Sources of Social Change
Modernization and Urbanization
Population Growth and Composition
Culture & Technology
4 Types of Social Movements
We know that social movements can occur on the local, national, or even global stage. Are there other patterns or classifications that can help us understand them? Sociologist David Aberle (1966) addresses this question by developing categories that distinguish among social movements by considering 1) what it is the movement wants to change and 2) how much change they want. He described four types of social movements, including: alternative, redemptive, reformative, and revolutionary social movements
These are typically focused limited social change and focused on specific changes to individual beliefs and behavior.
- These include things like Alcoholics Anonymous, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and Planned Parenthood.
These are “meaning seeking,” are focused on a specific segment of the population, and their goal is to provoke radical change or spiritual growth in individuals.
- Some sects fit in this category.
Reformative social movements
Reformative movements seek to change something specific about the social structure. They may seek a more limited change, but are targeted at the entire population. May be progressive or regressive.
- Progressive examples
- Historical examples include the abolitionist movement preceding the Civil War, the woman suffrage movement that followed the Civil War, the Southern civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, and the environmental movement.
Transformative or Revolutionary movements
Transformative or Revolutionary movements seek to completely change every aspect of society—their goal is to change all of society in a dramatic way. They extend one large step further than a reform movement in seeking to overthrow the existing government and to bring about a new one and even a new way of life. These revolutionary or political movements seek to completely change every aspect of society.
- Examples include the Civil Rights Movement or the political movements, such as a push for communism.
Other helpful categories that are helpful for sociologists to describe and distinguish between types of social movements include:
- Scope: A movement can be either reform or radical. A reform movement advocates changing some norms or laws while a radical movement is dedicated to changing value systems in some fundamental way. A reform movement might be a green movement advocating a sect of ecological laws, or a movement against pornography, while the American Civil Rights movement is an example of a radical movement.
- Type of Change: A movement might seek change that is either innovative or conservative. An innovative movement wants to introduce or change norms and values, like moving towards self-driving cars, while a conservative movement seeks to preserve existing norms and values, such as a group opposed to genetically modified foods.
- Targets: Group-focused movements focus on influencing groups or society in general; for example, attempting to change the political system from a monarchy to a democracy. An individual-focused movement seeks to affect individuals.
- Methods of Work: Peaceful movements utilize techniques such as nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience. Violent movements resort to violence when seeking social change. In extreme cases, violent movements may take the form of paramilitary or terrorist organizations.
- Range: Global movements, such as communism in the early 20th century, have transnational objectives. Local movements are focused on local or regional objectives such as preserving an historic building or protecting a natural habitat.