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The Diffusion of Social Movements


  • 9 b/w illus. 8 tables
  • Page extent: 270 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.4 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521130950)

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$21.99 (P)

It is widely recognized that social movements may spread – or “diffuse” – from one site to another. Such diffusion, however, is a complex and multidimensional process that involves different actors, networks, and mechanisms. This complexity has spawned a large body of literature on different aspects of the diffusion process, yet a comprehensive framework remains an elusive target. This book is a response to that need, and its framework focuses on three basic analytical questions. First, what is being diffused? This question directs attention to both the protest repertoires and interpretive frames that actors construct to define issues and mobilize political claims. Second, how does diffusion occur? This book focuses attention on the activist networks and communication channels that facilitate diffusion, including dialogue, rumors, the mass media, the internet, NGOs, and organizational brokers. Finally, what is the impact of diffusion on organizational development and shifts in the scale of contentious politics? This volume suggests that diffusion is not a simple matter of political contagion or imitation; rather, it is a creative and strategic process marked by political learning, adaptation, and innovation.


1. Introduction: dynamics of diffusion in social movements Rebecca Kolins Givan, Sarah A. Soule and Kenneth M. Roberts; Part I. Diffusion and the Framing of Contentious Politics: 2. Transnational networks and institutions: how diffusion shaped the politicization of sexual harassment in Europe Conny Roggeband; 3. Temporality and frame diffusion: the case of the creationist/intelligent design and evolutionist movements from 1925–2005 James E. Stobaugh and David A. Snow; 4. Framing labor's new human rights movement Lance Compa; 5. Framing the GMO: epistemic brokers, authoritative knowledge and diffusion of opposition to biotechnology Ronald J. Herring; Part II. Mechanisms of Diffusion: 6. Dialogue matters: beyond the transmission model of transnational diffusion between social movements Sean Chabot; 7. The diffusion of different types of internet activism: suggestive patterns in website adoption of innovations Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport; 8. Transnational networks, diffusion dynamics, and electoral change in the postcommunist world Valerie Bunce and Sharon Wolchik; 9. Diffusing the rumor bomb 'John Kerry is French' i.e., haughty, foppish, elitist, socialist, cowardly and gay Jayson Harsin; Part III. Diffusion, Scale Shift, and Organizational Change: 10. From protest to organization: the impact of the 1960 sit-ins on movement organizations in the American South Michael Biggs and Kenneth T. Andrews; 11. Dynamics of diffusion: mechanisms, institutions, and scale shift Sidney Tarrow.


“Finally! Coherence about diffusion. This excellent collection brings intellectual focus to important but previously disparate debates about the spread of social movements across time, borders, and cultures. Highlighting three critical theoretical questions, the contributions deftly interweave analysis of the activists promoting diverse movements, the strategies they deploy, and the contexts in which these efforts succeed or fail.”
—Clifford Bob, Duquesne University

“The authors introduce useful distinctions that give us insight into the different aspects of movements that can diffuse – tactics, interpretive frames, and other features – and the mechanisms involved in spreading movements. The case studies highlight these theoretical distinctions and ground them in concrete examples.”
—William Gamson, Boston College

“Diffusion is one of the central processes implicated in the origin and spread of social movements. It is therefore not surprising that social movement scholars have devoted considerable attention to the topic. But until now, that work has remained scattered and marked by considerable conceptual confusion. This first-rate collection should help the situation and prove a boon to those interested in the topic. The clarifying introduction by the editors is worth the price of admission all by itself.”
—Doug McAdam, Stanford University

“For at least two decades now, social scientists have been avoiding full engagement with diffusion, and as a result, have been missing a critical key to understanding collective political behavior. The Diffusion of Social Movements guides us forward by squarely addressing obstacles that prevented scholars from embracing diffusion, by making sense of a scattered literature, and by showing how diffusion can be a powerful theoretical tool in understanding the trajectories of local and global protest movements.”
—Daniel J. Myers, University of Notre Dame

“Ranging widely over different movements in different societal contexts, this sterling set of essays takes the study of the diffusion of social movements in important new directions. Not only do the essays describe how frames and practices diffuse to other movements, but they also show how they scale vertically to different actors and levels in a society. Moreover, the very well written and fascinating essays analyze mechanisms that explain the patterns of diffusion that are found.”
—Mayer Zald, University of Michigan

"Well-written and covering a wide range of movements, certain chapters lend themselves well to the classroom. The volume as a whole provides a much-needed theoretical overview of diffusion theories and processes. It also moves the current state of the literature forward by linking the origins, process, and effects of diffusion to institutional and cultural factors. It provides a cohesive and coherent framework for understanding, conducting, and assessing diffusion research. As such, it is a most welcome contribution to a thriving yet sometimes scattered field."
—Hana E. Brown, Wake Forest University, Mobilization


Rebecca Kolins Givan, Sarah A. Soule, Kenneth M. Roberts, Conny Roggeband, James E. Stobaugh, David A. Snow, Lance Compa, Ronald J. Herring, Sean Chabot, Jennifer Earl, Katrina Kimport, Valerie Bunce, Sharon Wolchik, Jayson Harsin, Michael Biggs, Kenneth T. Andrews, Sidney Tarrow

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