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Lecture 2

Week 2 - Readings

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Joseph Sawan

Week 2 – Lecture 3 and 4: Theories and Issues in Studying Movements Chapter 2: Theories of Social Movements and Collective Action Collective Behaviour Theory - Collective Behaviour Theory: often referred to as the classical model of social movements, have also been labelled strain or breakdown theories because they typically posit that collective behaviour comes about during a period of social disruption, when grievances are deeply felt, rather than being a standard part of the political process - Several assumptions of collective behaviour theories o See collective behaviour as existing outside of institutionalized structures, although some theorists note the linkages between institutional and non- institutional actions o Theorists argue that social movements and other forms of collective behaviour arise as a result of some types of structural or cultural breakdown or strain such as a natural disaster, rapid social change, or a dramatic event o An important role is assigned to the shared beliefs of participants in analyzing the emergence of social movements and other forms of collective behaviour The Chicago School Approach to Collective Behaviour - Symbolic interactionism: a social psychological theory that focuses on how actors construct meanings through social interaction - Collective behaviour develops in situations where established systems of meaning and sources of information have broken down, forcing participants to construct new meanings to guide their behaviour - Concerned with how participants in social movements manage to act collectively, creating goals, new organizational structures and new culture - Focus on the emergence of social movements and the creation of new forms of activity and organization - Collective behaviour is a means of bringing about social change and emergent forms of social order develop through the interaction off individuals in social movements Smelser’s Theory of Collective Behaviour - Model consisting of 6 determinants – value added model in that each condition adds value to the explanation and the conditions operate within the context of one another and together explain collective behaviour o Structural conduciveness: permit or encourage certain types of collective behaviour o Structural strain: create real or anticipated deprivation o Growth and spread of a generalized belief: makes the situation meaningful to potential participants in collective behaviour – the generalized belief identifies the source and nature of the strain and suggests possible responses o Precipitating factors: dramatic events, give the generalized belief a concrete target for collective action o Mobilization for action: must occur o Social control: may act to prevent the collective behaviour (ex. police, courts, press, community leaders) - Criticisms: o Relies too heavily on structural strains to explain social movements o No clear criteria exist for identifying strain in a society o Assumes societies are normally stable and that strains and social movements are unusual Mass Society Theory - Views collective behaviour as an extreme response to social isolation - The notion that social stability is maintained by the existence of common values that are transmitted and sustained through various social institutions - Believed that people participate in social movements because they feel alienated, fanatical and are irrational and social movements are a means of finding an identity and a sense of belonging in a rapidly changing society – but this is proved to be wrong - Mass society theorists view organizations as playing a conservative role in keeping individuals from participating in collective action, they fail to appreciate the role of pre- existing organizations in mobilizing participants for social movements Relative Deprivation Theory - Based on the observation that people often rebel when things are improving and that it is not the most deprived groups that engage in collective action, but those who seem to be improving their positions or who are among the best off within an aggrieved group - When conditions improve, expectations rise, but when the rate of improvement does not match expectations people feel deprived - Criticisms: o Studies typically infer psychological states of relative deprivation from objective indicators such as unemployment rates o Just because feelings of relative deprivation are present does not mean they will generate collective action o Feelings of deprivation may start through participation of a movement and not be a pre—condition to a movement Resource Mobilization and Political Process Theories Resource Mobilization Theory - Mobilization of social movements requires resou
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