NS - Chapter 18 – Politics and Social Movements.docx
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Chapter 18 – Politics and Social Movements
Democracy involves a two-way process of control between the state (the set of institutions
that formulate and carry out a country’s law, policies and binding regulations) and civil
society (the private sphere, consisting of social movements, political parties, etc.)
The level of democracy in a society depends on the capacity of civil society to influence the
state through citizen support of social movements, political parties and other groups. That
capacity increases as power becomes more widely distributed in society.
Although pluralists correctly note that democratic politics is about negotiation and
compromise, they fail to appreciate how advantaged groups tend to have more political
influence than others.
Although elite theorists are correct to note that power is concentrated in the hands of
advantaged groups, they fail to appreciate how variations in the distribution of power
influence political behavior and public policy.
While power-balance theorists focus on the effect of changes in the distribution of power in
society, they fail to appreciate what state-centered theorists emphasize – that state
institutions and laws also affect political behavior and public policy.
The degree to which power is widely distributed influences the success of particular kinds
of parties and policies. Widely distributed power in associated with the success of labor
parties and policies that redistribute wealth.
Research does not support the view that social movements emerge when relative
Research suggests that people are more inclined to revel against the status quo when they
are bound by close social ties to many other people who feel similarly wronged and when
they have the money and other resources needed to protest.
For social movements to grow, members must engage in frame alignment, making the
activities, goals and ideology of the movement congruent with the interests, beliefs, and
values of potential new recruits.
The history of democracy is a struggle for the acquisition of constantly broadening
citizenship rights – first the right to free speech, freedom of religion and justice before the
law, then the right to vote and run for office, then the right to a certain level of economic
security and full participation in the life of society and finally the right of marginal groups
to full citizenship and the right of humanity as a whole to peace and security.
IN the developing world, social movements have focused less on broadening the bases of
democracy than on ensuring more elemental human rights, notably freedom from colonial