Dilemmas and Opportunities of International Collective Behavior/Social Movements Research: A Case Study

August 1986 (VOL. 4, NO. 2)

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There is a national focus to much collective behavior/social movements research. However, when the investigation takes place in a foreign country, certain dilemmas-and opportunities-may arise. Three sets of dilemmas and opportunities in relation to conducting research on social movements abroad are explored. 1. the decision to describe the movement, or test a general hypothesis about social movements; 2. the decision to study the social movement at one point in time, or to study it over a longer time period; 3. the decision to use observational methods, or survey research methods. The way research goals can be modified according to the practical constraints encountered is illustrated by a case study of Britain's Nuclear Disarmament Movement, with particular focus on the Peace Camps such as Greenham Common and CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). The peace camps represented a new form of social protest. Although the Greenham Common camp had received coverage in the media, almost no information was available concerning the 14 or so other camps. Practical constraints and situational factors are discussed which influenced the investigation of the peace camps to become a descriptive, observational study within a shorter time frame. Yet contrasting experience with a study of CND illustrates circumstances favoring at least some hypothesis testing even within a shorter time period. Finally, a possible middle ground between description and hypothesis testing is suggested, whereby descriptive data are collected within a specific theoretical framework.