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Social Movement Theories

What conditions are most likely to produce social movements? Why are people drawn to these movements! Sociologists have developed several theories to answer these questions .

Relative Deprivation Theory

According to relative deprivation theory. people who are satisfied with their present condition are less likely to seek social change. Social movements arise as a response
10 people's perception that they have been deprived of their "fair share" (Rose. 1982). Thus. people who suffer relative deprivation are more likely to feel that change is necessary and to join a social movement in order to bring about that change. Relative deprivation refers to the discontent that people may  when they compare their achievements with those of similarly situated persons and find that they have less than they think they deserve (arum and arum, 1968). Karl Marx captured the idea of relative deprivation in this description"A house may be large or small; as long as the surrounding houses are small it satisfies all social demands for a dwelling. But let a palace arise beside the little house, and it shrinks from a little house to a hut" (qtd, in Ladd, 1966: 24). Movements based on relative deprivation are most likely to occur when an upswing in the standard of living is followed by a period of decline, such that people have unfulfilled ls-newly raised hopes of a better lifestyle that are not fulfilled as rapidly as the people expected or are not realized at all. Although most of us can relate to relative deprivation  theory, it does not Bully account for why people experience social discontent but fail to join a social movement. Even though discontent and feelings of deprivation may be necessary to produce certain types of social movements, they are not sufficient to bring movements into existence. In fact, the sociologist Anthony Drum (1974) found the best predictor of participation in a social movement to be prior organizational membership and involvement in other political activities.

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