millenarianism and millennial movement
millenarianism and millennial movementa type of religious, often also politico-religious, movement based on a belief in the imminence of a radical sociopolitical transformation by supernatural intervention – e.g., that the Messiah will return bringing a new millennium of one thousand years (hence the general term). In medieval and early modern Europe, millennial movements were movements mainly of the disadvantaged and the dispossessed (see Cohn, 1957). This pattern is repeated elsewhere, in for example the North American Indian Ghost Dancers or in the related phenomenon of CARGO CULTS. All such movements can be seen as pre-political responses to cultural disruption, which in time may give rise to non-millenarian forms of political movement. Equally however, many modern forms of political movement have been interpreted as involving elements of millenarianism in that they promise root-and-branch social and economic transformations for which there exists no immediate feasible means.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000