The means by which people protest—that is, their repertoires of contention—vary radically from one political regime to the next. Highly capable undemocratic regimes such as China’s show no visible signs of popular social movements, yet produce many citizen protests against arbitrary, predatory government. Less effective and undemocratic governments like the Sudan’s, meanwhile, often experience regional insurgencies and even civil wars. In Regimes and Repertoires, Charles Tilly offers a fascinating and wide-ranging case-by-case study of various types of government and the equally various styles of protests they foster.
Using examples drawn from many areas—G8 summit and anti-globalization protests, Hindu activism in 1980s India, nineteenth-century English Chartists organizing on behalf of workers’ rights, the revolutions of 1848, and civil wars in Angola, Chechnya, and Kosovo—Tilly masterfully shows that such episodes of contentious politics unfold like loosely scripted theater. Along the way, Tilly also brings forth powerful tools to sort out the reasons why certain political regimes vary and change, how the people living under them make claims on their government, and what connections can be drawn between regime change and the character of contentious politics.