Theory and Society

, Volume 43, Issue 5, pp 513–546

Grievances do matter in mobilization


DOI: 10.1007/s11186-014-9231-6

Cite this article as:
Simmons, E. Theor Soc (2014) 43: 513. doi:10.1007/s11186-014-9231-6


This article proposes that by studying grievances as not only materially but also ideationally constituted claims, scholars can gain analytical leverage on puzzles of social movement emergence and development. This meaning-laden approach to grievances recognizes that the ideas with which some claims are imbued might be more conducive to motivating political resistance than others. The approach is inherently grounded in context—scholars begin by understanding the meanings that grievances take on in particular times and places. But it is also potentially generalizable; as scholars uncover the ways in which apparently different grievances may index similar ideas across time and place, those grievances can be categorized similarly and their potential relationship to social mobilization explored. Drawing on evidence from the 2000 Bolivian water wars, the article proposes that market driven threats to subsistence resources offer one such potential categorization.


Social movements Contentious politics Meaning-making Grievances 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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