Social Movements • Social movements are defined as loosely organized collections of people and groups who act over time, outside established institutions, to promote or resist social change.
How Social Movements Differ from Interest Groups and Parties • Parties seek to elect their own members to office. Social movements do not have this as a primary goal. • Interest groups issues are narrowly defined—social movement issues are broadbased and affect society as a whole. • Social movements work outside of the system, and often use disruptive tactics.
Important Aspects of Social Movements • Movements are generally the instruments of political outsiders • Movements are generally mass grassroots phenomena • Movements often use unconventional and disruptive tactics • Movements are populated by individuals with a shared sense of grievance
Major Social Movements in the U.S. • Abolitionists Movement • Populists Movement • Women’s Suffrage • Civil Rights Movement • Anti-Vietnam War Movement • Women’s Rights Movement
Do Social Movements Lead to a More Perfect Democracy? • They may increase the level of involvement and interest in politics. • They broaden the scope of conflict by making their claims using confrontational tactics. • They help overcome political inequality with mass mobilization. • Sometimes social movements create new majorities—especially when social/political/economic events begin to impact larger numbers of people.
Optimal Conditions for the Development of Social Movements • Social distress (economic, social, technological change) • Available resources for mobilization-you need leadership, organization, and some funds • The right environment-the “mood” of the nation has to be compatible with the movement’s demands • Efficacy of participants-movement leaders and followers must believe in their own power to change things • A catalyst—Stonewall; Rosa Parks; an idea in a book!
Tactics of Social Movements • Sit-down strike- a labor action in which workers stop production but do not leave the job • Civil disobedience-breaking the law and accepting the consequences, can be, but may not necessarily be, a part of non-violent resistance • Economic sanctions-used in Memphis during the Sanitation Workers’ Strike-Black Memphians refused to buy any products from major department stores
How to Lead a Successful Social Movement • Your movement must approximate American values • You must win public attention and support (called “framing” in social movement literature) • You must be able to have an impact on political leaders
Why Some Social Movements Fail or Falter • Not enough followers • Inspires a powerful countermovement-(think of Phyllis Shafly who mobilized women against the ERA) • Repression-the state steps in to arrest and otherwise neutralize movement followers • Gay Rights Movement-not a failure, but faltering due to an inability to control the FRAME
Successful Social Movements Must Not Challenge the Status Quo • A successful movement garners empathy and avoids backlash • A successful movement uses core American values to its advantage in making claims • A successful movement cannot advocate for radical change or a shift in power relations, for to do so risks the death of the movement