Mar 6, 2019 in Business

Formation of Social Movements


Social movement is a type of collective actions or associations where participants focus their attention on specific life issues, which they believe irrelevant with their standards and norms or conversely, want to protect. Another definition specifies the phenomenon as organized efforts that promote or hinder social change and lead to a shift in primary values and objectives. Social movement is more or less persistent and organized attempt of the relatively large mass of people to combat certain social challenges. They usually imply a mass collective action for the realization of specific interests and aims. In the past, the social movements’ goals were of materialistic and economic nature mixed together with religious restrictions. Nowadays, global community has developed new values and principles violated by the same economic problems. People have reconsidered the violence effects and dimensions and learned to avoid the insanity of the crowd effect. However they still experience income discrimination and abuse. The paper focuses on the conditions underlying the formation of social movements according to the breakdown, power-balanced, frame aligning and value-added theories. 

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Conditions Underlying the Formation of Social Movements

The Breakdown Theory

The breakdown theory characterizes social movements in connection with the discontent of socially marginal people and irrationality of the crowd behavior. The theory explains the processes of contagion and strain release in certain historical, political and economic conditions. Its main point is that people never get support and encouragements from the ruling elite if they do not manifest and protect their rights in the situation of economic misbalance. The typical breakdown is a riot, strike and, in its utmost and radical form, the revolution. 

The theory of breakdown analyzes the activity and manipulations in a crowd. The collective action is not the same as the social movement. The latter is characterized with a higher level of independence and cooperative features of the participants. People, belonging to a social movement claim and protect certain social demands. The non-routine collective action is a random manifestation of some people disagreement or protest. Moreover, social movements are large in scope.

Behavior of people engaged into the excitement of the crowd, is significantly different from their activity in smaller groups. Under the influence of the assembled mass, individuals are able to commit both barbaric and heroic deeds that they do not expect from themselves. Certain conditions make an individual feel and act quite differently, when he/she is involved in the human crowd with mass psychology. In a mass people acquire invincible power which allows indulging in the primary urge, instincts and suppressed desires. People lose the sense of responsibility, which always hampers and restricts. Contagion contributes to the manifestation of special features and determines their orientation. Losing of self-control in a mass is evident but still inexplicable phenomenon. It has the signs of insanity and hypnotism. In the crowd, every action and every feeling is contagious. The individual is ready to sacrifice his/her personal interests to the general interest. People united in a mass acquire special qualities completely opposite to those they possessed while thinking and acting independently. The individual is no longer him/herself and becomes similar to a limp machine

The classical breakdown theory reflects social movements, which defended the interests of various social classes or groups and centered on economic interests. Modern breakdown theory implies social movements of people lacking social welfare and benefits. Such people are believed losers and outsiders for joining the social movements of this type..

Power-Balanced Theory

This theory reveals the establishment of balance in power when the ruling community turns to be invalid and incapable to promote the development and success of the society. It refers to the methods of power-balance maintenance and presents the strategy for its fulfillment. According to this theory, resources mobilization, political opportunities and social control are the consequent steps to the achievement of effective cooperation and tolerant co-existence in society. If some governmental bodies show poor performance they are automatically eliminated. Participation in the social movement is a means of acquiring a sense of social belonging and protection. Any social movement should demonstrate power and validity, otherwise it would not survive.

Modern Western social movements became possible through education opportunities and labor mobility in the process of industrialization and urbanization in the XIX century. Freedom of expression, education and relative economic independence, common in modern Western culture can be reasons and prepositions for the unprecedented number and scope of various contemporary social movements. They help to regulate justice institutions and corruption. Moreover, power-balanced theory implies contribution of social movements to non-profit funds and volunteer organizations.  People organize in order to perceive, protect and promote their rights. Power-balanced theory emphasizes the relationship of popular movements and the formation of new political parties, and talk about the importance of social movements in terms of their influence on politics and policy agenda. Mobilization of resources is crucial in effectiveness of new social movement performance and their longevity.

Frame-Aligning Theory

The theory of frame-aligning originates from the concept of framework analysis, which is an interdisciplinary research method used for the understanding of how people interpret the situations and events. It is based on establishment of frame bridges, amplification, extension and transformation of primary social movement values and ideas. 

The theory refers to the work of Erving Goffman and his book “The Framework Analysis: An Essay on the organization of experience”. Theory of social movements, political and other studies have applied to this work. The main term of the method is the framework setting. According to the book, a frame means choosing certain aspects of reality and making them more visible in the communicative texts. It implies popularizing of certain treatment of the problem, the interpretation of its cause, moral judgment and its possible solutions. Frame-alignment includes analysis, in which people research and study the text and its rhetoric, identifying whether the text plays a political or ideological role. 

Understanding of the framework operation, contributes to such concepts as visibility, formatting and importance. Frames illuminate information about objects’ message, making them more visible, understandable and memorable. Visibility of information can be achieved by engagement of popular culture representative and authorities, through movies and other cultural signs and facilities. The aim of the frame-ligning theory is to make the social movement values visible and meaningful and promote them through mass media, authoritative connections and sharing. 

Value-Added Theory

The value-added theory underlies the importance of newly developed values and life vision in the situation of globalization. It reveals the six conditions for successful functioning of a social movement. They include structural conduciveness, strain, spread of a generalized belief, precipitating factors, mobilization and social control. Environmental and climate problems have become issues of international concern and this fact has led to the creation of environmental movement. Basic principals of education have shifted to the side of humanities and imply acquaintance with pluralistic, tolerant and non-oppressive forms of socio-cultural interaction. Experiencing the subconscious affects of the process of globalization, a person acquires the sense of new reality and values. Seeing violence on TV and the Internet, children acquire and imprint the wrong types of behavior. With the course of time they adhere to radical social movement, which present a considerable threat to the order and peace. This challenges has led to creation of peace movement promoting general concepts of violence rejection. 


Social movements in the modern world are numerous and diverse. The genesis of social movements is associated with the occurrence of conflicts in the lower classes of society and dissatisfaction of the population. Erosion of the former system encourages affected groups to seek new forms of self-realization, and then combine with a majority into social movements. The modern theories of social movements’ foundation allow investigating and analyzing the newly arising conflicts on the basis of the knowledge about the insanity of a crowd and mass violence. Newly appearing social movements should contribute to the salvation of problems both on the local and global level.


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