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Charles Tilly: Contentious Performances, Campaigns and Social Movements


Kriesi, H (2009). Charles Tilly: Contentious Performances, Campaigns and Social Movements. Swiss Political Science Review, 15(2):341-349.

Abstract

My brief contribution to this debate focuses on Charles Tilly’s last book, Contentious Performances (2008b). This is a very important book, much in the tradition of an earlier master-piece of Tilly’s – From Mobilization to Revolution (1978), which, together with the Rebellious Century (1975), has profoundly influenced both my thinking about mobilization and social movements and the way I went about studying them. Although it also contains substantive research results, Contentious Performances (CP) is more a book about method than about substance. To Sidney Tarrow (2008), CP “represents the culmination of Tilly’s contribution to the study of contentious politics and to social movements in general”, and I think he is right. In this last book, Charles Tilly once again shows us how he has approached collective action, where he put the emphasis, and how he thinks we should proceed in order to produce good research. However, this last book is also particularly helpful, I think, because it allows us to see better the particular limits in this master’s approach to contentious politics. In this contribution, I first sketch the main outlines of this approach as I understood them. Then I would like to discuss two of its limits, which I found particularly striking. Every approach has to make some choices, which come with certain costs attached, and Charles Tilly’s approach to contentious politics has made some key choices, too. In discussing these limits, I feel reassured by the encouragement with which the great master of the analysis of contentious politics ended his last book: “If the weaknesses of that approach inspire my readers to invent different and superior methods for investigating contentious performances, I will cheer them on” (p. 211).

My brief contribution to this debate focuses on Charles Tilly’s last book, Contentious Performances (2008b). This is a very important book, much in the tradition of an earlier master-piece of Tilly’s – From Mobilization to Revolution (1978), which, together with the Rebellious Century (1975), has profoundly influenced both my thinking about mobilization and social movements and the way I went about studying them. Although it also contains substantive research results, Contentious Performances (CP) is more a book about method than about substance. To Sidney Tarrow (2008), CP “represents the culmination of Tilly’s contribution to the study of contentious politics and to social movements in general”, and I think he is right. In this last book, Charles Tilly once again shows us how he has approached collective action, where he put the emphasis, and how he thinks we should proceed in order to produce good research. However, this last book is also particularly helpful, I think, because it allows us to see better the particular limits in this master’s approach to contentious politics. In this contribution, I first sketch the main outlines of this approach as I understood them. Then I would like to discuss two of its limits, which I found particularly striking. Every approach has to make some choices, which come with certain costs attached, and Charles Tilly’s approach to contentious politics has made some key choices, too. In discussing these limits, I feel reassured by the encouragement with which the great master of the analysis of contentious politics ended his last book: “If the weaknesses of that approach inspire my readers to invent different and superior methods for investigating contentious performances, I will cheer them on” (p. 211).

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Date:2009
Deposited On:22 Jul 2009 07:16
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:17
Publisher:Swiss Political Science Association
ISSN:1424-7755
Publisher DOI:10.1002/j.1662-6370.2009.tb00134.x
Official URL:http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/spsa/spsr/2009/00000015/00000002/art00007
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-19671

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