Social Movement Theory and the “Modern Day Tea Party”

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The rise of the Tea Party movement took many political observers by surprise, but social movement theory can help us to understand how the Tea Party began. Frustration with the federal government's plans for economic recovery, combined with opposition to President Obama's election, morphed into nationwide protests and a vocal presence in the 2010 midterm elections. This paper uses the Tea Party as an example to illustrate social movement life cycles, explaining relevant theories, their application to the movement in each phase of its development, and areas in which the Tea Party challenges current literature on social movements. Social movement theory is discussed as a tool that is constantly being honed as new research increases our understanding of how movements develop and function.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalSociology Compass
StatePublished - Dec 4 2014


  • Tea Party movement
  • social movement cycle
  • social movement theory
  • social movements


  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Sociology
  • Politics and Social Change

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