Chapter 21: Collective Action and Social Movements
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
- 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.
Breakdown Theory: A Functionalist Approach to Collective Action
- breakdown theory
- Suggests that social movements emerge when traditional norms and patterns of social organization are disrupted.
- Refers to breakdowns in traditional norms that precede collective action.
- absolute deprivation
- A condition of extreme poverty.
- relative deprivation
- An intolerable gap between the social rewards people feel they deserve and the social rewards they expect to receive.
- The process by which extreme passions supposedly spread rapidly through a crowd like a contagious disease.
Solidarity Theory: A Conflict Approach
- solidarity theory
- Suggests that social movements are social organizations that emerge when potential members can mobilize resources, take advantage of new political
opportunities, and avoid high levels of social control by authorities.
- resource mobilization
- Refers to the process by which social movements crystallize because of the increasing organizational, material, and other resources of movements
- political opportunities
- For collective action and social movement growth occur during election campaigns, when influential allies offer insurgents support, when ruling political
alignments become unstable, and when elite groups become divided and conflict with one another.
- social control
- Refers to methods of ensuring conformity, for example, the means by which authorities seek to contain collective action through co-optation,
concessions, and coercion.
- research shows that in Canada between the mid-1940s and the mid-1970s, strike activity was high when (1) unemployment was low, (2) union membership was
high, and (3) governments were generous in their provision of social welfare benefits
- low employment indicates a strong economy
- workers are inclined to strike when business activity is robust because they know employers and governments can afford to make concessions
- thus, as resource mobilization principles suggest, strong social ties among workers and access to jobs and money increase challenges to authority
- union density
- The number of union members in a given location as a percentage of non-agricultural workers. It measures the organizational power of unions.
− three features of the use of social control on social movements:
1. if authorities show indecision or weakness, movement partisans often become bolder
2. violence, especially the most extreme forms of violence, is most often initiated by authorities, not movement partisans
3. violent repression can still discontent, at least for a time
FRAMING DISCONTENT: A SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONIST APPROACH
− frame alignment
− The process by which individual interests, beliefs, and values become congruent and complementary with the activities, goals, and ideology of a social
Examples of Frame Alignment
− social movement leaders can reach out to other organizations that, they believe, contain people who may be sympathetic to their movement's cause
− movement activists can stress popular values that have so far not featured prominently in the thinking of potential recruits