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SOC103 - Chapter 16 – Social Movements & Voluntary Associations
Voluntary association: group formed voluntarily. Unlike other voluntary associations, social movements usually have a political goal.
Interdependence: The Real State of Nature
Interdependence: contributes most to social integration, promotes tolerance & civility, especially if the state is committed to such
Markets: do not & cannot regulate themselves, vulnerable to distortion by insiders, monopolists & fraudsters. Markets can easily
create dangerous booms & busts (currently experiencing bust). Markets respond to our human need for interdependence & are self-
regulating in the sense they set prices without outside political interference.
Cyberspace: striking feature is its diversity, de-localizes social interactions
Milgram’s experiment (1967): asked randomly chosen people in Omaha & Wichita to do their best to get their package to their
Bostonian counterpart only through people they knew personally, on a first-name basis. We are all connected by (only) six degrees
Small world property: those with large & diverse networks played an especially important role in linking people & networks
Ron Burt: calls them brokers & entrepreneurs when they connect unconnected networks. Typically have an unusual amount of social
Classic Studies: Improvised News: A Sociological Study of Rumor
Rumours: in every social settings & every kind of news, medium to express political views, construct images of reality & show social
Shibutani, Improvised News: A Sociological Study of Rumor (1966): rumours travel through existing networks, basis for sociability.
Info sometimes distorted but carries important social truths. Collectively achieve clarity through repeated interaction & discussion.
Rumour formation is a problem-solving strategy that relies on pooling of resources. Rumours are improvised news: news imagined
& created under conditions of hardship & confusion. In collective transaction, there are five roles to perform: messenger,
interpreter, skeptic, protagonist & decision maker. Rumours collaboratively gain accuracy & provide more stability. People rarely
transmit them serially or randomly, indiscriminately to strangers & friends alike, as Allport & Postman suggested. Rumours spreads
within a network through series of interpersonal communications, until they eventually reach the outskirts of the communication
network. Gradually, through deliberations, an overall story gains consistency & clarity. By sharing with other members of the
network, the improvised news story becomes uniform.
Allport & Postman, The Psychology of Rumor (1947): lab experiment, simulated the children’s game broken telephone. Showed that
the movement of info from one person to another tends to distort the original message, the result, as heard by a large number of
people most distant from the source, is often deeply flawed – even downright wrong.
Voluntary Associations & Sociability
Voluntary associations: more organizationally complex than networks, address wide variety of concerns (i.e. alumni associations,
charitable groups, church groups, book clubs, etc). Though often aimed at solving a particular problem, are rooted ultimately in
sociability, which some have considered a natural & universal human impulse. Sociability as pure play may be the most basic human
Huizinga (1955 ): humanity as homo ludens (man the game player). Play is free, music, sports, culture as a form of play,
animals have play. However, there are still social norms of tact to obey: related to civility, oblige us to keep a little of ourselves back
even when we are being the most open & intimidate. To do otherwise would be to use a play event for some other purpose: for
attention, support, pity or encouragement. Play is not intended to be psychodrama. When people organize voluntarily, it is not
always goal oriented.
The benefits of voluntary associations
Cote & Erickson (2009): voluntary associations provide sociability, brings together diverse group for common cause, meet as equals
(sites of positive learning & schools for democracy). Have unpredictable effect on social tolerance (environmentalists more tolerant,
sport groups less so). Trust, familiarity & sociability important sources of tolerance. Trust is hard to develop between groups, doing
so requires us to share rules & interpretations about the world, which increases our predictability in one another’s eyes. Often, trust
arises within voluntary associations, as an unexpected benefit. Voluntary associations that are more connected with one another
help to promote generalized trust & social cohesion. We can think of society not so much as a network of individuals but as a
network of organizations
People control one another informally
Informal social control: control through guilt, shame, gossip, rumour & threatened rejection, extremely effective because of our
views of the generalized other (Mead). Fall within two processes: rewarding wanted behaviour & withholding rewards for unwanted
behaviour. Social control is an idea especially at home in sociology & anthropology, but not other social sciences (such as political
science or criminology). Social control, defined as control by society or social relations, is distinct from political, military, police, or
even legal control. Social control identifies society as the source of control in our lives which brings attention to civil society as a
place of importance in human lives, rather than the state (Hobbes 1968 ) or the economy (Marx)
Classic studies: The Civilizing Process
Elias, The Civilizing Process (1969 ): polite manners & state government develop together. Good manners began with
aristocracy, spread to bourgeoisie. Self-control in the form of good manners, polite excretion, & private sexuality, coincides with the
rise of a strong state, since it is through the rise of this state that a national, official culture develops. Regional variations are less
Ways of looking at social movements & voluntary associations
Social movements grow out of voluntary associations
Breakdown approach: builds on Durkheim, social movements form when rapid & widespread changes in society weaken the social
bonds. Social movements thus signify societal disintegration. Arising only when social equilibrium has been disturbed (social