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Abstract

▪ Abstract 

After a long period of postwar neglect by mainstream scholars, religion assumed a new prominence in political science during the late 1970s. Despite the latter-day significance accorded religion by the discipline, the product of several unexpected real-world events, much of the recent research has focused on specific episodes or groups without drawing on or developing general theories. Social movement theory (SMT), particularly in its most recent incarnation, offers a way to address the three critical questions about religiously engaged political movements: What are the motives for political activity by religious groups? By what means do these groups facilitate political action? What features and conditions of the political system provide them opportunities for effective political action? This review explores various expressions of religiously based political action from the vantage point of SMT. We conclude that the translation of religious grievances into political action is contingent on a string of conditions that involve the interplay of motive, means, and opportunity. The implicit message is that scholars should approach religiously engaged social movements with the same theoretical frameworks used to understand secular political forces and that focusing these interpretive lenses on religion will illuminate issues of general interest to the discipline.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.polisci.8.083104.163853
2005-06-15
2024-04-16
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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