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Coalitions of Contention: The Case of the WTO Protests in Seattle



Coalitions of organizations are cooperative arrangements that require ongoing management of conflicts among members and potential members. Using data on both successful and unsuccessful attempts at coalition building during the 1999 protests against the WTO in Seattle, we explain the variation in the formation of one type of coalition of organizations, the ‘event coalition’, in which social movement organizations coalesce around a specific protest event. We find that objectively common organizational interests and framing are necessary but not sufficient for explaining coalition partnering. Organizational representatives must also calculate a benefit from pooled resources and be able to commit credibly to delivering promised resources and to resolving the inevitable tensions that arise among coalition partners.