Social movements have played a central role in global political change, both historically and in recent decades. During the 1990s and early 2000s the global justice movement advocated for an alternative vision of globalization to that being developed through international financial institutions (IFIs), In recent years, more localized movements, such as the interconnected city-based manifestations of Occupy, have been organizing in response to the recent economic crisis, and, more generally, the conflicts and contradictions of neoliberalization. Despite their central role in global politics, this is the first contribution on social movements in this series. The omission of such a chapter draws attention to a broader lack of engagement with social movements outside of the field of ‘social movement studies’. In political science, scholars have increasingly engaged with the question of what constitutes political action, considering diverse new modes of political engagement and participation outside of formal political institutions (Bang and Sorensen 1999; Li and Marsh 2008), often drawing on related debates in sociology on the political motivations of social action (cf. Maffesoli 1996; Riley et al. 2010).
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