Encyclopaedia Britannica (reference below) defines social movement as “a loosely organized but sustained campaign in support of a social goal, typically either the implementation or the prevention of a change in society’s structure or values.”
It goes on to say:
“Although social movements differ in size, they are all essentially collective. That is, they result from the more or less spontaneous coming together of people whose relationships are not defined by rules and procedures but who merely share a common outlook on society.
“Collective behaviour in crowds, panics, and elementary forms (milling, etc.) are of brief duration or episodic and are guided largely by impulse. When short-lived impulses give way to long-term aims, and when sustained association takes the place of situational groupings of people, the result is a social movement.
“A movement is not merely a perpetuated crowd, since a crowd does not possess organizational and motivational mechanisms capable of sustaining membership through periods of inaction and waiting. Furthermore, crowd mechanisms cannot be used to achieve communication and coordination of activity over a wide area, such as a nation or continent. A movement is a mixture of organization and spontaneity. There is usually one or more organizations that give identity, leadership, and coordination to the movement, but the boundaries of the movement are never coterminous with the organizations. For example, although organizations such as California’s Sierra Club are influential in the movement to preserve the natural environment, anyone who works for the cause and interacts with other workers for this purpose is a member of the conservationist movement. The famous John Brown was not a member of any major abolitionist organization, but his martyrdom made him a leader and symbol for the movement, even though organizational leaders were reluctant to recognize him.”
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Lewis M. Killian, Neil J. Smelser, and Ralph H. Turner, Social Movement, Encyclopaedia Britannica, at https://www.britannica.com/topic/social-movement, accessed 28 December 2018.
Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 28 December 2018.
Image: Lewis M. Killian, Neil J. Smelser, and Ralph H. Turner, Social Movement, Encyclopaedia Britannica, at https://www.britannica.com/topic/social-movement, accessed 28 December 2018.