What are the Different Theories of Social Movements? 

What are the Different Theories of Social Movements?

Social movements are organizations to achieve social and political goals. Social movements occur either to bring or resist change by a collective effort. Social groups are formed by people with a shared set of beliefs. It is the coming together of people who share a common outlook to achieve the desired changes or prevent it. Social movements can be organized or disorganized. It may last for a long time or disappear soon. The movement can be peaceful or violent. The movements formed are related to social or political issues. 

According to Anderson and Parker, social movement is

“a form of dynamic pluralistic behaviour which progressively develops structure through time and aims at partial or complete modification of the social order.”

Anderson and Parker

John McCarthy and Mayer Zald define social movement as

“a set of opinions and beliefs in a population which represents preferences for changing some elements of the social structure and/or reward distribution of a society.”

John McCarthy and Mayer Zald

Theories of Social Movements

Deprivation Theory 

This theory was founded by American sociologist Robert K. Merton. According to this theory, the people that have limited access to resources, money and opportunities join social movements. When people feel they are treated unfairly and at a disadvantage than others, they are motivated to join social movements. These people want to achieve equality and fairness and bring about change through these movements. 

Mass-Society Theory 

Mass-Society theory was given by political sociologist William Kornhauser. This theory states that people who feel they are not important and isolated in society join social movements. These people want to feel a sense of belongingness in society and to achieve this they join social movements. 

Resource Mobilization Theory 

This theory suggests that due to the unsatisfactory conditions in society people join social movements. People are dissatisfied because of the existence of harsh conditions and try to get rid of it through social movements. It aims to gain resources and mobilize individuals.

Political Opportunity Theory 

This theory states that social movements are more likely to achieve their goals and succeed when there is political opportunity for it. People have more freedom to be active and fearlessly protest without any aggressive action from the government. 

New Social Movement Theory 

This theory tries to understand the perspective of movements relating to different issues. It does not deal with a specific theory but several theories. The New Social Movement Theory focuses on issues of human rights rather than of economic well-being. It tries to explain the postindustrial and postmodern movements and the behaviour of recent social movements.

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