Social movement – What it is, definition and concept

A social movement is a relatively organized group of individuals who, through protest and other tools, seek change in some aspect of society.

Social movements are made up of a relatively large number of people who, organized, seek social change. These movements can be peaceful or violent. Some of its tools are the protest, the demonstration and the strike.

It is a movement from below, that is, from the popular classes that seek to influence the elites and the country’s legislation. These movements have achieved numerous successes, rights and social advances. Although in some cases they have starred in the most violent and undesirable episodes. For some, the use of violence is justified if the end demands it; for others, the only valid movement is the peaceful one.

Violent social movements lead to revolutions, seeking drastic and radical changes in the structure of the country. On the other hand, the peaceful ones usually translate into reforms of the existing system.

Characteristics of the social movement

From its definition and other elements, we can extract some general characteristics applied to the concept of social movement:

  • Joint action: Social movements, to be heard, need the support of a very large number of people. The larger they are, the further their message will go and the more likely it is that the elites will accept their demands.
  • It arises from social discontent: His motivation is discontent and existing problems in society, it arises from the need to change something that is considered unfair.
  • Tools: The social movement tends to make use of practices such as protests, calls for demonstrations and strikes. They are acts that provoke the discomfort of the leaders, thus seeking their attention.
  • Follow strategies: To achieve certain demands, social movements tend to follow strategies. As the activity in social networks, establish contact with the media, writing the claims, or the location of the demonstration.
  • They are usually politicized: Due to the large number of people who lead a movement, some parties defend it or seek to join it. With this they seek an increase in their popularity, although they may obtain the opposite result.
  • Existence of leaders: Social movements, to gain more strength, often delegate to one or more charismatic leaders. They serve as spokespersons for the movement and their charisma can attract more people. The Government or other institutions can also negotiate with someone specific.
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Causes of social movement

The causes that motivate the existence and development of a social movement are very diverse. Although they all have some elements in common:

  • Disagreement with the current situation.
  • Need to change this situation.
  • Recognition or extension of new rights.

The discontent and anger suffered by the masses due to injustices and social problems are the engine of every social movement. Since these do not arise if there is no social aspect that needs to be changed.

Although it should be noted that compliance is never full. Although many advances are achieved, new needs or ambition always arise that what has been achieved is even greater. Therefore, it seems that the conflict between society and the ruling elite will always be there, although with different degrees of tension.

Types of social movement

The typology of the social movement is made based on the objective field in which it is carried out.

  • Labor movement: It is perhaps the best known social movement. It arises at the end of the 18th century with the development of the First Industrial Revolution. Its objective was to acquire rights for factory workers, subjected to extremely harsh working conditions, which we can call “exploitative.” During the 19th century and the emergence of Marxism, the workers’ movement reached its peak, starring in numerous revolts and revolutionary acts. Such was its strength that it led to the emergence of a new state, the USSR, inspired by its ideological principles.
  • Pacifist movement: This social movement seeks the extension of peace and the end of military confrontations. Seek social change without the use of violence. Two of its highest representatives were Gandhi and Martin Luther King. The former fought for the independence of India from the British colonial occupation; the second for the recognition of the rights of the black population of the United States and the end of segregation. The hippie movement was also very popular.
  • Environmental movement: This is characterized by the search to reduce the impact of human beings on the planet. Some of his proposals are sustainable development; end animal feeding; the development of renewable energies; the end of the use of fossil fuels and the promotion of electric transport; and put an end to the pollution of rivers, seas, oceans and the land. It is spearheaded by organizations such as Greenpeace or Earth Action.
  • Feminist movement: It is the one destined to the equalization of rights between men and women. Traditionally, women have had a situation of discrimination against men, feminism seeks to end this situation. It is a fight that has been going on since the 19th century. It can be said that in countries like western democracies legal parity is a fact. But there are still many countries in which this situation needs to be improved. The mobilization of 8M is one of their demands.
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