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Power and social movements - Essay Example

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Summary to essay on topic "Power and social movements"
Social movements can be described as an organised, collective attempt to further common interest through collaborative action normally, outside the sphere of established institutions. It is always therefore a type of group action; large informal groupings of individuals and/or organizations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out a social change…
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Download file "Power and social movements" to see previous pages... Furthermore, crowd mechanisms cannot be used to achieve communication and coordination of activity over a wide area, such as a nation or continent (Social Movement, 2006).
In this regard, Sidney Tarrow defines a social movement as collective challenges by people with common purposes and solidarity in sustained interactions with elites,
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opponents and authorities. He specifically distinguishes social movements from political parties and interest groups (Tarrow, 1994). From whatever perspective one views social movement, it is apparent that all definitions of social movement reflect the notion that they are intrinsically related to social change; an attempt by the perceived powerless and voiceless in the society to exert their voice and power with an eye towards achieving such change. They do not, however, encompass the activities of people as members of stable social groups with established, unquestioned structures, norms, and values (Social Movement, 2006).
Over the past few decades, several factors such as education, which have encouraged wider dissemination of literature, the increased mobility of labour due to the industrialisation and urbanisation of 19th century societies, the freedom of expression, and relative economic independence prevalent in the modern western society have precipitated an explosion of social movements in countries across the globe (Schock, 2005; Giddens et al, 2003). The New Social Movement (NSM); a new term that has come to describe the several social movements that sprung up over time, ranges from the civil rights and feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s to the antinuclear and ecological movements of the 1980s and the gay rights campaign of the 1990s. Increasingly, traditional political institutions are becoming unable to cope with these challenges facing them.

Taking a look at the origin of social movements, Tilly (2004) argues that social movement was not in existence before the late eighteenth century. Although he concedes that several elements like campaigns, social movement repertoire and WUNC displays have a long history, he opined that they were only recently combined together into what could be seen properly as a social movement. Social movement first came into existence in England and North America during the first decades of the nineteenth century and has since then spread across the globe (Tilly, 2004)

From several indications it is apparent that the early growth of social movements was connected to broad economic and political changes including parliamentarisation, capitalisation, etc. Political movements that evolved in late 18th century, like those connected to the French Revolution and Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791 are among the first documented social movements, although Tilly notes that the British abolitionist movement has "some claims" to being the first social movement (becoming one between the sugar boycott of 1791 and the second great petition drive of 1806). The labour movement and socialist movement of the late 19th century are seen as the prototypical social movements, leading to the formation of communist and social democratic parties and organisations. From 1815, Britain after victory in the Napoleonic Wars ...Download file "Power and social movements" to see next pagesRead More
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