Social Movements Sociology Help

Social Movements

Although col~ behavior is ,short-lived and relatively unorganized. social movements arc longer lasting. arc more organized. and have specific goals or purposes. A social movement is an organized group that acts consciously to promote or resist change
collective action (Goldberg. 1991). Because social oven not become-institutionalized and  outside the political mainstream, they offer. "outsiders" an opportunity to has voices heard. Social movements likely to develop in in- industrialized societies than in pre industrial societies. where acceptance of traditional beliefs  makes such movements unlikely. Diversity and a lack of consensus (hallmarks of industrialized nations) contribute to demands for social change. and people who participate in social movements typically lack power
and other resources to bring about change without engaging in collective action. Social movements arc most likely to spring up when people come to set! their personal troubles as public issues that cannot be solved without a collective response. Social movements make democracy more available to excluded groups (see Green berg and Page. 2002). Historically. people in the United States have worked at the grassroots level to bring about changes even when elites sought to discourage activism (Adams. 1991). For example. the civil rights movement brought into its ranks African Americans In the South who had never been allowed to participate in politics (see Killian. 1984) .

 The women's suffrage movement gave voice to women who had been denied the right to vote (Rosenthal   J985). Similarly, a grassroots environmental movement
gave the working-class residents of Love Canal a way to "fight city hall" and Hooker Chemicals CA. Levine. 1982). as Lois Gibbs (!982: 38-40) explains: People were pretty upset. They were talking and stirring each other up. 1 was afraid there would be violence. We had a meeting at my house to try to put everything together land] decided to form  association. We got out the word as best we could and told even'one to (orne to-the Frontier Fire Hall on J02d Street  The firehouse was packed with people. and more were outside  I was-underrepresented I took over the meeting  but I was scared to death. It was only the second time in my life I had be-n in front of a micro  set four goals right at the beginning- O) get all the residents within the Love Canal area who wanted to be evacuated, evacuated and relocated, especially during the construction and repair of the canal; (2) do something about propping up property values; (3) get the canal fixed properly; and (4) have air sampling and soil and water testing done throughout the whole area. so we could tell how far the contamination had spread.

Most social movements rely on volunteers like Lois  Gibbs to carry out the work. Traditionally. women have been strongly represented in both the membership and the leadership of many grassroots movements (A. Levine, 1982; Freudenberg and Steinsapir, 1992). The Love Canal activists set the stag" for other movements that have grappled with the kind of issues that the sociologist Kai Erikson (1994) refers to as a "new species of trouble," Erikson describes the "new "as environmental problems that "contaminate rather than merely dam ge ... they pollute. befoul, taint. rather than just create wreckage ... they penetrate human tissue indirectly rather than just wound the surfaces by assaults of a more straightforward kind  And the evidence is growing that they scare human beings in new and special ways. that they dicit an uncanny fear in us" ( n, 1991: 15). TIle chaos that Erikson (1994: 141) describes is the result of technological disasters- "meaning everything that can go wrong when systems fail, humans err. designs prove faulty. engines misfire. and so on." A recent example of such a disaster occurred in Japan. where more than 300.000 residents living within six miles of the:'nuclear plant at Tokaimura were told to stay indoors in the aftermath of three workers' mishandling of stainless-steel pails full of uranium. causing the worst nuclear accident in Japan's history (Larimer, 1999). Although no lives were immediately lost, workers in the plant soaked up potentially lethal doses of radiation, some of which also leaked from the plant into the community, The fifty-two nuclear power plants in Japan have been plagued by other accidents and radiation leaks. causing concern for many people around the globe (Larimer. 1999).
Social movements provide people who otherwise would not have the resources to enter the game of politics a chance to do so, Vle are most familiar with those movements that develop around public policy issues considred newsworthy by the media. ranging from abortion and women's rights to gun control and environmental justice, However. a number of other types of social movements exist as well.


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