Mobilisation matters

Social Movement Dynamics: New Perspectives on Theory and Research from Latin America
Edited by Federico M Rossi and Marisa von Bülow
2015, Ashgate
231 pages, paperback

LATIN AMERICA has probably played a greater role than any other region in the world in shaping the study of social movements, perhaps because this emerging field coincided with the transitions to democracy that took place across the region in the late 1980s and 1990s. These provided fertile opportunities to explore the role social movements played in democratisation and how they were shaping emergent civil societies. But since that period, scholarship has blossomed and diverged to such an extent that the average student could be forgiven for feeling trepidation when it comes to the study of social movements. The field has become so theoretically diverse that it is not always easy to know which way to turn. This collection represents a very welcome attempt to take stock and impose some disciplinary order on the fertile, but otherwise entangled, jungle of approaches that characterise the academic landscape of social movement studies, while introducing new themes that have gained momentum in this area in recent years. One of those, and perhaps the most important, has been the growing focus on the political economy of mobilisation, which seeks to integrate the political and economic dimensions of social struggle. Perhaps predictably, this development owes much to what has been happening in the developed, northern economies – anti-austerity protests and the relationship between economic cycles and political grievances. Nonetheless, Latin America clearly offers huge potential when it comes to research on the relationship between economic variables and social mobilisation, not least because this is already a well-established dimension of the study of presidentialism and the frequent political crises that bring down executives in the region. Social Movement Dynamics will be of great value to students of social movements who seek a way forward in exploring this theme and many others in this disconcertingly complex sub-theme of political studies.