Tactical Innovation in Social Movements: The Effects of Peripheral and Multi-Issue Protest
(Based on paper with Dan J. Wang, Columbia University)
Social movement researchers argue that tactical innovation occurs in response to changes external to movements, such as police repression and historical shifts in political authority, or is associated with internal movement processes, such as the characteristics of movement organizations and actors. In this study, we locate the roots of tactical innovation in the relational features of the claims made, or issues articulated, at protest events. With data on over 23,000 protest events that took place in the United States between 1960 and 1995, we develop two new operationalizations of tactical innovation and novel measures of the relationships between protest event claims. Our results show that multi-issue protest events are more likely to utilize novel recombinations of tactics while protest events with more peripheral movement claims tend to introduce new protest tactics. We subject our results to a host of robustness checks, as well as sensitivity analyses designed to assess the potential biases associated with newspaper data. We bring together work on social movement dynamics, innovation, and field theoretic approaches to theorize about the relationship between the tools and content of activism.