Social Movements and Voluntary Associations
Governments are not the only source of social order- smaller groups can form called ‘voluntary associations’.
When voluntary associates aim to produce change, we call them social movements.
Together, they help to shape the society we live in today.
Interdependence: The Real State of Nature
Fundamental features of social life = interdependence.
Promotes tolerance and civility.
We are embedded in large social networks, and many of these networks are interconnected. As a result, we
live in a “small world”. — Six degrees of separation, with “sociometric stars”.
We can choose who we associate with, but not the people who we associate with associate with. We only have
limited control of our social network.
Classic Studies: Improvised News: A Sociological Study of Rumour
Rumours can be used to carry out ‘small world business’ – how people express political views, construct
images of reality, and show their social solidarity.
Tamotsu (Tom) Shibutani called rumours “improvised news”. Shibutani (1966) showed in his book that rumours
travel through existing networks and provide a basis for sociability among people. He challenged the notion
that rumours are always inaccurate and distorted.
Shibutani’s sees rumours as a social information to clarify issues of common concern through repeated
interaction and discussion. Rumour formation is pooling of resources to problem solve.
Rumours typically emerge when unusual, unexpected events occur and normal communication breaks down.
There are five roles to perform in a collective transaction:
Rumour spreads through a series of interpersonal communications, until they eventually reach the outskirts of
the communication network. They are a powerful method of communication with the potential to strengthen
and increase solidarity of networks.
Voluntary Associations and Sociability – more complex than networks
Voluntary associations —aimed at solving a particular problem — are rooted in sociability.
The Benefits of Voluntary Associations Voluntary associations bring together a diverse group of people for a common cause and increase knowledge
and social tolerance.
-can have an unpredictable effect on social tolerence (members of certain teams are more
tolerant than others)
Voluntary associations more connected with one another help to promote trust (arises within associations) and
People Control One Another Informally
Informal social control — controls people through guilt, shame etc.. is inexpensive and almost impossible to
see. It punishes the rule-breaker, silently rewards the conformist with esteem, trust, and cooperation.
“Social control” identifies society as the source of control in our lives.
Social control addresses two key questions: 1. Why/how is social order achieved? 2. Why does social
inequality exist (and persist)?
To protect ourselves from deviant activities we use two processes of control: rewarding wanted behaviour and
witholding rewards for unwanted behaviour.
Classic Studies: The Civilizing Process
Formal and informal control work together to bring social change- people need the power of the state to back
up their efforts to control one another.
Norbert Elias shows that polite manners and state government develop together – make up ‘civilizing process’:
link changes in politics to changes in interpersonal relationships. Good manners began with the aristocracy
and spread to the bourgeoisie. The middle class always wants to emulate the upper class.
WAYS OF LOOKING AT SOCIAL MOVEMENTS AND VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATIONS
Sociologists have different approaches for social movements and voluntary associations: breakdown
approach, resource mobilization approach, cultural approach, and political process approach.
Breakdown approach (functionalist [social order] – builds on Durkheim)
These theorists argue that social movements form when rapid and widespread changes in society weaken
social bonds. Social movements, therefore, signify social disintegration ans social disorganization.
Relative deprivation theory is a related functionalist approach that argues that individuals form protests when
they think they don’t have enough. (Occurs when living conditions are increased and then return back to poor)
But three kinds of critique was levelled at relative deprivation theory and functionalism:
1. The most disadvantaged members of society are not the only ones who fight for social change- upper
class more likely to lead revolutions
2. Not all societies that experience deprivation fight for change through revolution.
3. The relative deprivation theory is an ideology to criticize protestors.
Systemic theory is another functionalist theory. It focuses not on individuals but on society. It argues that
although many individuals feel frustrated, their frustration is only effective when they mobilize as a group. Resource Mobilization Approach (critical theory)
Resource mobilization theorists argue that frustration will always exist because goods are unevenly distributed.
Determine that resource availability (money, contacts) determines the formation and actions of social
movement, not goals and motivations.
To succeed, protestors much have at least one of the following:
-economic power: control over p