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Janus-faced Social Movements: Factors that Influence the Choice of Non-violent over Violent Tactics in Political Movements
Unformatted Document Text:  contention, stating that contention encompasses a fairly stable repertoire of “the ways that people act together in pursuit of shared interest” (in Tarrow 1998). These behaviors can be collectively defined as contention if the purpose of behavior is oppositional in nature. Violent contention is most frequently studied. This type of behavior is broadly defined as “subversive acts that challenge systems of authority” and includes riots, violent uprisings, militia attacks, terrorism and revolutions, to name a few (Bessinger 2002 in Ulfelder 2005, 312). Non-violent contentious behaviors, on the other hand, include quasi-subversive elements yet do not actively attempt to topple or harm opponents. Non-violent actions would include non-violent protest, pamphlet distribution, social services that replace those provided (or more frequently not provided) by the state to weaken its credibility, and the like. Previous attempts to disentangle the effects of exogenous forces on behavior of social movements have generally followed two broad approaches: environment and opportunity. The specific question of an evolving behavioral choice by insurgency movements has never been directly studied. Nevertheless, the relationships put forward in the environment literature and opportunity literatures would allow for learning, leading to the maturation of mobilization tactics (Tilly 1978). Earlier research has hardly provided satisfactory explanations for the process of gradual shifts in social movement mobilization from violent to non-violent repertoires of contention. In the diverse approaches that scholars have taken to explain the evolutionary phenomenon, two general approaches are at the forefront; the first of which explains the nature of group mobilization and the second that explains the degree. The first, political opportunity theory, explains tactical shifts in terms of a context-dependant trajectory of group development and uses group learning and institutionalization theories to explain the general end-state of this trajectory of development. This 6

Authors: Graham, Leah.
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contention, stating that contention encompasses a fairly stable repertoire of “the ways that people
act together in pursuit of shared interest” (in Tarrow 1998). These behaviors can be collectively
defined as contention if the purpose of behavior is oppositional in nature. Violent contention is
most frequently studied. This type of behavior is broadly defined as “subversive acts that challenge
systems of authority” and includes riots, violent uprisings, militia attacks, terrorism and revolutions,
to name a few (Bessinger 2002 in Ulfelder 2005, 312). Non-violent contentious behaviors, on the
other hand, include quasi-subversive elements yet do not actively attempt to topple or harm
opponents. Non-violent actions would include non-violent protest, pamphlet distribution, social
services that replace those provided (or more frequently not provided) by the state to weaken its
credibility, and the like.
Previous attempts to disentangle the effects of exogenous forces on behavior of social
movements have generally followed two broad approaches: environment and opportunity. The
specific question of an evolving behavioral choice by insurgency movements has never been
directly studied. Nevertheless, the relationships put forward in the environment literature and
opportunity literatures would allow for learning, leading to the maturation of mobilization tactics
(Tilly 1978).
Earlier research has hardly provided satisfactory explanations for the process of gradual
shifts in social movement mobilization from violent to non-violent repertoires of contention. In the
diverse approaches that scholars have taken to explain the evolutionary phenomenon, two general
approaches are at the forefront; the first of which explains the nature of group mobilization and the
second that explains the degree. The first, political opportunity theory, explains tactical shifts in
terms of a context-dependant trajectory of group development and uses group learning and
institutionalization theories to explain the general end-state of this trajectory of development. This
6


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