Social movements refer to the associations of people with moralisticand idealistic claims about how human personal or group life ought tobe organized, that at the time of the claims-making, are marginal toor excluded from mainstream society. The dominant constructions ofwhat are realistic, reasonable, and moral. Social movements, however,do not represent political interests nor do they represent popularand unorganized trends. Social movements are a blend of thesecharacteristics. Some major characteristics of social movements arethat they are usually related with a conflictual opposition withother clearly identified parties, and they are run through clearlyset goals. In addition, social movements exist in populated networksand always possess an identity through which they are recognized. Assuch, social movements may also be used to refer to informal butorganized organizations, which are propelled by certain goalsoriented towards the achievement of certain institutional objectives.
Examplesof social movements
Throughout the history of humankind, there have been numerous socialmovements, which have significantly influenced the existentsocieties. Social movements undergo various steps before they come tobe and after they are formed. Every social movement must undergo theemergence, coalescence, bureaucratization, and decline processes.While the first three terms signify positivity while decline doesnot, it should not be taken in a negative light. As such, the declineof social movements may be related to their success, repression,co-optation, or organizational failure.
Scholars have identified this collective action of social movementsas leaning towards the realization of positive change in the society.Extensive studies into social movements have led the scholars to wantto know the conditions that attract the masses into social movementsand the reasons behind their participation. Different socialmovements have different reasons and ideologies for their existenceand are mainly formed based on a common agenda, interest, orobjective. Examples of social movements are Anti-liquor movement,Arab Spring, Conservation movement and civil rights movement. Theseamong others are aligned towards a certain objective, usuallyembedded in their identities, to display the course they pursue.
Rolesof social movements
Social movements can become important forces that can be used toadvance agendas for change. This is possible through the numerousnumbers that the ordinary people have, which they can use as theirpolitical force to effect the changes they want. Primarily, socialmovements are known for their political advocacy and contributions.As such, their main role in developing democratic nations is throughelectoral participation. However, due to the presence of varioushindrances in this path for democracy, the role of social movementchanges course and targets to overturn these hindrances for thegreater good. Democracy is a word that is often used even in thepresence of inequalities in the society and nations. Politicalsystems refer to themselves as democratic, yet they represent thehighest level of corruption, complacency, and inefficiencies. In thisrespect, social movements channel their energy towards thestreamlining of these factors in political systems through thepopular voice with an aim of ensuring that the ruling governments arecognizant of the needs of the ordinary citizens.
On the other hand, social movements proffer organization throughinterdependence and cooperation especially in work environments. Thisis usually done when workers, for example, face mistreatment, poorrelations with management or poor pay. The formation of socialmovements in this context is aimed at protesting the issues that arenot agreeable with the majority, which compounds into disruptivepower. Workers or members of social movements withdraw their supportto their organizations of interest by withholding their labor andsocial relations with the management of the organizations they serve.Through disruptive activities, social movements are able to attainadvantage against the institutions through actions such as strikes,riots, rallies, marches, slogans or boycotts. The basic line fortheir actions is the collective power that comes with their numbers,which holds stronger if they have a common objective. Over the years,social movements have achieved social welfare, end to slavery andcivil rights, especially in America (Lendman A1).
Historically, social movements have been known to cause revolutionsin unpopular government administrations. Defiant and disorderlycrowds, whose efforts are attributed to the success of theRevolutionary War and the years preceding it, usually run theseactivities. Social movements were crucial in organizing mobs, tumultsand riots, which were used to garner support for popular revolts andrebellions against colonialists and unpopular government regimes.With the power they hold, the ordinary people in social movements areresponsible for uprisings and rebellions that gave rise to newconstitutions, government administrations, and politicalrepresentations (Lendman A1).
History has seen slavery change from a legal practice to an illegalactivity in many parts of the world. Social movements were at theforefront of championing for the abolishment of slavery, which evenhad legal clauses in the constitutions. Through continuous efforts,social movements were able to stump out the power held by slaveowners in the government and thus, successfully reform thelegislations on slavery. This was through the formation ofantislavery associations in addition to reform activism. The maintheme was abolitionism, which subsequently saw the number ofpetitions against slavery increase and the eventual abolishment ofslavery. In this same manner, social movements have been used s toolsfor the abolishment of discriminatory practices in human societiesand ensuring that equality thrives (Lendman A1).
Effectsof social movements
In the emergence and operation of social movements, various issuesarise that bring conflict between the members of the movements. Onesuch issue is the maintenance of the needs of the group as well astheir needs for achieving the goals of their group. Operating throughnetworks brings this into a crisis as the structure of the movementsbecomes bureaucratic. Bureaucracy begets low participation and lackof eagerness to participate in the activities of the group. In itsdefinition and establishment of goals and vision, a social movementfaces the risk of disintegration due to the contradictions that mayarise. This is because of the varying opinion of the huge numbers ofmembers differences which may weaken the social foundation of themovements. Additionally, the lack of trust among members on theirleaders may lead to splits, confusion, and conflicts within themovement, which may eventually lead to its collapse (Freeman 48).
Social movements are advocates of change within the society. Theextent to which they influence this change differs on the platformthey use to deliver their message. Social movements are responsiblefor influencing the impaction of policies and policy changes inpolitical and economic settings. They achieve this through theadvancement of public opinion, through their leadership ranks andwith the mediation of political alliances. The political allies haveto share the ideals of the movements and should portend enough powerto push forward the agenda of the social movements in the houses theyrepresent. This process involves different steps, one of which ismobilization and subsequent efforts to ensure that the policy changesthe movements want affected are implemented.
Changesassociated with social movements
Social movements have seen the adoption of various changes indifferent sectors of the economy over the years. To start with,social movements have infiltrated the unorganized, informal sectorsof the economy, with an aim of fighting for the rights and welfare ofthose working in these sectors. This is in respect to the workenvironment and conditions that the people have to work under, uponwhich the mission of social movements is based. They advocate forbetter pay, conditions, and welfare for workers in the informalsectors, seeing that they are the most affected by job-relatedmistreatments. In addition, social movements have recognized theplight of women in these informal sectors and taken upon themselvesto advocate for equality in work opportunities, improved workconditions and pay for women in informal sectors. To achieve theseobjectives, the movements are involved in educative missions that aimto empower the workers in the informal sector as well as women in theworkplace and equip them with basic knowledge of their rights(Giuigni & Florence 5).
An example of a change brought about by social movements is theinception of political, military, and economic treaties andlegislations that bind countries from using weapons of massdestruction. This is in relation to the deadly effects the nuclearbomb had on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The effects saw the rallying ofvarious social movements that opposed the use of nuclear weapons inwars to avoid mass wipeouts of populations. Through lobbying andpolitical activism, social movements were able to bring about severaltreaties that recognized their worries and therefore ratify thelegislations that barred countries from engaging in nuclear wars(Pradeep 5).
Freeman, Jo . "Crises and Conflicts in Organizations." Crises and Conflicts in Organizations. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014.<http://www.jofreeman.com/socialmovements/crisis.htm>.
Giugni, Marco , and Florence Passy. "s and PolicyChange: Direct, Mediated, or Joint Effect?." SocialMovements and Policy Change: Direct, Mediated, or Joint Effect?.N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014.<http://www3.nd.edu/~dmyers/cbsm/vol1/geneva98.pdf>.
Lendman, Stephen . ""Challenging Authority" : The Roleof s." Global Research. N.p., n.d.Web. 7 May 2014.<http://www.globalresearch.ca/challenging-authority-the-role-of-social-movements/8981>.
Pradeep, Gautam . "The Nuclear Bomb and How It Changed The World." The Nuclear Bomb and How It Changed The World .N.p., n.d. Web. 7 May 2014.<http://www.cityofsacramento.org/ccl/histo