SOC101 - Chapter 21.docx

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SOC 101
Christopher Mele

11/19/13 Chapter 21: Collective Behavior and Social Movements Collective behavior refers to actions at a group level that are considered to be outside the usual norms governing behavior. • EX. Social efforts for the Philippines • For example: The ‘normal’course of politics = voting, Writing a congressman Collective behavior politics = demonstrating, protesting • Collective behavior can be violent and nonviolent; progressive (for change) and conservative (against change); profound (humanitarian movements, animal rights) or mundane (fashion; rumors) Early Explanations: The Transformation of the Individual • Focus on protest and collective action as dysfunctional • Early explanations of collective behavior focused on a crowd’s ability to affect an individual’s behavior • ‘Mob mentality’: involves getting an individual to do things as part of a group that normally he or she would never do • 1852, Charles Mackay commented on how individuals may act differently when in a crowd. o Argued people had a “herd mentality” • 1895, Gustave LeBon built on Mackay’s observation, stressing how people in crowds feel anonymous and less accountable for what they do. • The individuals in the crowd forego their individual conscience and morality system and instead develop a collective mind that paves the way for contagion, a kind of mass hypnosis that releases the destructive instincts society has so carefully repressed • 1920, Robert Park added the ideas of social unrest to LeBon’s contagion analogy. • “Circular reaction”: describes how social unrest is transmitted from one individual in a crowd to another, back and forth, building into a “collective impulse that comes to dominate all the members of the crowd.” • EX. It is a building process – food fights don’t start in the flip of a switch (these are planned) • Focus is on fear of the mob & crowd, without addressing the underlying grievances of the crowd’s members • Synthesizing LeBon’s and Park’s ideas, Herbert Blumer developed the idea of the acting crowd – purposeful behavior • Blumer identified five stages that crowds go through (develop) before they become an acting crowd: o 1) Abackground condition of tension or unrest makes people apprehensive and vulnerable to rumors and suggestions.  EX. There is food at X location in the Philippines o 2) An exciting event occurs—one so startling that people are preoccupied with it.  EX. Apolice hit a protester – people know something is going on!! o 3) People engage in milling, standing or walking around, talking about the exciting event, and picking up cues from each other as to the “right” way of thinking and feeling about the exciting event.  How people/witnesses begin to interpret or make sense of the event  EX. Professor catches on fire, many different reactions from students o 4) Acommon object of attention emerges in which people become riveted on some aspect of the event. o 5) Asense of collective agreement or common impulse about what should be done emerges. • Stimulated by social contagion (a sense of excitement that is passed from one person to another), this common impulse fuels a collective action. • Acting crowds aren’t always negative or destructive; some involved spontaneous demonstrations directed against oppression, while others may be more frivolous, such as a food fight between students. o Irrational o Lack of focus on purpose The Contemporary View: The Rationality of the Crowd • Current explanations of collective behavior emphasize the rationality of the crowd, including the deliberative steps that crowds take to reach their goals and the emergent norms that guide and/or justify their actions. • People generally tend to behave in ways that minimize their costs and maximize their rewards. Leverage? • This principle is referred to as a minimax strategy, noting how people, whether by themselves or in groups, are more likely to carry out actions that they anticipate will have fewer costs and more rewards. o EX. Boycott only works in minimax strategy. Barilla products for homosexuals • Noting that human behavior is regulated by norms, sociologist Ralph Turner and Lewis Killian stress how people sometimes develop new norms to deal with unusual events. • These “emerging norms” produce new definitions of right and wrong to justify actions that could be considered wrong. o EX. People are actually acting rationally within the given situation or context. Stealing all bad clothes from GAP o People are considered rational or irrational depending on their actions within a given context. • Not everyone in a crowd shares the same point of view. • Rather, crowds include five kinds of participants: o 1) the ego-involved – those who feel a personal stake in the usual event o 2) the concerned – those who share a personal interest i
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