modern social movements anna wierzchowska, phd. attempts in defining social movements social...
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- Modern Social Movements Anna Wierzchowska, PhD
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- Attempts in defining social movements Social movements (sm) are any broad social alliances of people who are connected through their shared interests in blocking or affecting social change. Social movements do not have to be formally organized. Multiple alliances may work separately for common causes and still be considered as a social movement.
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- Sm are conscious, concerted and sustained efforts by ordinary people to change some aspects of their society by using extra-institutional means. They are more conscious and organized than fads and fashions. They last longer than a single protest or riot. There is more to them than formal organizations, although such organizations usually play a part. They are composed mainly of ordinary people as opposed to army officers, politicians or economic elites. They need not be explicitly political, but many are.
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- Social movements are one of the principal social forms through which colectivities give voice to their grievance, concerns about rights, welfare, well-being of themselves and others by engaging in various types of collective action, such as protesting in the streets, riots. Sm have long functioned as an important vehicle for articulating and pressing a collectivitys interests and claims.
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- Sm is a collective, organized, sustained and noninstitutional challenge to authorities, powerholders, or cultural beliefs and practices.
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- A comment by Jo Foweraker to Latin American social movement theory: () not everything that moves is a social movement. It looked like any folk dancer or basket weaver could qualify. What we need in defining are some criteria for differentiating forms of social action like basket weaving that are routinized by custom and which lack political purpose, from modes of collective action as modern social movements which have socio- political content.
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- There are two dimensions to the definition of sm that exclude some expressions of socio-political behaviors: 1. Sm must have the capacity to mobilize its membership 2. Mobiliztaion must be sustained over a period of time
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- Interest groups and sm Interest groups (ig) also comprise set of collective actors and they are quite similar to sm. Yet there are also differences. 1. Ig are defined in relation to the government or polity whereas interests of sm extend well beyond the polity to other institutional spheres. 2. Ig are generally embedded within the political arena as most are regarded as legitimate actors within it. Sm are on the other hand typically outside of the polity.
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- 3. Ig pursue their collective objectives mainly through institutionalized means whereas sm pursue their ends mainly via the use of noninstitutional means (condacting marches, boycotts, sit-ins).
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- How sm and ig or other collective activities overlap? 1. Each of them can arise spontaneusly or can result from prior planning, negotiations or oragnization (even crowd when is sponsored and organized by sm). 2. Sm and ig can form an alliance to press their joint interests together. 3. As some sm develop over time, they often become more and more institutionalized, with some of the evolving into ineterest groups or even parties
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- Definitional attributes Constitutive attributes: Interactions Change Other features: Organization Spontaneity Goals/shared interests Self-identity Otherness
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- Change All definitions of social movement reflect the notion that social movements are integrally related to social change. They do not encompass the activities of people as members of stable social groups with established, unquestioned structures, norms, and values. The behavior of members of social movements does not reflect the assumption that the social order will continue essentially as it is. Especially modern sm assume the possibility of steering history into specific directions. What the direction is does not matter in this instance; what matters is the direction itself.
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- It reflects, instead, the faith that people collectively can bring about or prevent social change if they will dedicate themselves to the pursuit of a goal. Uncommitted observers may regard these goals as illusions, but to the members they are hopes that are quite capable of realization. Asked about his activities, the member of a social movement would not reply, I do this because it has always been done or Its just the custom. He is aware that his behavior is influenced by the goal of the movement: to bring about a change in the way things have always been done or sometimes to prevent such a change from coming abort.
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- Interactions We know different kinds of possible collective behaviors, like crowd for instance. But collective behavior in crowds, panics, and elementary forms (milling, etc.) are of brief duration or episodic and are guided largely by impulse. They dont constitute a social movement as they dont create internal bonds among its participants. This is necessary for sustaining sm.
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- A movement is not merely a perpetuated crowd, since a crowd does not possess organizational and motivational mechanisms capable of sustaining membership through periods of inaction and waiting. Furthermore, crowd mechanisms cannot be used to achieve communication and coordination of activity over a wide area, such as a nation or continent. But when short-lived impulses give way to long-term aims, and when sustained association takes the place of situational groupings of people, the result is a social movement.
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- Other features Spontaneity? Goals/shared interests? Self-identity? Otherness? How do you understand these features and how do you perceive their significance to understand sm? Which statements and characteristics of sm are being mentioned mostly?
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- Areas of sm operating We can identify (according to Giddens) four areas in which social movements operate in modern societies: democratic movements that work for political rights labor movements that work for control of the workplace ecological movements that are concerned with the environment peace movements that work toward, well, peace
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- Types of social movements We can describe (according to Aberle) four types of social movements based upon two characteristics: (1) who is the movement attempting to change and (2) how much change is being advocated. Social movements can be aimed at change on an individual level (e.g., AA) or change on a broader, group or even societal level (e.g., anti-globalization). Social movements can also advocate for minor or radical changes.
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- Stages in social movements There are different stages social movements often pass through. Movements emerge for a variety of reasons, coalesce, and generally bureaucratize. At that point, they can take a number of paths, including: finding some form of movement success, failure, co- optation of leaders, repression by larger groups (e.g., government), or even the establishment of the movement within the mainstream.
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- Theoretical perspectives on social movements Serious theories of social movements are based on general approaches to the principles of society's development.
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- Chosen perspectives: Collective behavior Mass society approach Deprivation Theory Resorce mobilization Political process New social movements
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- Three assumptions These are not homogeneous currents A lot of concepts and insights have been borrowed from several theoretical persepctives There have been a lot of transformations which have taken place over time in the course of the intelectual development of individual scholars
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- There are two significant problems with this theory. First, since most people feel deprived at one level or another almost all the time, the theory has a hard time explaining why the groups that form social movements do when other people are also deprived. Second, the reasoning behind this theory is circular - often the only evidence for deprivation is the social movement. If deprivation is claimed to be the cause but the only evidence for such is the movement, the reasoning is circular.
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- Collective Behaviour Theory (Structural-Strain Theory) The supporters of this approach consider social movements as semi-rational responses to abnormal conditions of structural strain between the maior societal institutions; that strain causes malfunctioning of the whole social system.
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- Theory proposes six factors that encourage social movement development (N. Smelser): structural conduciveness - people come to believe their society has problems structural strain - people experience deprivation growth and spread of a solution - a solution to the problems people are experiencing is proposed and spreads
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- precipitating factors - discontent usually requires a catalyst (often a specific event) to turn it into a social movement lack of social control - the entity that is to be changed must be at least somewhat open to the
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