New social movements and the ‘centri sociali’ in Milan



This paper discusses the social movement known in Italy as the movement of the centri sociali. The empirical material presented relies heavily on the centri sociali operating in Milan. Such material offers the opportunity to revisit issues related to social movement theories. In part one, a brief overview of these theories is sketched, and concepts suggested by both resource mobilisation theorists and new social movements theorists are presented. Attempts to unify the two approaches are also briefly reviewed. In part two, the origin of the centri sociali is traced. Some of the motives and practices inspiring the movement are described as a legacy, though re–elaborated and re–contextualised, of the particularly troubled, if compelling, Italian 1970s. The methodology used for the empirical work undertaken is then presented.

Finally, the discussion moves back to social movement theories, against which the movement of the centri sociali is analysed. Here, the utility of some aspects of both resource mobilisation and new social movement theories will be underlined, thus adding a modest, tentative, contribution to previous attempts to elaborate a synthesis between the two approaches.