When do nonactivist organizations become committed to social movement goals? Building on critiques of the "iron law of oligarchy," this article develops and tests the concept of organizational opportunity, analogous to political opportunity. It divides the concept along two dimensions, the attitudes and authority of organizational leaders. The article examines organizational opportunity in four religious organizations and the social movements that challenged their political quiescence: the civil rights movement in the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.; Liberation Theology in the Latin American Roman Catholic Church; the Iranian revolutionary movement in the Shi`i Muslim ruhaniyat; and prodemocracy activism in the Burmese Buddhist sangha. Activist mobilization of these organizations since the 1950s and 1960s appears to be strongly related to variation in organizational opportunity.

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