Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Ronald C. Kramer

Second Advisor

Dr. Stanley Robin

Third Advisor

Dr. Rudolf Siebert


This dissertation is a sociohistorical analysis of the anti-nuclear weapons movement in the United States. This work conceptualizes social movements in advanced industrial societies by synthesizing certain aspects of social constructionism, resource mobilization and new class theory. The synthesis argues that progressive social movements are a form of class conflict in which members of the new class challenge the old elite for the control of cultural capital. Such movements are created, in part, by issue entrepreneurs, many of whom are intellectuals. The success or failure of any social movement organization is dependent on its own tactics and strategies, as well as the official response of social control agencies.

The research design is a sociohistorical, comparative case study. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are employed for data analysis. Extensive content analysis of documents and interviews with key actors are supplemented with a critical analysis of a wide variety of primary and secondary data.

All major antinuclear weapons protest, particularly the Atomic Scientists Movement of the 1940s, the Ban-the-Bomb Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and the Freeze Movement of the 1980s, shared similar characteristics, and experienced similar problems. Each was founded by intellectuals; each operated on liberal and pluralistic assumptions; and each used education, political lobbying and electoral politics as primary strategies and tactics. After initial successes, each was ultimately coopted by the government and declined.

The findings are congruent with the theoretical synthesis. Antinuclear weapons protest is best understood as a new class phenomenon, in which intellectuals have mobilized resources to challenge the ruling elite. Movements have become increasingly professionalized and dependent on foundation support. The most noteworthy success of the movement was the ability of the Freeze Movement to define the nuclear weapons arms race as the paramount social problem of the 1980s. Yet, though the protest has succeeded in challenging the legitimacy of the ruling apparatus, successes of the movement have been mostly symbolic.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access