“There and Back Again”: Latin American Social Movements and Reasserting the Powers of Structural Theories

  • Timothy P. Wickham-CrowleyEmail author
  • Susan Eva Eckstein
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Two anthologies published in the 1990s declared a theoretical and empirical watershed by advocating for and applying New Social Movement (NSM) theorizing to studies of Latin American social-movement activism, at the same time declaring older movements and theories passé. We criticize both the novelty and the fruitful applicability of NSM-style theory to Latin America’s social-movement universe of recent decades, and re-advocate the virtues and analytical powers of perspectives rooted in political economy and political sociology. The claims made by advocates of NSM theorizing, that certain social movements—those rooted in economic interests or in material and political deprivations—have been eclipsed in number and importance by culture-and-identity-focused movements are shown to be without merit. We buttress that assertion with reference to a wide array of recent movements among workers, consumers, debtors, racial and ethnic groups, women, and students, among others. We also look closely at two very large, yet rather different movements, the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) in Brazil and Bolivia’s Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS).


Political economy New social movements Social classes Political sociology Macro-sociology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy P. Wickham-Crowley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Susan Eva Eckstein
    • 2
  1. 1.Georgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Boston UniversityBostonUSA

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