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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: June 2012

16 - Social Movements and Social Change



Social movements have traditionally been defined as organized efforts to bring about social change (cf. Jenkins, 1983; McAdam and Snow, 1997:xviii–xxv; McCarthy and Zald, 1977:1217–18; Tarrow, 1998:4–6; Wilson, 1973:3–4). Yet, as several scholars have noted (Burstein, Einwohner, and Hollander, 1995; Giugni, 1998, 1999; Huberts, 1989; Lofland, 1993:347–8), whether and how they actually cause social change has received little attention. Social movement research has long focused on questions of emergence and participation. Some attention has been paid to immediate social movements outcomes but scant attention has focused of social movement change. By the latter, we mean the distinctive contribution of social movements to change net of ongoing changes and social processes. Many studies have examined the short-term or immediate outcomes of movements, for example, life course change (Fendrich, 1993; McAdam, 1988), policy enactment (Burstein, 1985; Burstein and Freudenberg, 1978; Costain, 1992), and policy implementation (Button, 1989; Handler, 1978), but few have placed these processes in a multivariate framework and controlled for the relevant societal influences. Most studies of movements have focused inward and have been “movement-centered” (Lofland, 1993:289–91), thus neglecting their possible impact on social change in the broader society. When movement outcomes have been studied, they have typically focused on immediate public policy effects and not the broader institutional and cultural changes central to long-term movement objectives. Understanding social movement change is central to political sociology because the field is defined as the study of social power (see chapter 1). Similarly, social movements are defined as organized efforts to bring about social changes in the distribution of power.

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