Tactical Innovation in Social Movements

Tactical Innovation in Social Movements

By
Dan J. Wang, Sarah A. Soule
American Sociological Review. May
26, 2016, Vol. 81, Issue 3, Pages 517-548

Social movement researchers argue that tactical innovation occurs as a response to changes external to movements, such as police repression and shifts in political authority, or is due to internal movement processes, such as the characteristics of movement organizations and actors. In this study, we locate the roots of tactical innovation in the multiplicity of movement claims articulated at protest events. With data on more than 23,000 protest events that took place in the United States between 1960 and 1995, we develop novel measures of two forms of tactical innovation and the relationships between protest event claims. Our results show that multi-issue protest events are more likely to use novel recombinations of tactics, and protest events with more peripheral movement claims tend to introduce new protest tactics. Our approach brings together work on social movement dynamics, innovation, and field theoretic approaches to theorize about the relationship between the tools and content of activism.