Social Movements: Meaning, Causes, Types, Revolution and Role!
The Meaning of Social Movements:
In the society a large number of changes have been brought about by efforts exerted by people individually and collectively. Such efforts have been called social movements. A social movement may, therefore, be defined as “a collectively acting with some continuity to promote or resist a change in the society or group of which it is a part”.
According to Anderson and Parker, social movement is “a form of dynamic pluralistic behaviour which progressively develops structure through time and aims at partial or complete modification of the social order.” Lundberg and others define social movement as, “a voluntary association of people engaged in concerted efforts to change attitudes, behaviour and social relationships in a larger society.”
Thus, social movement is the effort by an association to bring about a change in the society. A social movement may also be directed to resist a change. Some movements are directed to modify certain aspects of the existing social order whereas others may aim to change it completely. The former are called reform movements and the latter are known as revolutionary movements.
Social movements may be of numerous kinds, such as religious movements, reform movements, or revolutionary movements.
Social movements may be distinguished from institutions:
Firstly, Social institutions are relatively permanent and stable elements of a culture, whereas social movements have an uncertain life. Marriage is a permanent social institution but the life of family planning movement is not certain. Secondly, institutions hold institutional status. They are regarded as necessary and valuable aspects of the culture. A social movement lacks institutional status. Some people are indifferent or even hostile to it.
Social movements may also be distinguished from association. Firstly, an association is an organized group, while some social movements may be totally unorganized. Secondly, an association carries the customary behaviour of the society, while the social movement is concerned with some change in behaviour norms.
The following features of the social movement may be marked out:
(i) It is an effort by a group;
(ii) Its aim is to bring or resist a change in society;
(iii) It may be organized or unorganized;
(iv) It may be peaceful or violent;
(v) Its life is not certain. It may continue for a long period or it may die out soon.
Causes of Social Movements:
Social movements do not just happen. It is social unrest which gives rise to a social movement.
The social unrest may be caused by the following factors:
(i) Cultural Drifts:
The society is undergoing constant changes. The values and behaviour are changing in all civilized societies. In the course of cultural drift most of the people develop new ideas. To get these ideas operative in society they organise a movement. The development of a democratic society, the emancipation of women, the spread of mass education, the removal of untouchability, equality of opportunity for both the sexes, growth of secularism are the examples of cultural drift.
(ii) Social Disorganization:
A changing society is to some extent disorganized because changes in different parts of society do not take place simultaneously. One part changes more rapidly than the other producing thereby numerous lags. Industrialization has brought urbanization which has in its turn caused numerous social problems.
Social disorganization brings confusion and uncertainty because the old traditions no longer form a dependable guide to behaviour. The individuals become rootless. They feel isolated from the society. A feeling develops that the community leaders are indifferent to their needs. The individuals feel insecure, confused and frustrated. Confusion and frustration produce social movements.
(iii) Social Injustice:
When a group of people feel that injustice has been done to it they become frustrated and alienated. Such feeling of injustice provides fertile soil for social movements. The feeling of social injustice is not limited to the miserable poor. Any group, at any status level may come to feel itself the victim of social injustice. A wealthy class may feel a sense of injustice when faced with urban property ceiling Act or high taxes intended to benefit the poor. Social injustice is a subjective value judgment. A social system is unjust when it is so perceived by its members.
Thus, social movements arise wherever social conditions are favorable. It may be noted that in a stable, well integrated society there are few social movements. In such a society there are very few social tensions or alienated groups.
The people are contented. But in a changing and continuously disorganised society the people suffer from tensions. They are not fully contented. In such a society they perceive social injustice and become dissatisfied. It is the dissatisfied who build social movements. The modern society is more afflicted by social movements.
The people who are more susceptible to social movements are those who are:
(i) Mobile and have little chance to become integrated into the life of the community,
(ii) Not fully accepted and integrated into the group and are termed marginal,
(iii) Isolated from the community,
(iv) Threatened by economic insecurity and loss of social status,
(v) Free from family responsibilities or are estranged from their families,
Thus, the people who are homeless and misfits of society become the supporters of mass movements. It may also be noted that some people join the social movements for reasons unrelated to the movement’s objectives. Some may join it first to fill their leisure Ume, or they may be personally attracted to some of its members.
Or, they may join to get an office in the movement with the desire to achieve prestige or exercise power rather than to further the goals of the movement. It may again be emphasized that unless there is deep and widespread social discontent, social movements will not originate and develop.
The sequence pattern of social movement may be summarised as follows. First, there is unrest and discontent in some part of the population. A small group of individuals becomes conscious of the need for a change, voices its feelings and opinions, and sets out to influence the opinions and emotions of others and prepare them for a reform.
Then, thereafter, there is a period of growth in following. A preliminary organization is effected and the programme is restated in more popular and appealing terms. Then follows a more systematic effort to gain supporters. There is a formal campaign. Backed by the enlarged following and increased propaganda the leaders eventually exert pressure on those in authority.
The programme is either accepted or rejected, or partly accepted and partly rejected. If accepted, necessary institutional changes are made; if rejected the movement either collapses or reorganizes for a new trial of strength at a later date. Thus most completed movements pass through four stages of unrest, excitement, formalization and institutionalization.
Types of Social Movements:
It is not easy to give a classification of social movements because sometimes a movement is of a mixed nature or is of a different type at different stages of its career.
However, movements have been classified as follows:
(i) Migratory Movements:
Migratory movements take place when a large number of people leave one country and settle at some other place. The reason for mass migration may be discontent with present circumstances or the allurement of a bright future. Mere migration of people does not mean migratory movement.
There is a migratory social- movement only when there is a common focus of discontent, a shared purpose or hope for the future and a widely shared decision to move to a new location. The Zionist movement, the movement of Jews to Israel was a migratory social movement. Similarly, the movement of people from East Germany to West Germany can be called migratory social movement.
(ii) Expressive Movements:
When people are faced with a social system from which they cannot flee and which they feel powerless to change, the result is an expressive social movement. In an expressive social movement the individual comes to terms with an unpleasant external reality by modifying his reactions to that reality. He somehow makes life bearable. He tries to ignore the miserable present and fixes his gaze upon a glorious future. The Hippie movement is an expressive social movement.
(iii) Utopian Movement:
A Utopian movement is one which seeks to create an ideal social system or a perfect society which can be found only in man’s imagination and not in reality. There have been a number of Utopian socialist in the nineteenth century such as Robert Owen and Charles Fourier. Such movements are based on a conception of man as basically good, cooperative and altruistic. The Sarvodaya movement can be called a Utopian movement.
(iv) Reform Movements:
The reform movement is an attempt to modify some parts of the society without completely transforming it. Reform movements can operate only in a democratic society where people have freedom to criticize the existing institutions and may secure changes. The movements to abolish untouchability, dowry system, preserve wild life, control population growth are reform movements. The total revolution movement led by J. P. Narayan was a reform movement. The movement led by J. P. Narayan was a reform movement.
(v) Revolutionary Movements:
The revolutionary movement seeks to overthrow the existing social system and replace it with a greatly different one. The reform movement wants to correct some imperfections in the existing social system but a revolutionary movement wants to root out the system itself. Revolutionary movement’s flourish where reform is blocked so that revolution remains the people’s only alternative to their present misery. The communist movements in Soviet Russia and China were revolutionary movements.
(vi) Resistance Movements:
The resistance movement is an effort to block a proposed change or to uproot a change already achieved. The revolutionary movement arises because people are dissatisfied with the slow rate of social change whereas resistance movement arises because people consider social change too fast. The D. M. K. movement against Hindi can be termed resistance movement.
As said above, revolutionary movements or revolutions seek to over throw the existing social system itself and replace it with a greatly different one. The communist revolution in Soviet Russia overthrew the Czarist regime and replaced it with the communist system of production and distribution of goods.
According to MacIver, “when a political regime is overthrown by force in order to impose a new form of government or a government which proclaims a new policy on some crucial issue, we may call it a revolution.” He further says, ‘The assassination of a king or President or Premier would not constitute a revolution if it was inspired by personal motives or were the act of a small group of desperados who could not hope to establish an alternative government.
A revolution implies a deep schism within the state. It reveals a pathological condition of the individual which shows by contrast the physical nature of the political authority.” Revolutions flourish where reform is blocked so that revolution remains the only alternative left with the people. It is accompanied by violence, mass-scale killings, use of underground methods and untold sufferings, yet the people resort to it because they see no hope.
Although an Oligarchy state ruled by an oligarch or a class is most prone to revolution, however, a democracy also is not free from it. In an oligarchy, the people have no power, their rights are suppressed, there is coercion and oppression which take the people to revolution. In a democracy, religious, social or economic issues may cause revolution. The earlier writers like John of Salisbury and Mace Gold held that contract with God is superior to contract with men and hence paramount over the demands of the state.
Religion is a big emotive issue which can flare up in a revolution. Among the social issues the most important is the feeling by a particular group or race that it is not getting its just share in the political set up of the country and that the only alternative is to achieve autonomy or to be separated from the state to which it is coercively bound.
If such a group or race occupies a determinate territory, such feeling acquires greater force. In the economic sphere, the present division between capital and labour, the owners of the means of production and workers, has fostered much bitterness and revolutionary feeling. The capitalists control the government and, therefore, the only way of abolishing the capitalism is to get control over the government.
However, in contrast to oligarchies, the democracies are less prone to revolutions, in the words of MacIver, “A truly democratic state is vastly more secure than an oligarchy against the threat of /evolution. Doubtless, the general will is still most imperfect and undeveloped, but at least it is sufficiently real to give it a new character to political authority. The formal basis of this authority is no more the division of master and servant but the unity of agent and principal.”
MacIver also holds that when authority ceases to exist in its own right and becomes derivative, when it becomes authority over action as distinct from authority over thought and opinion, when it becomes authority according to prescribed norms instead of personal command, when it becomes reciprocal instead of unilateral and when it learns to appreciate its relation to that inner control which all personality seeks for itself, the conditions for revolution are abolished.
Role of Leadership:
Social movements in order to succeed must have effective organisation and strong leader. The members or supporters must be recruited in greater number, financial support must be procured and various tasks connected with the movement must be properly allocated. There must also be proper coordination among personnel assigned to more or less specific roles. In social movements the role of the leader is very important.
Many a movement fails due to lack of leadership. The leader is the spokesman of the group. He is the coordinator and the important participator in the decisions as to the goals and methods. He is an example to others. He enjoys great authority and power. He also enjoys great prestige. He excels others in personal qualities. The leader has great responsibilities. He is expected to fulfill them.
He is expected to keep his word, to stick by the members and to uphold the group norms and values. If he does not live up to the level expected, he suffers a loss of prestige and even of position in the group. He can be thrown out of leadership. If he betrays the confidence reposed in him by the supporters, he may even be killed. Thus, the leader plays a crucial role in a social movement. The success or failure of the movement depends largely on him.
The leadership functions are related to the
(i) goal achievement
(ii) to the strengthening of the social movement.
Functions under the first category are instrumental to achieving the goals of the group.
These functions are to:
(i) Make suggestions for action,
(ii) Evaluate the movement towards the goal,
(iii) Prevent activities irrelevant to the goal, and
(iv) Offer effective solutions for goal achievement.
Functions in the second category maintain and strengthen the movement. These functions are to
(i) Encourage the members,
(ii) Release tension that builds up,
(iii) Give everyone a chance to express himself, and
(iv) Stimulate coordinated action.
The leader has the basic responsibility for seeing that the social movement achieves its goals. The followers follow the leader because they recognise that he can lead them to the goal. The leader should select his technique with great forethought. It should be “reality-oriented.” The leader should know that in case of failure of the movement he may have to suffer rebuffs, loss of status and blame. He should, therefore, be very cautious in assuming the leadership, and having assumed should be careful in handling it successfully. A leader can channelise the mass enthusiasm into constructive social reforms or he can eventually destroy the social system.