Italian Sociology and the Study of Social Movements

August 1986 (VOL. 4, NO. 2)

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The article critically assesses the contribution of Italian sociology to the study of social movements in the last twenty years. These years nearly cover the "institutional life-cycle" of the discipline. In order to help the reader place the study of social movements within the mainstream of Italian sociology, some information is provided about its historical development and academic status, even in relation to political and cultural trends in overall society. Tracing the history of social movements studies back to its origins, the author shows how it has diverged from the American tradition, in particular as far as its relation to the study of other forms of collective behavior is concerned. In an extensive review of both theoretical and empirical contributions, the author points out what she sees as the main merits and faults of Italian scholars. The former include attention to theorization in the field of both conventional and collective behavior and preference for multi-factored models of explanation. Among the latter are unsatisfactory attempts to build general testable theories, and lack of empirical research. Contributions are analysed with regard to different aspects of social movements: formation, mobilization and recruitment, ideology and organization, politics, and outcomes.