Social Movements Essay, Research Paper
Nazis, National Organization for Women, National Association for the Advancement of Colored people and even the Ku Klux Klan, may not seem to have much in common; yet they all share a common goal or interest. All these organizations are a part of different social movement or large groups of people who are organized to resist or promote social change. Why do people join social groups? What exactly draws all kinds of different individuals into forming a unity or a common alliance based upon a single idea? How many different types of social movements are there? To answer these questions an in-depth look is required either via the symbolic interactionalist viewpoint or the functionalist so that we may better understand the whole rationality of social movements.
Let’s first look at why people join social movements. Social movements start, as a seed of deeply felt discontent from the idea that some faction in society is no longer tolerable. A renowned sociologist named William Kornhauser said that social movements fill a certain void by offering people a sense of belonging. In some cases it is merely a persons overwhelming urge or desire to right the wrongs in society, that drives them to “take matters into their own hands.” An example would be the homeless; these individuals are the most isolated of all people yet feel no desirable urge to even want to join anything except food lines. Another reason or explanation why people join social movements is due to the deprivation theory. The deprivation theory states that people who are deprived of things deemed valuable in society join social movements with the hope of redressing their grievances. There is also the flip side to this theory; relative deprivation states that whatever people think they should have relative to what others have may also drive them towards joining social movements. There are many different reasons why so many different individuals join social movements, but they all share one common factor; all that is really needed is for a person to have an idea and a desire for change.
We see now what makes people join social movements, let’s find out what types of social movements exist. Since all social movements main goal is to focus on some type of social change, either their target or the amount of change they seek can classify them all. One type of social movement is the alternative social movement, which seeks only to alter some particular behavior of people. One prominent example of this would be the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of the early 1900’s. Their main goal was to stop the consumption of alcohol. The members of this organization where convinced that if they got rid of alcohol then problems such as spouse abuse and poverty would go away. Redemptive social movements also target individuals, but here the aim is for total change. An example is a religious social movement that stresses con-version. In fundamentalist Christianity, for example, when someone converts to Christ, the entire person is supposed to change, not just some specific behavior. Self-centered acts are to be replaced by loving behaviors toward others, as the convert becomes, in their terms, a “new creation.” Another type is reformative which seeks to reform specific aspects of society. Transformative, transforms the social order itself with a new version. Individuals involved in social movements no longer strive to change the aspects in their own area it has now become a global effort.
What types of tactics do social movements use to get their “job done?” How do they select their tactics? The leaders of a social movement can choose from a variety of tactics. Should they peacefully boycott, march, or hold an all-night candle-lit vigil? Or should they bomb a building, blow up an airplane, or assassinate a key figure? Social movements have approximately three levels of membership, starting inward and moving outward. First level would be the inner core, which sets the group’s goals, time tables, strategies and inspires other members. The individuals right along the outside of the inner core would be the committed group, these people are the main ones that show up for the demonstrations, and do the majority of the grunt work. At the third level is a wider circle of people who are less committed and less dependable. Their participation is primarily a matter of convenience. If an activity does not interfere with something else they want to do, they participate. Lying outside the membership is the public, a dispersed group of people who usually have an interest in the issue. The idea of forming a social movement, the process of coming up with a tactic or plan of attack would lead an individual to believe that these organized groups would see nothing but loads of success. Which leads to the question of why do social movements fail? By their nature, such broad problems are entrenched in society and not easy to solve.
They require more than merely tinkering with some small part. Just as the problem touches many interrelated components of society, so the solutions require changes in those many parts. With no quick fix available, the social movement must stay around. But longevity brings its own danger of failure, for as noted, social movements tend to become bureaucratized, to turn inward and to focus their energies on running the organization.
The media plays a major role in controlling people’s ideas or decision-making. To do this they use many different propaganda techniques or “tricks of the trade.” My personal favorite technique would have to be the “bandwagon” approach. The idea that everybody is doing it so therefore it must be right. By showing you a diverse group of individuals all doing or enjoying the same thing it gives you the false hood that their product or service is the “people’s choice.” These companies play on the emotions of people by allowing them to see that they won’t be alone, everybody is doing it so why shouldn’t you, In a way it is a form of peer pressure. Numerous people may only jump on the “band wagon” because their friends or family are doing it and they don’t want to be the only ones left on the outside looking in.