Historically, breakdown theory dominated the sociological study of collective action. In the 1970s, this theory was found to be increasingly unable to account for contemporaneous events and newly discovered historical facts. Resource mobilization theory displaced breakdown theory as the dominant paradigm. Yet the evidence against breakdown theory is weak once a distinction is made between routine and nonroutine collective action. Several recent contributions affirm the explanatory power of breakdown theory for nonroutine collective action. Breakdown theory also contributes to an understanding of the use of governmental force against protest and of the moral features of collective action. Breakdown and resource mobilization theories explain different types of phenomena, and both are needed to help account for the full range of forms of collective action.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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