We argue that the disproportionate attention accorded the struggles of the sixties has created a stylized image of social movements that threatens to distort our understanding of popular contention, not only in earlier periods and in nondemocratic contexts, but also in the contemporary U.S. This stylized view tends to equate movements with (a) disruptive protest in public settings, (b) loosely coordinated national struggles over political issues, (c) urban and/or campus based protest activities, and (d) claim making by disadvantaged minorities. Drawing on a larger study of trends and patterns in collective civic engagement in metropolitan Chicago, we employ new data on some 1,000 protest events between 1970 to 2000 to assess these four stylized views and address a number of related questions. The data do not support the common imagery of social movements—since 1980 there has been a marked transformation of the movement form to the point where public protest is now largely peaceful, routine, suburban, local in nature, and initiated by the advantaged. We discuss the implications of these findings for the rise of a "movement society" in the U.S. and suggest directions for future research.

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