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Major historical forces that direct and influence sociological theory

List the major types of social movements. Provide evidence against the assumption that discontent always leads to social movement activity. Describe the stages of the life cycle of social movements. Discuss examples of how social movements have made a positive difference. Social movements in the United States and other nations have been great forces for social change.

To understand how and why social change happens, we have to understand why movements begin, how they succeed and fail, and what impact they may have. Understanding Social Movements To begin this understanding, we first need to understand what social movements are. To reiterate a definition already presented, a social movement may be defined as an organized effort by a large number of people to bring about or impede social, political, economic, or cultural change.

Defined in this way, social movements might sound similar to special-interest groups, and they do have some things in common. But a major difference between social movements and special-interest groups lies in the nature of their actions. Special-interest groups normally work within the system via conventional political activities such as lobbying and election campaigning.

In contrast, social movements often work outside the system by engaging in various kinds of protest, including demonstrations, picket lines, sit-ins, and sometimes outright violence. Social movements are organized efforts by large numbers of people to bring about or impede social change. Often they try to do so by engaging in various kinds of protest, such as the march depicted here.

Types of Social Movements Sociologists identify several types of social movements according to the nature and extent of the change they seek.

It does not try to overthrow the existing government but rather works to improve conditions within the existing regime. Some of the major historical forces that direct and influence sociological theory important social movements in U.

A revolutionary movement goes one large step further than a reform movement in seeking to overthrow the existing government and to bring about a new one and even a new way of life. Reform and revolutionary movements are often referred to as political movements because the changes they seek are political in nature. Another type of political movement is the reactionary movement, so named because it tries to block social change or to reverse social changes that have already been achieved.

The antiabortion movement is a contemporary example of a reactionary movement, as it arose after the U. Supreme Court legalized most abortions in Roe v.

Wade 1973 and seeks to limit or eliminate the legality of abortion. One type of social movement is the self-help movement. As its name implies, the goal of a self-help movement is to help people improve their personal lives. These tokens are used at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is an example of a group involved in a self-help movement. Two other types of movements are self-help movements and religious movements. As their name implies, self-help movements involve people trying to improve aspects of their personal lives; examples of self-help groups include Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers.

Religious movements aim to reinforce religious beliefs among their members and to convert other people to these beliefs. Sometimes self-help and religious movements are difficult to distinguish from each other because some self-help groups emphasize religious faith as a vehicle for achieving personal transformation.

The Origins of Social Movements To understand the origins of social movements, we need answers to two related questions. First, what are the social, cultural, and other factors that give rise to social movements? They do not arise in a vacuum, and people must become sufficiently unhappy for a social movement to arise.

Second, once social movements do begin, why are some individuals more likely than others to take part in them? Discontent With Existing Conditions and Relative Deprivation For social movements to arise, certain political, economic, or other problems must first exist that prompt people to be dissastisfied enough to begin and join a social movement.

These problems might include a faltering economy; a lack of political freedom; certain foreign policies carried out by a government; or discrimination based on gender, race and ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Without such structural strain, people would not have any reason to protest, and social movements would not arise.

Whatever the condition, the dissatisfaction it generates leads to shared discontent also called shared grievances among some or most of the population that then may give rise to a social movement. This discontent arises in part because people feel deprived relative to some other group or to some ideal state they have not reached. This feeling is called relative deprivation. The importance of relative major historical forces that direct and influence sociological theory for social protest was popularized by James C.

Davies 1962 and Ted Robert Gurr 1970both of whom built on the earlier work of social psychologists who had studied frustration and aggression. When a deprived group perceives that social conditions are improving, wrote Davies, they become hopeful that their lives are getting better.

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But if these conditions stop improving, they become frustrated and more apt to turn to protest, collective violence, and other social movement activity. Although discontent may be an essential condition for social movements as well as for riots and other collective behavior that are political in naturediscontent does not always lead to a social movement or other form of collective behavior. For example, it might be tempting to think that a prison riot occurred because conditions in the prison were awful, but some prisons with awful conditions do not experience riots.

Thus, although discontent may be an essential condition for social major historical forces that direct and influence sociological theory and other collective behavior to arise, discontent by itself does not guarantee that a social movement will begin and that discontented people will take part in the movement once it has begun.

Thus, there is a huge drop-off from the number of potential social movement participants sympathizersin terms of their discontent with an existing problem or concern about an issue, to the number of actual social movement participants activists. Social Networks and Recruitment This huge drop-off from sympathizers to activists underscores another fundamental point of social movement scholarship: Issues do not automatically drive people into the streets.

This process of recruitment is an essential fact of social movement life, as movements usually cannot succeed if sufficient numbers of people are not recruited into the movement.

Participants in social movement activities are often recruited into the movement by people they know from the many social networks to which they belong. An interesting development in the modern era is the rising use of electronic means to recruit people into social movement activities and to coordinate and publicize these activities.

Learning From Other Societies Electronic Media and Protest in Iran Less than a generation ago, the Internet did not exist; cell phones did not exist; and Facebook, Twitter, and other social media did not exist.

Social structure

When activists organized a rally or march, they would typically publicize it by posting flyers which were mass produced at some expense by using a mimeograph machine or photocopier on trees, telephone poles, and campus billboards, and they would stand on campuses and city streets handing out flyers. Sometimes phone trees were used: Activists would also contact the news media and hope that a small story about the planned rally or march would appear in a newspaper or on radio or TV.

Once the event occurred, activists would hope that the news media covered it fully. If the news media ignored it, then few people would learn of the march or rally. This description of protest organizing now sounds quaint. As the news story about high school protests in New Jersey that began this chapter illustrates, a single Facebook page can ignite a protest involving hundreds and even thousands of people, and other social media and smartphone apps enable us to announce any event, protest or otherwise, to countless numbers of potential participants.

1. Introduction

Although social movement scholars have begun to consider the impact of the electronic age on social movement activism and outcomes, the exact nature and extent of this impact will remain unclear until much more research is done.

If one needed proof of the potential of this impact, however, events in Iran not long ago provided this proof. In June 2009, thousands of protesters, most of them young people, took to the streets in Iran to protest a presidential election that was widely regarded as being rigged by and on behalf of the existing regime.

When the government tried to stop the protests and prevented newspapers from covering them, the protesters did what came naturally: The protesters also used their cell phones to transmit photos and videos of the protests and the police violence being used to stop the protests; many of the videos ended up on YouTube.

When the government tried to electronically block the tweeting and texting, the protesters and their allies outside Iran took electronic countermeasures to help thwart the blocking. Major historical forces that direct and influence sociological theory Time writer eloquently summarized what Twitter meant to the Iranian protesters: President Ahmadinejad—who happened to visit Russia on Tuesday—now finds himself in a court of world opinion where even Khrushchev never had to stand trial.

Totalitarian governments rule by brute force, and because they control the consensus worldview of those they rule. Tyranny, in other words, is a monologue. In short, the Iranian election protests in June 2009 revealed the power of Twitter and other electronic media to shape the dynamics and outcomes of protest.

The day when activists had to stand in the rain on city streets to hand out flyers has long passed. Instead, they can tweet and use other electronic media. Social movement scholars, activists, and governments learned an important lesson from the Iranian protests. This theory assumes that social movement activity is a rational response to unsatisfactory conditions in society.

Because these conditions always exist, so does discontent with them. Despite such constant discontent, people protest only rarely. If this is so, these conditions and associated discontent cannot easily explain why people turn to social movements. What is crucial instead are efforts by social movement leaders to mobilize the resources—most notably, time, money, and energy—of the population and to direct them into effective political action.

  1. In contemporary society the young are still being trained to be killers; video games have enabled the child in the 1990s to develop perceptual skills and eye-hand coordination in preparation for space wars as well as street warfare.
  2. But the day in which we live is one in which the movements are more rapid and the changes more radical than the world has ever before witnessed, and the obligation laid upon us of watching those movements and guiding those changes is correspondingly stringent. Weber's mother, Helene Weber, was a Protestant and a Calvinist, with strong moral absolutist ideas.
  3. Gender and interpersonal violence.
  4. The systems approach is pragmatic; if it works, it should be continued until it stops working, at which time something else should be done.

Resource mobilization theory has been very influential since its inception in the 1970s. However, critics say it underestimates the importance of harsh social conditions and discontent for the rise of social movement activity.

Conditions can and do worsen, and when they do so, they prompt people to engage in collective behavior. As just one example, cuts in higher education spending and steep increases in tuition prompted students to protest on campuses in California and several other states in late 2009 and early 2010 Rosenhall, 2010. This picture is simply not true, critics say, and they further argue that social movement actors can be both emotional and rational at the same time, just as people are in many other kinds of pursuits.

  1. This violence-supporting discourse is promoted by the fact that members of marginalized groups are unlikely to be exposed to mainstream society where success and opportunity are described in other terms.
  2. Much of this could be considered a materialist form of analysis. While a Marxist may consider religion as an ideological device that masks exploitation, for many people religion is a force in daily life and a set of experiences that has real meaning in many aspects of life.
  3. The ideas of independence take on a real meaning to the participants in the struggle for independence, acquiring enough meaning that some people are willing to sacrifice their lives.
  4. Stage 3 is institutionalization or bureaucratization.

Another influential perspective is political opportunity theory. When political opportunities of this kind exist, discontented people perceive a greater chance of success if they take political action, and so they decide to take such action. As Snow and Soule 2010, p.

The Life Cycle of Social Movements Although the many past and present social movements around the world differ from each other in many ways, they all generally go through a life cycle marked by several stages that have long been recognized Blumer, 1969. Stage 1 is emergence. This is the stage when social movements begin for one or more of the reasons indicated in the previous section.

Stage 2 is coalescence. At this stage a movement and its leaders must decide how they will recruit new members and they must determine the strategies they will use to achieve their goals. They also may use the news media to win favorable publicity and to convince the public of the justness of their cause.

Stage 3 is institutionalization or bureaucratization. As a movement grows, it often tends to become bureaucratized, as paid leaders and a paid staff replace the volunteers that began the movement. It also means that clear lines of authority develop, as they do in any bureaucracy. More attention is also devoted to fund-raising.

At the same time, if movements do not bureaucratize to at least some degree, they may lose their focus and not have enough money to keep on going.