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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Over the past decade and more, students of social movements have begun to employ the concept of “contentious politics.” Coined by the late Charles Tilly in a series of works he began in the 1970s, the concept encompasses social movements but extends to a wider range of conflictual phenomena, including strike waves, civil wars, revolutions, and insurgencies. It shifts the focus from the subjects and objects of contention to the mechanisms that connect them to each other and to broader institutions and actors. Much questioned when it emerged, the contentious politics approach has ripened to influence work on intra-movement relations, on links between movements and parties, the radicalization of movements, civil war mechanisms, and escalation into revolutionary situations. This chapter introduces the approach, sketches some of its problems, touches on five areas of research it has influenced, and proposes four areas to which it can propose solutions.

Keywords: contentious politics, mechanisms, interaction, radicalization, scale shift, Tilly

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