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

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • The Political System
  • Social Networks
  • Transnationalism
  • Emotions
  • Methodology

Political Science Social Movements in Latin America
Fernanda Somuano Ventura
  • LAST REVIEWED: 02 May 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0049


As is the case with many concepts in social sciences, there are many definitions of social movements. However, consensus seems to be general on some of their characteristics. Social movements are informal networks or groups of people with common purposes, shared beliefs, and solidarity that mobilize around specific issues generally through different means of protest and direct action. For some authors, social movements represent collective challenges to elites, authorities, other groups, or cultural codes by people in sustained interactions with elites, opponents, and authorities. Some authors argue that social movements are an important vehicle for participation by ordinary people in public politics and are seen as the vanguard of a new society. Others state that social movements represent a threat to democratic politics and to social and political order.

General Overviews

General literature on social movements can be divided into two great types: first, classic works on social order, group conflict, collective behavior, and social change that are developed by 18th-century philosophers, late-19th-, and early-20th-century social scientists and can be subdivided into collective action approaches, mass society approaches, and relative deprivation theories; and second, new perspectives on social movements that are developed since the beginning of the 1970s and may be classified into resource mobilization theories, political opportunities approaches, new social movements’ theories, and collective identities approaches. General works that include some of these theoretical approaches are Andrain and Apter 1995, which looks at causes and consequences of protest movements; Della Porta and Diani 1999, Foweraker 1995, and Klandermans 1997, which introduce the above-mentioned theoretical schools. The last two books also include empirical work.

  • Andrain, Charles F., and David E. Apter. Political Protest and Social Change. New York: New York University Press, 1995.

    The book examines the mutual effect of cultural beliefs, political and social structures, and individual behavior on protest activities in different countries around the world. The authors study the determinants of individual participation in nonviolent or violent movements, the consequences and the effectiveness of these movements.

  • Della Porta, Donatella, and Mario Diani. Social Movements: An Introduction. 2d ed. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.

    An introduction and critical analysis of social movements today. This book is based on research and empirical work from different social sciences to answer some key topics on collective action. In the new edition, the authors have updated all chapters and expanded on questions such as individual motivations, media, public policies, and governance.

  • Foweraker, Joe. Theorizing Social Movements. Boulder, CO: Pluto Press, 1995.

    This book brings together a good summary of social movement theory with a description and explanation of social movements throughout Latin America. The author exposes the effects of social movements on individual and community life in the region and evaluates how they may change government policies, citizenship rights, and democratic regimes.

  • Klandermans, Bert. The Social Psychology of Protest. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

    A complete synopsis of the development of protest movements grounded on recent research on collective action, mobilization, and participation. A good guide to the field for graduate students in social anthropology, psychology, sociology, or political science. It has illuminating international examples going from women’s movements to right-wing extremist groups.

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