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POLVOA41 Introduction to Contentious Politics 2 ECTS
Implementation is also a part of open university teaching
Period I Period II Period III Period IV
Language of instruction
Type or level of studies
Intermediate studies
Course unit descriptions in the curriculum
Degree Programme in Politics
Political Science
Faculty of Management

General description

Instructor: Andrei Semenov, PhD,  Director of the Centre for Comparative history and Politics, Perm state University, Russia

Why do people protest? For social scientists of all kinds this question constitutes a centrepiece for many puzzles: political scientists are interested in causes and consequences of political mobilisation, international relations scholars - in the roots of insurgence and policies for handling violent resistance, sociologists work with social movements and related concepts. Introduction to contentious politics course is aimed at familiarising students of politics with basic conceptual and analytical tools developed within the “political process” theory to collective actions and protests. This theory links together strategic behaviour, contextual features, and frames; it posits that collective public claim-making that involves governments can take different forms - from revolutions and ethnic strife to grassroots movements and NIMBY-protests. However, these shades of contention share some common underlying mechanisms.

The course is primarily based on the works of Charles Tilly, Sidney Tarrow, and Douglas McAdam, however. Prior knowledge of the literature is beneficial but not required, however, the background information on the basics of collective action theories is highly recommended. The course is designed for the students working on social movements, political mobilisation, collective actions and related issues. 

Class 1. Contentious Politics and Theories of Collective Actions

  • Classic theories of collective actions: relative deprivation/grievances, resource mobilisation, rational choice, and political process.
  • Charles Tilly’s status model of contention.
  • Dynamics of contention and beyond. 

Required readings:

Opp, K.D., 2009. Theories of political protest and social movements: A multidisciplinary introduction, critique, and synthesis. Routledge. Chapter II. Protest, Social Movements, and Collective Action

Class 2. Contentious Politics as a Research Tool

  • Building bricks of the theory: contention, mechanisms, processes, episodes.
  • Putting different things together: rationality, context, and frames.
  • Critiques and challenges.

Required readings:

Tarrow, S., Tilly C. (2015) Contentious Politics. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press. Chapter I: Introduction

Class 3. Case-study: Political contention in Russia

  • Post-Soviet democratisation and contention in Russia.
  • Urban mobilisation and protests.
  • Contention and national politics.

Required readings:

Robertson, G., 2013. Protesting putinism: the election protests of 2011-2012 in broader perspective. Problems of Post-Communism, 60(2), pp.11-23.

Enrolment for University Studies

Enrolment by e-mail to andreysemenov@comparativestudies.ru by 12 March.


Andrei Semenov, Teacher responsible


26-Mar-2018 – 28-Mar-2018
Lectures 6 hours
Mon 26-Mar-2018 at 12-14, Pinni A3107
Tue 27-Mar-2018 at 12-14, Main building C5
Wed 28-Mar-2018 at 12-14, Pinni A3107


Numeric 1-5.

Evaluation criteria

Assignments and grading

Class attendance and participation (25%)
All students will participate in class discussions.

A two-page summary of two readings (25%)
Two reading assignments necessary to successfully familiarise with the course’s content should be summarised. The summary includes a statement describing a main thesis, the structure of an argument, clarification of major concepts, short evaluation of contents, and 2-3 questions that arise after reading.

Research note/essay (50%)
The final assignments is a research note (approx. 6 pages) describing an episode of contention of student’s choice and its outcomes. The note should use references to the major insight from contentious politics literature and explicitly rely on its conceptual apparatus; it should explain the emergence, dynamics, and outcomes of protest mobilisation.

Study materials

Suggested/further readings

Della Porta, D. (Ed.). (2014). Methodological practices in social movement research. Oxford University Press.
Gurr, T. R. (2015). Why men rebel. Routledge.
Gurr, T. R. (2015). Political rebellion: causes, outcomes and alternatives. Routledge.
Opp, K.D., 2009. Theories of political protest and social movements: A multidisciplinary introduction, critique, and synthesis. Routledge.
Tarrow, S. (2011). Power in movement: Social movements and contentious politics. Cambridge University Press.
Tarrow, S., Tilly C. (2015) Contentious Politics. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press.
Snow, D. A., Soule, S. A., & Kriesi, H. (Eds.). (2008). The Blackwell companion to social movements. John Wiley & Sons.