In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Transnational Social Movements

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Online and Data Sources
  • Historical Background

International Relations Transnational Social Movements
Thomas Richard Davies
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 September 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0164


Transnational social movements have been a growing focus of attention in academic literature in the context of the globalization of world politics in the period since the end of the Cold War. Like social movements in general, transnational social movements are characterized by mobilization of people in a sustained manner for the promotion of social and political change objectives. However, transnational social movements are distinctive in that either or both their activities and their objectives cross national boundaries. Transnational social movements include the work of a subcategory of international nongovernmental organizations: those concerned with political and social transformation, known as “transnational social movement organizations.” They also include the work of broader coalitions of transnational social movement organizations, as well as more loosely arranged networks of people promoting political and social transformations beyond the confines of individual states. The range of objectives promoted by transnational social movements is diverse, including democracy, environmentalism, feminism, human rights, labor standards, peace, and religious goals, among others. Academic literature on the topic sheds light on the ways in which social movements organize transnationally, disseminate ideas across borders, shape understandings of global issues, and wield influence in intergovernmental and transnational arenas. Each of these aspects is covered in this bibliography, which focuses specifically on the transnational dimension, since domestic social movements are covered in other Oxford Bibliographies articles. While much of the literature on transnational social movements consists of single case analyses, this bibliography pays particular attention to works with wider significance, and to the contrasting perspectives on each of these aspects.

General Overviews

Overviews of transnational social movements have appeared in both edited collections and single or joint author syntheses. The three edited collections cited here, della Porta, et al. 2009; Khagram, et al. 2002; and Smith, et al. 1997, played a key role in introducing the academic study of the topic and are especially significant for their novel analytical contributions, especially the advancement of social movement theory into the transnational domain. Building on these, Tarrow 2005 and Moghadam 2013 provide general theoretical frameworks for understanding transnational social movements, while Smith and Wiest 2012 provides a statistically informed analysis. Flesher Fominaya 2014 is useful for its coverage of post-financial crisis developments and the role of new media, while West 2013 both introduces the topic and brings together diverse theoretical perspectives.

  • della Porta, Donatella, Hanspeter Kriesi, and Dieter Rucht, eds. Social Movements in a Globalizing World. 2d ed. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    Initially published in 1999, this pioneering collection of essays by preeminent social movement scholars sheds light on the impact of globalization for social movements with reference to predominantly European case studies.

  • Flesher Fominaya, Cristina. Social Movements and Globalization: How Protests, Occupations and Uprisings are Changing the World. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-137-40216-5

    Analyzes the relationship between social movements and globalization with reference to the global justice movement, anti-austerity activism and the Arab uprisings of 2011, including the roles of cultural resistance and new media.

  • Khagram, Sanjeev, James V. Riker, and Kathryn Sikkink, eds. Restructuring World Politics: Transnational Social Movements, Networks and Norms. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

    Provides an introduction to theoretical and historical aspects of transnational social movements, followed by case studies on human rights, development, and labor activism.

  • Moghadam, Valentine M. Globalization and Social Movements: Islamism, Feminism, and the Global Justice Movement. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.

    Aims to provide an integrated theoretical framework for the study of social movements in the context of globalization, and to apply this framework to Islamist, feminist, and global justice movements.

  • Smith, Jackie, and Dawn Wiest. Social Movements in the World-System: The Politics of Crisis and Transformation. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2012.

    This book presents conclusions drawn from analysis of the Transnational Social Movement Organizations data set, and sheds light on regional and global dynamics of social movements.

  • Smith, Jackie, Charles Chatfield, and Ron Pagnucco, eds. Transnational Social Movements and Global Politics: Solidarity Beyond the State. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997.

    A key text in launching the study of transnational social movements, this collection provides a theoretical and empirical introduction to the topic, as well as a series of case studies.

  • Tarrow, Sidney. The New Transnational Activism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511791055

    Provides a wide-ranging conceptual toolkit for the analysis of the dynamics of transnational social movements. Essential reading on the theoretical dimension.

  • West, David. Social Movements in Global Politics. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2013.

    A broad-based historically and theoretically informed survey of the roles of social movements in world politics, including their contributions to the development of modern political institutions and insights from critical theory.

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