Social movements and market transformations: Lessons from HIV/AIDS and climate change

Ethan B. Kapstein, Joshua William Busby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


When AIDS activists launched their campaign for developing world access to antiretroviral therapy in the late 1990s, this treatment cost on average $10,000 per patient per year. More than a decade later, drug prices for “first line” therapies hovered around $100 per patient per year, and nearly 13 million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving these life-extending medications. By contrast, climate activists during the same time period labored without much success in establishing mechanisms to put a price on carbon. We identify the global market structures most conducive for social movement-led market transformations. We argue that advocacy collective action is more likely to be successful when the global market structure involves (i) a small number of product markets, (ii) globally integrated product markets, (iii) a relatively concentrated industry with few producers or buyers, and (iv) a source of rents produced through social construction rather than natural or technological barriers to entry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-329
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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