What is a Social Movement?

September 25, 2006 at 3:52 am 1 comment

This semester I’m taking a class called Protest and Social Change: the Sociology of Social Movements. The whole reason I majored in political science is because I wanted to study this stuff, but we’ve never covered it in depth in any of my poli sci classes. I think it should be a requirement for the major actually. Anyways, I’ve been thinking about definitions.

It seems to me that the way we use the term “social movement” in class I would use the term political movement (PM). “Social movement” to me has broader connotation- it would include phenomena like the hippie movement, the homeschooling movement, the polyamory movement- groups that, while they might have political aspects and implications to them, are not as directly political as the civil rights, labor, women’s, environmental (etc.) movements. However, such movements can become PMs.

A social movement is a type of collective behavior, in which people are trying to change (or preserve or revive) some aspect of the culture or social structure or at least get the culture to accept or tolerate it.
A political movement, is a particular kind of SM, in which people are trying to change or preserve laws, regulations, governmental structures etc. Political aspects of the society/culture.

This is also related to difference between the phrases “social change” and “political change”. For example, a political change would be outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. A social change would be social acceptance of gays and same-sex relationships. They are related but they are different, and the second is often much more difficult and pervasive.

(P.S. it’s the 24th, not the 25th. WordPress is being weird. )


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Tranee Christian  |  September 29, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    Social Movements are all arounds and so are political movements, but I for one did not realize how closely related they are to one another. This blog discusses how a political movement is a paticular kind of social movement. Unfortunately these two are so closely related the social movements become the prime importance in elections. For example, in presidential elections during the debates most of their questions are regarding social movements such as, gay marriages and abortion. Social movements are important, but in a presidential election, I’m more concerned about political movements like the economy of our country and job oppurtunities. The close relationship between social movements and political movements would explain how many of our presidents are elected and sometimes relected into office.


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