Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Social movement and its characteristics and types .

Social movement, loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of a social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society’s structure or values. Although social movements differ in size, they are all essentially collective. That is, they result from the more or less spontaneous coming together of people whose relationships are not defined by rules and procedures but who merely share a common outlook on society.
Collective behaviour in crowds, panics, and elementary forms (milling, etc.) are of brief duration or episodic and are guided largely by impulse. 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.

Characteristics of social movements

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. A movement is a mixture of organization and spontaneity. There is usually one or more organizations that give identity, leadership, and coordination to the movement, but the boundaries of the movement are never coterminous with the organizations. For example, although organizations such as California’s Sierra Club are influential in the movement to preserve the natural environment, anyone who works for the cause and interacts with other workers for this purpose is a member of the conservationist movement. The famous John Brown was not a member of any major abolitionist organization, but his martyrdom made him a leader and symbol for the movement, even though organizational leaders were reluctant to recognize him.

Social movements and social change

All definitions of social movement reflect the notion that social movements are intrinsically 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 behaviour of members of social movements does not reflect the assumption that the social order will continue essentially as it is. 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 “It’s just the custom.” He is aware that his behaviour 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 about.

Types of social movements

There is no single, standard typology of social movements. As various scholars focus on different aspects of movements, different schemes of classification emerge. Hence any social movement may be described in terms of several dimensions.
Many attempts at categorization direct attention to the objective of the movement. The social institution in or through which social change is to be brought about provides one basis for categorizing social movements as political, religious, economic, educational, and the like. It may be argued that all movements tend to be either political or religious in character, depending upon whether their strategy aims at changing political structures or the moral values of individuals.
A commonly used but highly subjective distinction is that between “reform” and “revolutionary” movements. Such a distinction implies that a reform movement advocates a change that will preserve the existing values but will provide improved means of implementing them. The revolutionary movement, on the other hand, is regarded as advocating replacement of existing values. Almost invariably, however, the members of a so-called revolutionary movement insist that it is they who cherish the true values of the society and that it is the opponents who define the movement as revolutionary and subversive of basic, traditional values.
Some attempts to characterize movements involve the direction and the rate of change advocated. Adjectives such as radical, reactionary, moderate, liberal, and conservative are often used for such purposes. In this context the designations “revolutionary” and “reform” are often employed in a somewhat different sense than that described above, with the implication that a revolutionary movement advocates rapid, precipitous change while a reform movement works for slow, evolutionary change.
Killian advances still another typology based on the direction of the change advocated or opposed. A reactionary movement advocates the restoration of a previous state of social affairs, while a progressive movement argues for a new social arrangement. A conservative movement opposes the changes proposed by other movements, or those seeming to develop through cultural drift, and advocates preservation of existing values and norms.
Turner and Killian argue that it is useful at times to categorize social movements on the basis of their public definition, the character of the opposition evoked, and the means of action available to the movement. This scheme is designed to eliminate the subjective evaluation of goals inherent in such categories as reform and revolutionary. A movement that does not appear to threaten the values or interests of any significant segment of society is publicly defined as respectable. If there is no competing movement advocating the same objective, it is also nonfactional. The respectable nonfactional movement must contend primarily with the problems of disinterest and token support, but it has access to legitimate means of promoting its values. A respectable factional movement must contend with competing movements advocating the same general objective but also has access to legitimate means of extending its influence. A movement that appears to threaten the values of powerful and significant interest groups within the society is publicly defined as revolutionary and encounters violent suppression. As a result, it is denied access to legitimate means of promoting its program. Another type of movement is defined as neither respectable nor dangerous but as peculiar; this type, seen as odd but harmless, encounters ridicule and has limited access to legitimate means.
Social movements may also be categorized on the basis of the general character of their strategy and tactics; for instance, whether they are legitimate or underground. The popular distinction between radical and moderate movements reflects this sort of categorization. An obvious difference between types of movements depends upon their reliance on violent or nonviolent tactics. But a nonviolent movement may also be defined as revolutionary or radical because it accepts civil disobedience, rather than legal or parliamentary maneuvering, as a major feature of its strategy. It should be added that the distinction between violent and nonviolent movements is a relative one because a movement may shift rapidly from one to the other as it develops.