Chapter 18. Social Movements and Social Change

Chapter 18 Resources and Activities

William Little and Ron McGivern

Key Terms

acting crowds: Crowds of people who are focused on a specific action or goal.

alternative movements: Social movements that limit themselves to self-improvement changes in individuals.

assembling perspective: A theory that credits individuals in crowds as behaving as rational thinkers and views crowds as engaging in purposeful behaviour and collective action.

casual crowds: People who share close proximity without really interacting.

collective action: Concerted behaviour in which a number of people come together on the basis of a shared interest to achieve some common objective.

collective behaviour: A non-institutionalized activity in which several people voluntarily engage.

collective representations: The shared meanings, symbols, concepts, categories and images of a social group or society.

conventional crowds: People who come together for a regularly scheduled event.

crowd: A fairly large number of people sharing close proximity.

design patents: Patents that are granted when someone has invented a new and original design for a manufactured product.

diagnostic framing: When the social problem that concerns a social movement is stated in a clear, easily understood manner.

digital divide: The increasing gap between the technological haves and have-nots.

embodied energy: The sum of energy required for a finished product including the resource extraction, transportation, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and disposal.

emergent norm theory: A perspective that emphasizes the importance of social norms in crowd behaviour.

evolutionary model of technological change: A breakthrough in one form of technology that leads to a number of variations, from which a prototype emerges, followed by a period of slight adjustments to the technology, interrupted by a breakthrough.

expressive crowds: Crowds that share opportunities to express emotions.

flash mob: A large group of people who gather together in a spontaneous activity that lasts a limited amount of time.

frame: A way or perspective in which experience is organized conceptually.

frame alignment process: Using bridging, amplification, extension, and transformation as an ongoing and intentional means of recruiting participants to a movement.

global social movements:  Networks of social movement actors who collaborate across state borders to address shared global concerns.

lifeworld: The shared inter-subjective meanings and common understandings that form the backdrop of daily existence and communication.

mass: A relatively large group with a common interest, even if the group members may not interact or be in close proximity.

modernity: The cultural form of capitalist societies characterized by constant change and transformation.

modernization: The process that increases the amount of specialization and differentiation of structure in societies.

motivational framing: When the social problem that concerns a social movement is stated as a call to action.

new social movement theory: Theory that analyzes why the common features contemporary social movements are concerns with quality of life issues rather than traditional materialist issues.

planned obsolescence: When a technology company plans for a product to be obsolete or unable to be repaired.

plant patents: Patents that recognize the discovery of new plant types that can be asexually reproduced.

prognostic framing: When social movements state a clear solution to their issue.

public: An unorganized, relatively diffuse group of people who interact and debate ideas.

redemptive movements: Movements that work to promote inner change or spiritual growth in individuals.

reform movements: Movements that seek incremental change to the social structure.

resistance movements: Movements that seek to prevent or undo change to the social structure.

resource mobilization theory: Theory that explains social movements’ success in terms of their ability to acquire resources and mobilize individuals.

revolutionary movements: Movements that seek to completely change every aspect of society.

social change: Any significant alteration over time in behavior patterns, social relationships, institutions, cultural values and norms.

social currents: Movements of collective feeling, public expression and social creation that are in the process of emerging and not yet caught in a definite mould.

social movement: A purposeful, organized group that works toward a common social goal.

social movement industry: A collection of social movement organizations that are striving toward similar goal.

social movement organization: A single social movement group.

social movement sector: The collection of social movements in a society.

technological diffusion: The spread of technology across borders.

technological lineage: Lines of development of technological innovations which make advancements on previous iterations

technology: An application of knowledge to solve problems in daily life.

utility patents: Patents that are granted for the invention or discovery of any new and useful process, product, or machine.

value-added theory: A functionalist perspective theory that posits that several preconditions must be in place for collective behaviour to occur.

White privilege: The benefits people receive simply by being part of the dominant group of racialized “whites.”

Section Summary

18.1 Collective Behaviour
Collective behaviour is non-institutionalized activity in which many people voluntarily engage. There are four different forms of collective behaviour: crowd, mass, public, and social movement. There are three main theories of collective behaviour. The first, the emergent-norm perspective, emphasizes the importance of social norms in crowd behaviour. The next, the value-added theory, is a functionalist perspective that states that several preconditions must be in place for collective behaviour to occur. Finally the assembling perspective focuses on collective action rather than collective behaviour, addressing the processes associated with crowd behaviour and the life cycle of various categories of gatherings.

18.2 Social Movements
Social movements are purposeful, organized groups with the goal of pushing toward change, giving political voice to those without it, or gathering for some other common purpose. Social movements intersect with environmental changes, technological innovations, and other external factors to create social change. There are myriad catalysts that create social movements, and the reasons that people join are as varied as the participants themselves. Sociologists look at both the macro- and microanalytical reasons that social movements occur, take root, and ultimately succeed or fail.

18.3 Social Change
There are numerous and varied causes of social change. A key cause of social change, as recognized by social scientists, is technological innovation. Technology is the application of science to address the problems of daily life. The fast pace of technological advancement means the advancements are continuous, but that not everyone has equal access. The gap created by this unequal access has been termed the digital divide. The knowledge gap refers to an effect of the “digital divide”: the lack of knowledge or information that keeps those who were not exposed to technology from gaining marketable skills.


Quiz: Social Movements and Social Change

18.1 Collective Behaviour

  1. Which of the following organizations is not an example of a social movement?
    1. Canadian Football League
    2. White nationalism
    3. Greenpeace
    4. National Action Committee on the Status of Women
  2. Durkheim conceptualized a continuum of social phenomena that varied from fixed to fluid including                       .
    1. Casual, conventional, expressive and acting crowds.
    2. Social structures, social functions, social strains.
    3. Morphological features, institutions and social currents.
    4. Masses, publics, social movements, crowds.
  3. Which of the following is an example of collective behaviour?
    1. A soldier questioning orders
    2. A group of people interested in hearing an author speak
    3. A class going on a school field trip
    4. Going shopping with a friend
  4. The protesters at the anti-Covid measures “Freedom Convoy” rally were                       .
    1. A casual crowd.
    2. A conventional crowd.
    3. A mass.
    4. An acting crowd.
  5. According to emergent-norm theory, crowds are                       .
    1. Irrational and impulsive.
    2. Infiltrated by security agents who manipulate crowd behaviour.
    3. Able to develop their own definition of the situation.
    4. Prone to a series of developments beginning with structural conduciveness.
  6. A boy throwing rocks during a demonstration might be an example of                       .
    1. Structural conduciveness.
    2. Structural strain.
    3. Precipitating factors.
    4. Mobilization for action.

18.2 Social Movements

  1. If sociologists divide social movements according to their competition for attention in a society, they are using the                        theory to understand social movements.
    1. Framing
    2. New social movement
    3. Resource mobilization
    4. Value-added
  2. While PETA is a social movement organization, taken together, the animal rights social movement organizations PETA, ALF, and Greenpeace are a                       .
    1. Social movement industry.
    2. Social movement sector.
    3. Global social movement.
    4. All of the above.
  3. Social movements are                       .
    1. Free currents of social life in the process of emerging and not yet caught in a definite mould.
    2. Any collection of at least two people who interact with some frequency and who share some sense of
      aligned identity.
    3. The collective action of individuals working together in an attempt to achieve goals.
    4. All of the above.
  4. When the League of Women Voters successfully achieved its goal of women being allowed to vote, they had to undergo frame                        to ensure continuing relevance.
    1. Alignment
    2. Amplification
    3. Bridging
    4. Transformation
  5. New social movements principle focus is                       .
    1. Postmaterialism.
    2. Subjectivity and identity.
    3. Quality of life issues.
    4. All of the above.

18.3 Social Change

  1. Children in peripheral nations have little to no daily access to computers and the internet, while children in core nations are constantly exposed to this technology. This is an example of                       .
    1. The digital divide.
    2. Human ecology.
    3. Modernization theory.
    4. Technological determinism.
  2. When sociologists think about technology as an agent of social change, which of the following is not an example?
    1. Population growth
    2. Medical advances
    3. The internet
    4. Genetically engineered food
  3. China is undergoing a shift in industry, increasing labour specialization and the amount of differentiation present in the social structure. This exemplifies                       .
    1. Human ecology.
    2. Dependency theory.
    3. Modernization.
    4. Critical perspective.
  4. The fact that your cell phone is using outdated technology within a year or two of purchase is an example of                       .
    1. Caveat emptor.
    2. Conspicuous consumption.
    3. Modernization.
    4. Planned obsolescence.
  5. If the U.S. Patent Office were to issue a patent for a new type of tomato that tastes like a jellybean, it would be issuing a                        patent?
    1. Plant
    2. Utility
    3. Design
    4. Abomination

[Quiz answers at end of chapter]


18.1 Collective Behaviour

  1. Discuss the differences between a mass and a crowd. What is an example of each? What sets them apart? What do they share in common?
  2. Can you think of a time when your behaviour in a crowd was dictated by unplanned circumstances? How did you figure out what to do? Give an example of emergent-norm perspective, using your own experience.
  3. Discuss the differences between an acting crowd and a collective crowd. Give examples of each.
  4. Imagine you are at a rally protesting nuclear energy use. Walk us through the hypothetical rally using the value-added theory, imagining it meets all the stages.

18.2 Social Movements

  1. Think about a social movement industry dealing with a cause that is important to you. How do the different social movement organizations of this industry seek to engage you? Which techniques do you respond to? Why?
  2. Do you think social media is an important tool in creating social change? Why or why not? Defend your opinion.
  3. Describe a social movement in the decline stage. What is its issue? Why has it reached this stage?

18.3 Social Change

  1. Consider one of the classical social movements of the 20th century, from the 1960s civil rights in the United States to Gandhi’s nonviolent protests in India. How would technology have changed it? Would change have come more quickly or more slowly? Defend your opinion.
  2. Discuss the digital divide in the context of modernization. Is there a real concern that poorer communities are lacking in technology? Why or why not?
  3. Do you think that the technologies that have defined modern society have been good or bad? Explain, using examples.


18.0 Introduction to Social Movements and Social Change

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Solutions to Section Quiz

1 A, | 2 C, | 3 B, | 4 D, | 5 C, | 6 C, | 7 C, | 8 A, | 9 C, | 10 D, | 11 D, | 12 A, | 13 A, | 14 C, | 15 D, | 16 A, [Return to Quiz]


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