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Definition Of Social Movement And Neil Smelser's Predictive Theory

1638 words - 7 pages

Definition of Social Movement and Neil Smelser's Predictive Theory

It is not simple to present the satisfying definition of social movements. To clarify any confusion about this matter, I am going to give definitions of collective behavior and social movement; collective behavior is defined as activity involving a relatively large number of people that is often spontaneous and very typically in violation of established social norms. Social movements, by contrast, are organized and relatively sustained activities that have a clear goal in terms of achieving or preventing some social change. To search broader knowledge of social movements, sociologist Neil Smelser argued that there are two kinds of social movement. One is norm-oriented movement and the other is value-oriented movement. In this paper, I am going to focus on norm-oriented movement.

Reform movements (norm-oriented movements) for the most part support existing social values, but they want to make macro-level changes in social norms. The civil rights movement is a good example. There was no attempt to change the set of dominant cultural values, which already included equality. Rather, the movement sought to change official norms that maintained segregation and institutionalized racism and then to change informal norms that supported the habitual racist behaviors of individuals. The movement made its demands for normative and behavioral changes on the basis of facts, supported by scientific and social sciences research results that demonstrated the falseness of certain long-standing beliefs held by many members of the society. Members of certain subcultures had more attachment to racist beliefs than members of others; thus, the pace of social change was faster where subcultural beliefs did not provide strong support for racist norms and slower in those where subcultural beliefs providing strong support for racist behaviors.

One good example to demonstrate reform movements is Nashville sit-ins movement (1959-1961). On February 1. 1960, four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College students captured America’s attention when they sat down at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and requested service. However, prior to this demonstration and between 1943 and 1960, sit-ins had taken place in Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore, and at least fifteen cities, including Nashville, Tennessee. The earlier protests did not gain full attention until 1960, when the southern civil rights movement gained momentum.

Although Nashville was considered to be the “Athens of the South” and a few blacks served on the Board of Education, the city council, and the police force, blacks and whites were racially segregated. The pattern of racial exclusiveness prevailed in Nashville’s schools and public facilities, including rest rooms, waiting areas, snack counters, transportation terminals, libraries, theaters, hotels, restaurants, and neighborhoods. Jim Crowism pervaded all...

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