Social movement scholars have rarely paid attention to the transformations of capitalism as factors of social movement formation processes. This paper makes two different but complementary contributions. First, we provide a macro-social theory that connects the emergence of social movements to the capital circuit in order to embed social movement formation processes into the structural dynamics of capitalism. Exploring such dynamics is helpful to the understanding of social movements if one only looks at them by highlighting their socio-political—and not only merely economic—nature. Secondly, we show how and to what extent some institutional transformations involving the politics of advanced capitalist societies have been affected by the capital circuit and vice versa. More notably, we argue that these transformations have given rise to a political field centered on the ambivalence between two poles, namely, a regressive-oligarchic and a participative-mobilizing one, which is the domain of populist politics today.
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