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Many have noted that protesters sometimes expand political opportunities for later protests, but there has been little analysis of how this occurs. The problem can be addressed by analyzing opportunity/threat spirals, which involve positive feedback among: actions by challengers (bold protests and the formation of alliances between challenger groups); opportunity-increasing actions by authorities and elites (elite divisions and support, procedural reforms, substantive concessions, and police inaction); and threat-increasing actions by authorities and elites (new grievance production and excessive repression). Interactions among these eight mechanisms are demonstrated in two cases of social movement growth, the U.S. women's suffrage movement of the 1910s and the German anti-immigration movement of the early 1990s. The cases show similar positive feedback processes despite many other differences, which suggests that the specified interactions may operate in a wide range of social movements in democratic countries.


This is the accepted manuscript of a work originally published in Mobilization.



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