper ideas with me before October 10 (before Fall Break). An initial 5-page prospectus is due to all class members on Monday, October 20 by 5pm. You will discuss each proposal the following meeting (October 24). Detailed instructions on that meeting to follow shortly. Please provide your peers with constructive written comments of their own proposals in advance of that meeting.

The due date for the final paper is December 9 (5pm). I will not accept late papers.

Other matters:

Student Code of Ethics:

Violations of the student code of ethics will result at least in a failing grade for the class and may have further disciplinary consequences. This applies to all components of the course: attendance/participation, quizzes, exams, papers. To ensure proper citation practice in your research paper, please use standard ASA style (See e.g. American Sociological Review or MLA style. Clearly indicate your sources within and at the end of the paper. For further details please come see me, consult the Emory College honor code, or go to:

Accommodating Disabilities: If you have or acquire any sort of condition that may require special accommodation(s), please inform me AS SOON AS POSSIBLE (i.e., not the day of an exam) so that we may make the appropriate arrangements. Proper documentation from the Office of Disability Services will be required. Please contact their office to get more information on available services and accommodations, as well as documentation requirements. They can be reached at 404-727-1065 or via the web at

I reserve the right to change the syllabus.


In addition to the books listed below, I have assigned a series of articles. They will be available via ereserves. Should you have problems downloading them, please let me know. In the meantime, use an electronic data base to go directly to the source.

The following books are required readings; you may purchase them at the Emory bookstore (or look for used copies at off-campus book stores/online). All books--those required and those from which excerpts are assigned--will also be on Reserve at Candler Liberary. If all else fails, you may borrow them from me for a few hours at a time.

Required Books:

Gitlin, Todd. 1980. The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. ISBN 0520038894

McAdam, Doug. 1982. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970. Univ. of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226555534

Morris, Aldon. 1984. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement. NY: Free Press. ISBN 002922120X

Springer, Kimberly. 2005. Living for the Revolution: Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980.Duke UP. ISBN 0822334933.

Staggenborg, Suzanne. 1991. The Pro-Choice Movement: Organization and Activism in the Abortion Conflict. NY: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0195065964

Stevens, Mitchell. 2001. Kingdom of Children: Culture and Controversy in the Homeschooling Movement. Princeton UP. ISBN 0-691-11468-4

Tarrow, Sidney. 1998. Power in Movement: Social Movements, Collective Action, and Politics. NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521629478

I have also ordered several other books from which required readings are drawn. In case you'd prefer to own these books rather than copies of relevant chapters, you may also purchase the following books.

Supplemental Books:

Buechler, Steven. 1990. Women's Movements in the United States. Rutgers UP. ISBN 0813515599

Gamson, William. 1990 [1975]. The Strategy of Social Protest. Wadsworth. ISBN 0534120784

Piven, Frances F. and Richard Cloward. 1977. Poor People's Movements. NY: Vintage Books/Random House. ISBN 0-394-72697-9

McAdam, Doug. 1986. Freedom Summer. NY: Oxford UP. ISBN 0195064720

Morris, Aldon and Carol M. Mueller (eds.). 1992. Frontiers in Social Movement Theory. New Haven: Yale UP. ISBN 0-300-05486-6

These sources are officially out of print, but Amazon carries some; or try used book stores and websites:

Rupp, Leila and Verta Taylor. 1987. Survival in the Doldrums. NY: Oxford UP.

Adam, Barry. 1996. The Rise of a Gay and Lesbian Movement. NY: Twayne Publishers/Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0805738649

Tilly, Charles. 1978. From Mobilization to Revolution. NY: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0075548518


Aug 29 beginning of classes

Aug 29 Introduction: Classical Theories


Discussion leader: Regina Werum

Required Readings:

Park, R. 1967. On Social Control and Collective Behavior. Chs. 14 and 15.

Smelser, N. 1962. Theory of Collective Behavior. Ch. 1-3.

Turner, R. 1969. "The Public Perception of Protest.” ASR 34:6: 815-830.

Turner, R. and L. Killian. 1972. Collective Behavior. Chs. 13 and 20.

Supplemental Readings:

Geschwender, J. 1964. "Social Structure and the Negro Revolt." Social Forces 43: 2: 248-256.

Gurr, T. 1970. "Relative Deprivation and the Impetus to Violence." Ch. 2 in Why Men Rebel.

McPhail, C. 1989. "Blumer's Theory of Collective Behavior." Sociological Quarterly 30: 3: 401-423.

Useem, Bert. 1998. “Breakdown Theories of Collective Action.” Annual Review of Sociology 24:215-238.

Sept 5 Classic Resource Mobilization Theory (RMT)

Discussion leader: TBA

Required Readings:

Zald, M. and R. Ash. 1966. "Social Movement Organizations: Growth, Decay, and Change." Social Forces 44: 3: 327-341.

McCarthy, J. and M. Zald. 1973. "The Trend of Social Movements in America: Professionalization and Resource Mobilization." General Learning Press.

Tilly, C. 1978. “Interests, Organization, and Mobilization,” ch. 3 in From Mobilization to Revolution.

Supplemental Readings:

Gamson, W. 1990 [1975]. Ch. 4, 6, 7 in The Strategy of Social Protest.

McCarthy, J. and M. Zald. 1977. "Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory." AJS 82: 6: 1212-1241.

Oberschall, A. 1973. "Mobilization, Leaders, and Followers in the Civil Rights Movement." Ch. 6 in Social Conflicts and Social Movements.

Soule, S & S. Olzak. 2004. “When do Movements Matter?” ASR 69:472-497.

Sept 12 Variations on RMT – The Political Process Model

Discussion leader: TBA

Required Readings:

Kriesi, H. 1995. “The Political Opportunity Structure of New Social Movements. Pp. 167-198 in The Politics of Social Protest.

McAdam, D. 1982. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970. Ch. 1-4 and Ch. 9.

Tarrow, S. 1995. Power in Movement. Introduction, Ch. 1, 5, 6, 8.

Meyer, David. 2004. “Protest and Political Opportunities.” Annual Review of Sociology 30:125-145.

Supplemental Readings:

Freeman, J. 1983. "On the Origins of Social Movements." Ch. 1 Freeman (ed.) Social Movements of the '60s and '70s.

Ferree, M. 1992. "The Political Context of Rationality." Ch. 2 in Morris and Mueller (eds.) Frontiers in Social Movement Theory.