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Home > Catalog > Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador
Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador


  • 21 b/w illus. 17 maps 1 table
  • Page extent: 332 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.66 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 972.8405/3
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: F1488.3 .W66 2003
  • LC Subject headings:
    • El Salvador--History--1979-1992
    • Insurgency--El Salvador--History--20th century
    • Peasants--Political activity--El Salvador--History--20th century
    • War--Moral and ethical aspects--El Salvador

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521811750 | ISBN-10: 0521811759)

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$84.00 (P)

Elisabeth Wood's account of insurgent collective action in El Salvador is based on oral histories gathered from peasants who supported the insurgency and those who did not, as well as on interviews with military commanders from both sides. She explains how widespread support among rural people for the leftist insurgency during the civil war in El Salvador challenges conventional interpretations of collective action. Those who supplied tortillas, information, and other aid to guerillas took mortal risks and yet stood to gain no more than those who did not.


List of illustrations and tables; Preface and acknowledgments; List of abbreviations; 1. The puzzle of insurgent collective action; 2. Ethnographic research in the shadow of civil war; 3. Redrawing the boundaries of class and citizenship; 4. From political mobilization to armed insurgency; 5. The political foundations of dual sovereignty; 6. The re-emergence of civil society; 7. Campesino accounts of insurgent participation; 8. Explaining insurgent collective action; Epilogue: legacies of an agrarian insurgency; Appendix: A model of high-risk collective action by subordinate social actors; Chronology of El Salvador's civil war; List of references.

Prize Winner

Winner, 2005 Gregory Luebbert Book Award of the Comparative Politics section of the American Political Science Association

Honorable Mention, Best Book Award of the Comparative-Historical section of the American Sociological Association


"...worthwhile, because [Wood] manages to bring the war before the reader's eyes, primarily through the words of the many men and women she interviewed over a period of almost 10 years...The very fact that so many people were willing to speak with her testifies to the level of trust she achieved with them." America

"Elisabeth Wood's rigorous study of individual motivations and mobilization in El Salvador will be required reading for students of collective action and civil war. Her unique combination of rich ethnography and rigorous theory represents social science at its best." Stathis N. Kalyvas, Yale University

"This book addresses an absolutely fundamental question in both social history and the study of revolutions: Under what circumstances and with what motivations do rural people mobilize collectively to achieve change? Building on ethnographic fieldwork and oral histories, Wood argues that the actions of rural people in El Salvador constituted an 'assertion of citizenship' not reducible to any calculation of the probability of altering outcomes or achieving exclusive benefits. With a delicate sense of social process, she demonstrates the 'pleasures of agency' that were possible even in the shadow of civil war. This is an elegant, important, and inspiring study." Rebecca J. Scott, University of Michigan

"Wood shares with us the voices and experiences of Salvadorans who, most extraordinarily, were interviewed in large numbers over many years and with amazing diligence and intensity by the author, despite their contemporary involvements in a hideously violent civil war. Particularly notable is her careful, even meticulous, discussion of the problems of establishing 'real' memories in such a setting. She is also good, very good, at dissecting debates about collective action theories and theories of revolution. And the discussions about the social import of mapmaking are just flat out lovely and feel so very human, which is (alas) not something you can say very often about a work of sophisticated social science. While her own discipline is political science, she draws on and herself surely enriches the fields of sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, and Latin American studies writ large." Timothy Wickham-Crowley, Georgetown University

"This is a well-written and enlightening book, exemplary in its clear and convincing discussion of methodological choices, empirical data, and theoretical explanation." Contemporary Sociology, Jon Shefner, University of Tennessee

"Wood goes beyond the traditional revolutionary intellectuals’ accounts that tend to dominate the discussion of revolutionary action to describe the formation of revolutionary identity among campesinos in El Salvador’s rural areas” –Ryan Wilson, Latin American Perspectives

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