SOC 1100 Chapter Notes - Chapter 21: Extreme Measures, Compulsory Education, New Social Movements

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10 Aug 2016
Week 10 – March 17th-19th, 2015
Chapter 21: Collective Action and Social Movements – page # 522-545:
People sometimes lynch, riot, and engage in other forms of non-routine group action to
correct perceived injustices. Such events are rare, short-lived, spontaneous, and often
violent. They subvert established institutions and practices. Nevertheless, most non-routine
collective action requires social organization, ad people who take part in collective action
often act in a calculated way
Collective action can result in the creation of one or more formal organizations or
bureaucracies to direct and further the aims of its members. The institutionalization of protest
signifies the establishment of a social movement
People are more inclined to rebel against existing conditions when strong social ties bind
them to many other people who feel similarity wronged; when they have the time, money, and
other resources needed to protect; and when political structures and processes give them
opportunities to express discontent
For social movements to grow, members must make the activities, goals, and ideology of the
movement consistent with the interests, beliefs, and values of potential recruits
The history of social movements is a struggle for the acquisition of constantly broadening
citizenship rights and opposition to those struggles
How to Spark a Riot:
The Study of Collective Action and Social Movements:
Collective action occurs when people act in unison to bring about or resist social, political,
and economic change
Social movements are collective attempts to change all or part of the political or social order
by means of rioting, petitioning, striking, demonstrating, and establishing pressure groups,
unions, and political parties
Much of the history of social movements is the history of attempts by underprivileged groups
to broaden their members’ citizenship rights and increase the scope of protest from the local
to the national to the global level
Non-Routine Collective Action:
The Vancouver Riot of 1907:
A. E. Fowler expressed his anti Chinese, Japanese, Hindus, and Sikhs beliefs
He believed in a “white Canada” and “white North America”
The Vancouver crowd liked what it heard and cheered for him
This all led to the riot exploding into violence
The members surged uncontrollably into Vancouver’s Chinatown, hurling insults, throwing
rocks through windows, and beating and occasionally stabbing any Chinese people who
couldn’t flee or hide
After Chinatown was destroyed, the crowd moved onto the Japanese quarter a flew blocks
away and did the same
The riot continued to about 3 hours
According to the papers, the riot resulted from local social conditions than from the incitement
of foreign hoodlums, the half-crazed Fowler foremost among them
o Good white Canadian citizens weren’t blamed, because they couldn’t be
responsible for such an outrage
Breakdown Theory: A Functionalist Approach to Collective Action:
Until about 1970, most sociologists believed that at least 1/3 conditions must be met for non-
routine collective action
1. A group of people leaders, led, or both must be socially marginal or poorly integrated
into society
2. Their norms must be strained or disrupted
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Week 10 – March 17th-19th, 2015
3. They must lose their capacity to act rationally by getting caught up in the supposedly
inherent madness of crowds
Breakdown theory suggests that social movements emerge when traditional norms and
patterns of social organization are disrupted
Strain refers to breakdowns in traditional norms that precede collective action
Absolute deprivation is a condition of extreme poverty
Relative deprivation is an intolerable gap between the social rewards people feel they
deserve and the social rewards they expect to achieve
Contagion is the process by which extreme passions supposedly spread rapidly through a
crowd like a contagious disease
Assessing Breakdown Theory:
Increasingly since 1970, sociologists have uncovered flaws in all three elements of
breakdown theory and proposed alternative frameworks for understanding collective action
Non-routine collective action is a two-sided phenomenon, and breakdown theory alerts us to
one side
Collective action is partly a reaction to the violation of norms that threaten to disorganize
traditional social life
Breakdown theory ignores the fact that collective action is also a response to the organization
of social life
According to breakdown theory, essentially, people engage in non-routine collective action
soon after social breakdown occurs
Social Marginality:
Leaders and early joiners tend to be well-integrated members of their communities, not
socially marginal outsiders
Non-routine action is socially structured by the predispositions that unite crowd members and
predate their collective action
Non-routine collective action is socially structured by ideas and norms that emerge in the
crowd itself, such as the idea to throw rocks
Non-routine collective action is structured by the degree to which different types of
participants adhere to emergent and preexisting norms
Preexisting social relationships among participants structure non-routine collective action
Non-routine collective action is socially organized in a number of ways, none of which is
highlighted by focusing on contagion
Research shows that in general, levels of deprivation, whether absolute or relative, are not
commonly associated with the frequency or intensity of outbursts of collective action
Although feelings of deprivation are undoubtedly common among people who engage in
collective action, they are also common among people who don’t engage in collective action
Deprivation may therefore be viewed as necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for
collective action
Summing Up:
Breakdown theory attributes non-routine collective action to the discontent of socially
marginal people, the violation of core norms (“strain”), and the inherent rationality of crowds.
However, research shows that none of these factors is correlated with non-routine collective
Social Movements:
Social movements emerge from collective action only when the discontented succeed in
building up a more or less stable membership and organizational base
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