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Social Sci LibreTexts

21: Social Movements and Social Change

  • 21.0: Prelude to Social Movements and Social Change
    Perhaps the social movement that ran the most contrary to theory in recent history is Occupy Wall Street (OWS). Although it contains many of the classic developmental elements of a social movement we will describe in this chapter, it is set apart by its lack of a single message, its leaderless organization, and its target—financial institutions instead of the government. OWS baffled much of the public, and certainly the mainstream media, leading many to ask, "Who are they, and what do they want?
  • 21.1: Collective Behavior
    Flash mobs are examples of collective behavior, noninstitutionalized activity in which several or many people voluntarily engage. Other examples are a group of commuters traveling home from work and a population of teens adopting a favorite singer’s hairstyle. In short, collective behavior is any group behavior that is not mandated or regulated by an institution. There are three primary forms of collective behavior: the crowd, the mass, and the public.
  • 21.2: Social Movements
    Social movements are purposeful, organized groups that strive to work toward a common social goal. While most of us learned about social movements in history classes, we tend to take for granted the fundamental changes they caused —and we may be completely unfamiliar with the trend toward global social movements.
  • 21.3: Social Change
    Collective behavior and social movements are just two of the forces driving social change, which is the change in society created through social movements as well as external factors like environmental shifts or technological innovations. Essentially, any disruptive shift in the status quo, be it intentional or random, human-caused or natural, can lead to social change. Below are some of the likely causes.

Thumbnail: Some flash mobs may function as political protests, while others are for fun. This flash mob pillow fight’s purpose was to entertain. (Photo courtesy of Mattwi1S0n:/flickr)