social movement

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social movement

any broad social alliance of people who are associated in seeking to effect or to block an aspect of SOCIAL CHANGE within a society. Unlike POLITICAL PARTIES or some more highly organized interest or PRESSURE GROUPS, such movements may be only informally organized, although they may have links with political parties and more institutionalized groups, and in time they may lead to the formation of political parties.

Four distinct areas in which social movements operate in modern societies have been identified by GIDDENS (1985):

  1. democratic movements, concerned with establishing or maintaining political rights;
  2. labour movements, concerned with defensive control of the workplace and with contesting and transforming the more general distribution of economic power;
  3. ecological movements, concerned to limit the environmental and social damage resulting from transformation of the natural world by social action;
  4. peace movements, concerned with challenging the pervasive influence of military power and aggressive forms of nationalism.

Other social movements of importance in recent decades include women's movements and consumer movements. Although in part these types of social movement may act in complementary ways in modern societies, they may also be in conflict, e.g. a demand for work in conflict with ecological considerations. Such movements have also tended to generate contrary social movements concerned to oppose them, including conservative nationalist movements and movements aimed at blocking or reversing moral reforms.

Research on social movements, like research on political parties and interest groups generally, has focused on the social and psychological characteristics of those attracted to participate, the relations between leaders and led, and the social and political outcomes of such activity. One thing is clear: social movements are a fluid element within political and social systems, from which more formal political organizations arise and which may bring radical change. See also URBAN SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOUR, ANOMIE, REVOLUTION, FASCISM, PEACE MOVEMENT.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Often in the face of powerful opposition and government repression, popular social movements of workers, feminists, civil libertarians and many others have done much to shape the twentieth century, extending American rights and freedoms into realms inconceivable in 1900.
Most importantly, it brought to a head the question of where we are headed toward in the next century through the areas of concern the debate elided or failed to consider seriously, such as the impact of popular social movements on the theater, organized around broader political coalitions.
With the guidance of Loris Malaguzzi, the movement's leader and advocate, they aligned their quest for high quality, free, public education with other popular social movements of the post-war era, until they eventually saw the establishment of the fine municipal schools that are in operation today.
The Lula regime, which came to office with the powerful backing of the trade unions, the MST, public sector unions and popular social movements, has become the leader of the resurgent, elite-led agro-export movement.