Social Movements

Course Provider: Dr Michael Biggs


This option introduces the sociological literature on social movements and collective protest, including theoretical approaches and empirical methods.

Topics covered by this course include:

Explanations for the origins of social movements. Explanations for the outcomes of social movements. This year we will pay special attention to the movement for LBGT rights, which is arguably the most successful movement of the 1960s.

There will be eight classes, including the following topics:

• historical origins
• mobilization for Civil Rights in the American South
• contesting power
• dynamics: positive feedback
• movement cultures and organization
• do social movements make a difference?
• mobilization for LBGT rights since the 1960s
• contemporary trends

On completing the course, students will be familiar with a variety of social movements, and will understand the major theoretical approaches and the various empirical methods used by sociologists. Most importantly, they will be able to formulate a research project that can contribute to the sociological literature.

There is a weekly class in Hilary Term. Students will contribute:

  • three essays (about 2000 words) on the week’s topic;
  • one presentation (no longer than 15 minutes) summarizing the literature and sketching a research project that would advance our understanding of this topic

One three-hour unseen examination in Trinity Term.

  • Tilly, C and S Tarrow. (2015) Contentious Politics, 2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Crossley, N, (2002) Making Sense of Social Movements, Buckingham: Open University Press
  • Opp, K-D, (2009) Theories of Political Protest and Social Movements: A Multidisciplinary Introduction, Critique, and Synthesis, Abingdon: Routledge
  • Staggenborg, S. (2012) Social Movements, 2nd. ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press.