A more appropriate title for this book would perhaps have been `theories and concepts in social movement research', although making some sense of social movements is also one of the book's accomplishments. Nick Crossley brings into focus all the major theoretical and empirical currents in social movement research, evaluates them and offers not only some significant criticism, but also constructive comments and suggestions for the further expansion of key concepts.
In his assessment of each theoretical approach, he usually analyses one or two representative works. In his examination of the Collective Behaviour approach, for example, he looks at the key works of Mead and Blumer, while in that of the Resource Mobilization theory the emphasis is put on the works of Oberschall and McCarthy and Zald. In all chapters the author structures his exploration initially providing some historical-theoretical framework and definitions, moves on into analysing the key concepts and arguments of each theory (most of the times using examples) and concludes with an evaluation and criticism of the given approach. Suggestions for further reading are also included at the end of each chapter.
Throughout the book Crossley takes issue against what is known as the Rational Actor Theory (RAT), as well as against those who condemn the Collective Behaviour approach as being of little value to contemporary social movement research. His account is persuasive (and sometimes very passionate!) and accompanied by examples which are very useful for highlighting his case. The final chapter serves to construct an inclusive approach to Social Movements that basically combines all the useful elements of the approaches explored, with main emphasis on the works of Smelser and Bourdieu.
In Crossley's otherwise excellent introduction to social movements I found Habermas as a less useful choice for the exploration of the concept of New Social Movements. Habermas's approach is rather complicated (although Crossley makes a good job in providing a comprehensible outline of it) and I am not convinced that the choice was made because he thought it would be useful for the book, or because of his personal appreciation for it!
All in all, this is a great introductory book on social movements and I would recommend it both to students who need to engage with the various debates in social movement literature, and to university teachers looking for a textbook that coherently and critically assesses key social movement approaches.