Sociology (Social Movements) - Essay Example

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Social movements can hardly be defined as a novel phenomenon and the types of social movements which evolved in recent years can hardly be identified as new.' At least, this is the criticism leveled against Melucci by some of his peers. As he himself notes, his "newness" thesis has aroused unexpected controversy, with some attempting its negation and others intent on its defense…
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Sociology (Social Movements)
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Download file to see previous pages As a strategy for the clarification of the aforementioned, the differences between past and present social movements shall be elucidated with particular focus upon identity movements within the context of the information age.
An example which exposes the difference between past and present social movements is the feminist movement. As Melucci explains, the feminist movement was traditionally focused upon equality, as in the attainment of legal and social recognition of gender equality. While the present feminist movement shares much in common with its predecessor, the fact is that they are distinct in one key aspect. Notably, earlier feminist movements demanded equality while the present one calls for equality with a recognition of differentiation. The current feminist movement is new in the sense that it no longer aspires towards equality and same-ness but equality within the parameters of individuation and individuality. The message of the movement is not that the genders are equal but that women are equal to men and reserve both their collective right to maintain their distinctness as females and their individual right to forge their unique identity, define themselves and shape their bodies.
Proceeding from the above, it is evident that Melucci partly defines current social movements as new, even if they have their roots in the past, because of the very nature and content of their public message. While the group message, in the present as in the past, is there, it is bound with an individual message which effectively states that, apart from the group identity, there is an individual identity which shall not be subsumed by group affiliation, ideology or culture. Individuation and the right to maintain unique individuality are, therefore, the key distinctions.
The determination to maintain individuality, concomitant with the individuation process, invariably leads to conflict. Culture and ideology impose not just behavioral rules upon people but effectively shape their worldview, culminating in the forging of a common, a shared, identity. Within the context of this process, individuality is largely suppressed and the real self is rarely allowed expression. Insofar as contemporary social movements are distinguished by their fortification of the right to individuality and are supportive of the individuation process, conflicts are bound to arise. These conflicts are, as Melucci explains, carried out in the public sphere by a multitude of individuals acting as public, and individual, actors. The conflict here is between the established order, with its determination to impose particularistic definitions of individuality upon people and the determination of individuals to articulate the parameters of their on individuality and to give expression to their real but, previously, silenced, selves. From this perspective, one may even assert that the newness of contemporary social movements also emanates from the newness of the conflicts which they have generated.
To a large degree, the identified area of newness has been largely instigated by the very nature of the contemporary information age. Given the proliferation of information channels and the ever-expanding capacities for individual communication on the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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