When the second edition of Power in Movement appeared in 1998, it was during a period when it seemed to many that advanced industrial democracies such as America's had entered a period of social movement calm. In East Central Europe, the excitement generated by the collapse of Communism had subsided; in Western Europe, the talk was of postindustrial politics; and the United States was roiled with bitter but low-level conflicts such as that which surrounded the bedroom behavior of President Bill Clinton. In Africa, Latin America, and Southeastern Europe, festering conflicts had exploded into civil wars; to many American scholars, including this one, it seemed as if social conflict was being contained (Meyer and Tarrow, eds. 1998).
Toward the turn of the new century, changes in the “real world” and of contentious politics began to be translated into scholarly work. First, scholars questioned the airtight separation of social movement studies from other forms of contention (McAdam et al. 2001). Next, they began to ask how, if we were living in a social movement society, ordinary people were responding to the dislocations caused by global neo-liberalism. Finally, although the 1990s had been a decade of relatively contained conflict, questions were raised about the violent movements that, here and there, were already roiling the surface of society.
These questions came together in Seattle, when a coalition of domestic and transnational groups exploded onto the streets and shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organization. That protest electrified activists around the globe.