Protest has become an everyday part of modern societies, one of the few recognized outlets for voicing and discussing basic moral commitments. Protest movements shape our thinking about social change and human agency. At a time when schools, the media, and even religious institutions offer little guidance for our moral judgments, protest movements have become a central source for providing us with ethical visions and creative ideas. In this book, James Jasper integrates diverse examples of protest, from 19th-century boycotts to recent anti-nuclear, animal-rights, and environmental movements, into a understanding of how social movements operate. He highlights their creativity, not only in forging new morals but in adopting courses of action and inventing organizational forms. The work stresses the role of individuals, both as lone protesters and as key decision-makers, and it emphasizes the open-ended nature of strategic choices as protesters, their opponents, their allies, and the government respond to each other's actions.
The book also synthesizes the many concepts developed in recent years as part of the cultural approach to social movements, placing them in context and showing what they mean for other scholarly traditions. Drawing on lengthy interviews, historical materials, surveys, and his own participation in protests, Jasper offers a systematic overview of the field of social movements. He weaves together accounts of large-scale movements with individual biographies, placing the movements in cultural perspective and focusing on individuals' experiences.