Voiceover: Social movements are instrumental
to changing the path of a society.
When a group of people comes together
with a shared idea,
they can create lasting effects by
encouraging change in their society
or by resisting it,
both of which will shape the future
of their society.
But a social movement is not just
a group of people with an idea.
If that were the case, every little group
with a novel idea would be starting
a social movement.
No, social movements need organization,
leadership, and resources if they ever
hope to gain momentum and make an impact.
There are different types of social movements
depending on their goal.
Activist movements are focused on
changing some aspect of society,
while regressive or reactionary movements
are actively trying to resist change.
So, you can generally see how a
social movement will form.
You get a group with a strong, shared idea
that has the resources and leadership to survive
and they can make a difference
in one way or another.
Specifically though, it is not well defined.
There are several theories as to how and why
social movements form.
One of these is called mass society theory.
Early in the study of social movements
people were sceptical of the motivations
of those involved in social movements.
They were seen as dysfunctional,
irrational, and dangerous,
and that people would only join because
the social movement provided a sense
of community and refuge from
the meaninglessness of life on one zone.
This view point was strong during
the 20th century, the time of Nazism,
fascism, and Stalinism, which were social movements
that result in the destruction of
millions of lives.
But this theory did not persist
through the century.
By the '60's, scholars took a more open look
at social movements,
especially after the civil rights movement,
which certainly did not arise simply
to satisfy a psychological need for involvement.
More recently, a few main theories
have been developed.
One is the relative deprivation theory,
which focuses on the actions of groups
who are oppressed or deprived of rights
that other people in their society enjoy.
So, if you look at the civil rights movement
from this viewpoint,
it is obviously a response to the
inequality and oppression experienced by
people of color in the U.S.
But what is interesting about social movements
is that it isn't always the people who
are the worst off who join up.
More important is how
people perceive their situation.
Someone just scraping by can be happy as a clam
because they made their dream
of owning their own little
corner bistro into a reality
and then a person making 100,000 a year
is frustrated because they don't feel like
they're respected by their company.
So, what you have to look at
is the relative deprivation,
the feeling of discrepancy between
legitimate expectations and
the reality of the present.
But, that's not enough on its own.
People must feel like they deserve better
and they must think that they cannot
be helped my conventional means.
According to relative deprivation theory
those three things are necessary for
a social movement to form,
a relative deprivation,
a feeling of deserving better,
and to believe that conventional methods
are useless to help.
But there are criticisms to this theory.
Even people who don't feel deprived
will chose to join a social movement.
They join because they want to address
a perceived injustice that they may not
even suffer from themselves.
It can be too risky for the most oppressed
people to join a social movement
because they may not have the
resources to participate,
they cannot take time off work
to promote the idea.
Even so, there are exceptions, as always.
Under Cesar Chavez, migrant farm workers united
to gain rights and job security.
Another issue with the relative deprivation theory
is that sometimes, even when all three factors
are present, no social movement is created.
OK so, it has some problems
but it's a start at least.
Another theory, resource mobilization theory,
looks at the social movements
from a different angle.
Instead of looking at the deprivation of the people,
the resource mobilization approach
focuses on the factors that help or hinder
a social movement.
You know, practical constraints like
access to resources.
Even the seemingly simple act of gathering
together a group of people with a shared idea
is not allowed everywhere.
It takes more than an idea to
start a social movement.
You need money, materials, political influence,
access to media.
More than that, a social movement
needs a strong organizational base
to recruit members and then to unite
them on a single idea.
A good, charismatic figure is necessary
to lead the group and focus the thoughts
of members and the oppressed on the objective,
to convince them to organize.
Again, looking at the civil rights movement,
Martin Luther King Jr. stood as a beacon
to the people of color who were oppressed.
He knew how to speak to a crowd
and unite them in a single idea
and how to gain the support he needed
for the social movement to succeed.
Then you have the rational choice theory
which proposes that people compare
pros and cons of different courses of action
and chose the one that they think
is best for themselves.
The choices and the actions of individuals
who are trying to do the best for themselves
shape the pattern of behavior in society.
But there are a lot of assumptions
for rational choice theory to work.
You have to assume that all actions can be
listed in order of preference
and that all preferences are transient.
That means that let's say I like apples
better than pears and I like pears
better than bananas.
If that's transient then that means
I have to like apples better than bananas.
It also assumes that a person has full knowledge
of what will happen as a result of an action
and that a person has the cognitive ability
to weigh different actions.
These are a lot of assumptions,
which are rarely all true.
Social movements can even affect people
not actively involved in them.
Social movements can cause
collective behavior like panics,
where widespread, unreasoning fear
causes people to act hastily,
and crazes, which are like fads
where something gets incredibly popular
for a short period of time,
like the latest craze in music or dieting.
This past year the anti-vaccine movement
has created a panic that has resulted in
outbreaks of diseases that were once eradicated
from the developed world.
Now that we have a couple movements
to toss around,
it might be interesting to look at what
happens to a social movement from beginning to
either success or failure in the end.
In the beginning, the universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry
and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
Wait a minute.
Sorry, that's the wrong story.
Social movements, right.
Those begin with a few ideas
shared by a few.
Then, you have the incipient stage
when the public begins to take notice
of a situation that they consider
to be a problem.
At this point, people begin to organize,
to coalesce into an organized group
and raise up a general stink.
A social movement's greatest achievement
will be to either succeed in changing
its host society,
or else it will have to adapt.
What is interesting about social movements
is that in the end,
they become a part of the bureaucracy
they were trying to change.
A successful social movement eventually
gets absorbed into the existing institutions
when it has achieved its desired changes.
Our entire culture and society
is formed from past social movements,
both those that have succeeded
and those that have failed.
Even failure social movements
leave a mark on their society.
The social movement Martin Luther began
against the Catholic church
resulted in Protestantism.
His name sake, Martin Luther King Jr.,
fronted a social movement against segregation,
leading to the civil rights movement.
Even Nazism left its lasting mark on world politics.
In their time, each of these social movements
seemed radical, far fetched, extreme.
Now, we accept Protestantism
as a founded religion
and we don't think twice about
the right every person has to freedom and equality.
I wonder what social movements
of today will become accepted thought in the future?
So, in the end, the social movement eventually declines.
If it succeeded, it has been incorporated
into the dominant culture.
It if failed, it isn't active anymore,
but you can still see the marks it left
on society by its passing.