Monday, April 5, 2010

Module Two - Social Movements

Classical Collective Behaviour Theory:
  1. Collective behaviour is a unitary concept which is manifested in many ways. However, it can be understood by applying a single explanatory logic.
  2. Collective behaviour is seen as essentially non-institutional. It is very different from the patterns and rhythms of normal everyday life.
  3. Collective behaviour can be understood as a reaction to societal stress. Societal breakdown creates a state of anomie or normlessness - this triggers various other forms of collective behaviour.
  4. The discontentment and anxiety of individuals gets translated into a collective action.
  5. Collective behaviour is essentially psychological and not political in nature.
  6. Sometimes, collective behaviour can be dangerous, threatening, extreme or irrational.
All these assumptions were challenged by critics. Most critics do not agree that collective behaviour is a unitary concept.
There are several theorists who view collective behaviour through distinct conceptual frame-works.
  • Symbolic Interactionism: It emphasizes the active and creative role of individuals in symbolically defining the world and selecting courses of action within that world. It gives importance to fluid and dynamic social processes and not the fixed and static social structures.
According to Herbert Blumer,
  1. People act towards things on the basis of the meanings the things have for them.
  2. These meanings arise out of social interactions.
  3. Meanings are created, sustained and transformed through an ongoing interpretive process.
Collective Behaviour refers to forms of group activity that are not regulated by social rules or common understandings but are spontaneous, unregulated and unstructured. Movements begin as amorphous, poorly organized, and formless although they may develop into virtual mini-societies with many of the features of complex organizations.
General social movements -> Vague, Indefinite, Unorganized manifestations of broad cultural trends.
Specific social movements -> Well-defined goals, Explicit organization, Designated Social leaders, A Division of Labour, a very distinct we-feeling. They develop through distinct mechanisms:
Agitation provides arousal + direction by translating inequality and powerlessness into action. Morale provides persistence and determination to a movement through a set of convictions and a faith in the rightness of the cause. Group ideology specifies the purpose of the movement and provides justifications for the movement's beliefs and myths.
A Specific Social Movement goes through the following stages -> Social Unrest, Popular Excitement, Formalization and Institutionalization.
Blumer also describes Revolutionary, Reform and Expressive Movements based on the degree and locus of changes they seek in society.

According to Turner and Killian,
  1. Collective behaviour is the spontaneous development of norms and organization that contradict those of the larger society.
  2. It is sparked by changes in the social organization, and especially by processes of social disintegration that provoke diverse individual reactions to critical unstructured situations.
  3. These diverse responses eventually give rise to new, emergent norms that develop through collective behaviour BUT this can happen only if there is some shared image of a better future and some we-feeling in the group.
  4. They believe that crowds do not just react to stimuli: they develop and interpret symbols to orient their action. It is an interactive and 'rational' process of communication that confers meanings on the environment and the crowd itself.
This theory emphasizes on communication and rationality. They also feel that movements follow a certain life-cyle and can become institutionalized if they have an ongoing function to perform and when they continue to benefit the members.
They classify movements as Value-Oriented Movements, Power-Oriented Movements and Participation-Oriented Movements. Value-oriented movements make promises of social betterment, and have a clear hierarchy of goals and there is some resonance with socially accepted values. Power-oriented movements are exemplified by control movements and their main goal is to dominate a larger group. They are often authoritarian in nature and are based on a belief that the end justifies the means. They may also take the form of separatist movements. The main purpose of Participation-Oriented Movements is member satisfaction and not external goals. Such movements may prepare people for the coming changes, provide status to their members, or foster personal goals.

  • Structural-Functionalism: Looks at society as a social system made up of different parts. Each of these parts must function independently and in relation to other parts to ensure the smooth functioning of society.
According to Smelser,
  1. Social movements was one type of collective behaviour alongside others such as panics, crazes and fads. All these types were considered spontaneous, short-lived, disorganized, and deviant behaviour.
  2. Participants in social movements subscribed to fundamentally irrational beliefs that short-circuited appropriate channels of social action.
According to Smelser, all collective behaviour emerged through an identical, value-added process of individually necessary and collectively sufficient steps.

Step 1: Structural Conduciveness which refers to a set of structural conditions that permits or encourages - but does not determine - some forms of collective behaviour.
Step 2: Structural Strain refers to ambiguities, conflicts, deprivations and discrepancies.
The existence of Strain with Conduciveness increases the likelihood of collective behaviour.
Step 3: Generalized beliefs that supply meanings, motivation and orientation to potential actors in collective behaviour.
Step 4: Precipitating Factors could refer to specific events or actions that provide direct catalysts for collective behaviour. These factors serve to condense the prior elements of conduciveness, strain and generalized beliefs into a potent manifestation of the problem that provokes collective behaviour.
Step 5: Actual Mobilization of participants for collective behaviour.
Step 6: Operation of Social Control which must be at least temporarily absent or disabled if the collective behaviour is to manifest itself fully.
An episode of collective behaviour may be read as signifying the relative absence of various social controls that might have precluded such an episode in a more smoothly functioning social system.
Collective behaviour emerges only when all 6 of these elements occur in conjunction with one another.
There are 5 forms of collective behaviour: panics, crazes, hostile outbursts, value-oriented movements and norm-oriented movements.

  • Relative Deprivation Theory which sees relative deprivation as the motivating force behind participation in collective behaviour.
Reference Groups are external groups to whom people refer in order to judge their own position. When people judge themselves as lacking resources enjoyed by their reference group, relative deprivation may be said to be present.
Absolutely deprived people or groups have the greatest incentive to engage in collective behaviour to change their situation.
According to the degradation thesis, people will revolt as their condition worsens.
According to the improvement thesis, people are more likely to revolt as they see their situations improving.
Davies - J-Curve Theory: When a prolonged period of social and economic development is followed by a sudden and sharp reversal, rebellion is most likely to occur. This is because people's expectations are shaped by the relatively long period of gradual improvement and they expect more improvement in the future. When this does not happen and people are not actually getting what they expect to receive, they are motivated to participate in collective behavior to alter their situation.

According to Geschwender,
  1. There is an image of a state of affairs that a person believes is possible to attain.
  2. There is a belief that he is entitled to that state of affairs.
  3. There is the knowledge that he is not currently enjoying those state of affairs.
Resource Mobilization Paradigm

  • Emerged in the 970s.
  • According to this perspective, social movements are an extension of politics by other means and can be analyzed in terms of conflict of interest just like other forms of political struggle.
  • Movements are seen as structured and patterned. Thus they can be analyzed in terms of organizational dynamics.
  • It views social movements as rational, normal, institutionally rooted.
  • It takes a distinct position on questions of recruitment, motivation and participation. Individuals are viewed as weighing the relative costs and benefits of movement participation and opting for participation when the potential benefits outweigh the anticipated costs.
  • There are two camps of the resource mobilization theory:
  1. Entrepreneurial Version
    >> Originators and Major Practitioners: Carthy and Zald.
    It argued that grievances cannot be a critical factor in generating social movements. It is group access to and control over the various resources that is necessary for social movement activism. They believe that aggregation of resources is crucial to social movement activity. This resource aggregation requires some minimal form of movement organization without which protest will not occur. The role of outside groups is often crucial in determining the flow of recipies of supply and demand as that influences the flow of resources toward or away from a given social movement organization. Finally, the involvement of both individuals and organizations in protest is best explained in terms of the balance of costs and rewards.
    This model blends economic + organizational theory to understand collective action.
  2. Political Version
    >>Tilly: Two models of collective action: The polity model
    describes a bounded population that is divided internally between polity members and challengers. Polity members have routine, low-cost access to power-holders while challengers must engage in collective action to have any influence. The mobilization model identifies the key elements involved in collective action:
    1st Element: Group Interests conceptualized as the gains and losses for a group resulting from its interaction with other groups.
    2nd Element: Organization and the highest degree of organization is possible when people of similar status interact intensively with one another.
    3rd Element: Mobilization which is a function of both the resources under group control and the probability that they will be delivered in an episode of collective action.
    4th Element: Opportunity which can be sub-divided into 3 components - repression/facilitation, power, and opportunity/threat.
    >>McAdam: In his political process model, the essential elements of collective action begin with the structure of political opportunities. While this factor is not under the control of the activists, it largely shapes their potential for success. Political opportunities improve when the power difference between authorities and challengers is less - this improves the bargaining position of the challengers. Indigenous organization strength is the second factor that shapes collective action. This internal factor is in control of the activists and is a product of interaction between members, leaders, incentives and communication. The third element involved is cognitive liberation. This refers to a change in group consciousness whereby potential protesters see the social order as not only illegitimate but also subject to change.
    It is the interaction of these three factors that shapes the emergence of social movements.


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