Collective action

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Social Change Analysis – Part II

Published February 20, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

Analysis and Overview

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Causes of Social Change

Humanity approaches an historical juncture that is prodding social change as the traditional methods of managing human affairs, at the interpersonal and international levels, are becoming less and less effective (Weinstein, 2010). To better comprehend causes of social change, experts study the where and how of material production as well as the distribution and consumption of goods and services significant to society. Studying the ancient past can be instrumental in facilitating homeostasis in the modern era. Without observation and analysis of the social sciences, causes and implications of change would be difficult to ascertain.

Experts also take into consideration demographic changes. In addition, researchers labor to comprehend the various natures of population transformations and the scale of a civilization’s interconnectedness that involves both the expansion and amplification of economic relationships (Dicken, 2011). Without sufficient knowledge of these components, all geographies of development can be disrupted.

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Conditions of Social Change

Researchers acquiesce that social change is brought on by transformational conditions that include: (a) significant events like invasions or earthquakes; (b) repeating cycles, patterns, and trends on a macroscopic level; and (c) from social activities that affect individuals (Chase-Dunn & Babones, 2006). In other words, barriers and obstacles that arise from causes like world events and behaviors of groups that seek basic human rights for example, are some of the elements that drive social change.

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Functioning Structures and Innovations

Social change can also influence the efficiency and functionality of nations.  Conflicts that occur extend opportunities for cultural evolution as a society interprets the variety of components that motivate action from them.  The conflict perspective theory of the social sciences, suggests cultural change evolves at a particular point in time when the availability of resources and opportunities alter as a result from collective action or reform.  The structural functionalism theory also known as the functionalist theory, looks at the interconnectedness of a society and how they function together to promote their system.  For example, scarcity of resources creates strain and conflict within a culture that disrupt functioning systems. Struggles with issues like inequality and ideology can also become engines of change (Weinstein, 2010).

Innovations occur as a result of the grievances and unrest that emerge in a society. These certain (often hidden) motivators emerge from a lack of an effective, efficient or equitable system (Cels & de Jong, 2012). There are four phases of the innovation stage: (a) a clear awareness of a challenge; (b) the setting, conditions, and the assembly of the elements involved; (c) a new meaning, configuration, or a eureka moment; and (d) a crucial upgrade or revision to an invention. These innovations are likely to succeed when a society is ready to adapt them.

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Environmental Factors and Cycles

Catastrophic events like typhoons, earthquakes and landslides, present new problems that have consequential effects on a population and their migration.  Scientific research confirms that climate change has an effect on the environment. McNall (2011) purports that human impact of change on the global environment has effected the levels of CO2 on our planet that is higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years. He cites this for one reason that everything frozen on the planet thawing (McNall, 2011).

Identifying patterns of change in the economic and political aspects of a society is essential in understanding developmental change.  An economic theory of politics (also known as public choice) applies a more rational look at cultural behavior. By studying linear, cyclical and dialectical models of change, experts can assess whether patterns will follow a linear before and after frame, or a cyclical pattern, by determining if it is capable of returning to the same point (Weinstein, 2010).

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Basic Strategies of Change

Fundamental strategies can assist in the delineation of change that outline characteristics and boundaries of a population or system. These strategies can facilitate challenges between leaders and factions (Weinstein, 2010). Some of these tactics involve education, persuasion, and power as well as violent and nonviolent action.  Leaders that are capable of identifying problems and needs are able to make effective changes.

External assistance can also be a factor for those open to receiving it. This is especially true when it instigates community improvement and active participation with focus on an end goal (Weinstein, 2010). In short, a variety of ideas that are substantially different from the status quo, whether as modifications, substitutions or mutations of materials, also play an important role in stimulating cultural movement and growth.

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Changes in Ideology

As a civilization evolves, a culture’s ideological beliefs also helps shape the development of humankind.  For example, politicians, artists, and social activitists garner the power of the market with innovative ideology.  They contend the ability to champion a better ideology, also referred to as cultural orthodoxy, is the key to creating a demand for a new culture (Holt & Cameron, 2010).  In the meantime, archeological and mythological records of early civilizations typically focused their energy on pleasing their Gods to attain favorable conditions.  This major component is a commonality that shaped earlier cultures.

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Invasions and War

Social change is also incurred from the hostilities that arise in groups due to: (a) sorrows and grievances; (b) the incompetence of leaders to manage challenges; (c) the difficulties in adapting to change; or (d) a shift or circulation of new radical concepts and ideologies.  These components offer a fertile breeding ground for conflict that can lead to revolution and battle. Social change scientists look at the interconnectedness of a culture with a scientific approach to the components that drive them on a macro level.  Bauer’s (2007) research concludes that the interconnectedness of governments, religion, the urban environment, social structure, and the economy of earlier civilizations, extends for millenia (Bauer, 2007). To illustrate these constructs we will examine man’s earliest civilization to better comprehend ours in our next post.

 To Be Continued … Part III – An Ancient World View

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References

Bauer, S. (2007). The history of the ancient world. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, LLC.

Cels, S., & de Jong, J. (2012). Agents of change: Strategy and tactics for social innovation. Harrisonburg, VA: R. R. Donnelley Publishing.

Chase-Dunn, C., & Babones, S. (2006). Global social change. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Dicken, P. (2011). Global shift: Mapping the changing contours of the world economy. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Holt, D., & Cameron, D. (2010). Cultural strategy: Using innovative ideologies to build breakthroughs. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

McNall, S. (2011). Rapid climate change: Causes, consequences, and solutions. New York, NY: Routledge Publishing.

Weinstein, J. (2010). Social change. Pymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Getting Involved with Social Movements

Published February 6, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

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Introduction

There are many different kinds of movements to motivate individuals that become involved in them.  According to statistics the rise of the new middle class for instance, is one of the primary driving forces of social movements that seek reform to help tackle the challenges they face in a new global economy.  The intrinsic distrust in politics provides the impetus to advocate their democratic rights.  The key factors that rally enthusiasm in individuals for enlistment are: (a) the formal and informal methods of organization available to protestors for initial mobilization; (b) political opportunities and restrictions that confront the insurgents; and (c) the ability of interpreting the collective processes, ascription, and social composition that arbitrate between opportunities and action (McAdam, 1982).  This research takes a look at the political and social arenas that lure individuals to become involved in social movements and how conflicts are addressed by applying the resource mobilization and the political process theories.

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A Call to Arms

Even though change poses a threat to the status quo, it takes passion, determination and commitment for people to become involved with social movements that effect social change.  The resource mobilization theory posits that success for a social movement is contingent on the timing of its genesis and the atmosphere of the culture.  It is a movement whose motives are relevant to the current events in which the masses can emphasize and relate to.  In other words, the manner in which a movement affects the hearts and souls from the supporters recruited, plays an integral role.  In addition, it must have a unique quality that is unlike any other.  This element can be the incentive that others respond to from the emotions that are invoked.  Effective organizers use this aspect to their advantage and even look to trends of a specific social class to help with their cause.

The inclusion of the political process theory in social movements outlines emphasis and focus on the group’s ongoing process and evolution, rather than the discontent of the majority.  The political process broadens the efforts of the resource mobilization process by enlisting the aid of the elite and the political system.  Organizations work to disband the upper echelon in key positions of the political and corporate arenas by enlisting the aid of likeminded elite to support their cause and provide further resources in the process.

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A single mother for example, as a result of the many infractions and frustrations she endures from numerous failed attempts to collect support from an absentee father, may resort to becoming an active contributor to a social movement to help make new laws that will change a failing system.  The individual’s sense of abandonment and defeat; coupled by the failure to act from the proper authorities and government channels, out of desperation and as a last resort, instead turns to seek comfort and advice in forums and support groups.  In an attempt to acquire more knowledge and information, friendships emerge and discussions begin among these women with a common cause.  As more individuals gather, the realization of a collective emerges and they begin to organize, motivate each other and gather momentum.  This is the juncture where the group begins to unify their efforts.  Their level of success is contingent upon the organizational efforts, leadership, and their ability to create a cohesive group.

Mobilization and Action

Next focus is put on their functional requisites and as the resource mobilization theory posits, to marshal further support for their activities by formulating a concept that states the importance of their role.  Consequently, they look for solutions that address any power struggles they may face from their efforts to rally forces for collective action and taking into consideration the atmosphere of the current social conditions.  In this case, namely that gender development has grown exponentially, particularly in the last thirty years.  This awareness can help them address the challenges they may face in their attempt to create gender-sensitive policies in public and private organizations that continue to occur regardless of the diversity of an organization and notwithstanding the influence of the group’s elders and other non-related sympathizers.  Efforts to address women’s issues and the ostracism they confront from bureaucratic resistance can intensify and sometimes in extreme cases are demonstrated in a culture of violence (Jaquette & Summerfield, 2006).

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The next level of the movement’s development is to define their parameters and the components required to organize a coherent structure.  They can focus their intent to open an avenue that will attract political opportunity.  Their subsequent agenda is to propose new legislation that will eventually lead to the reforms they seek.  It is at this stage, their organization follows the path outlined by the political process theory, and in companionship to the mobilization theory, that their pursuit begins to mobilize the resources of the major social systems.  This includes the recruitment and support of influential individuals on a state level, to local leaders, and the media, in addition to corporate sponsors and politicians.  The movement closely scrutinizes both the support and opposition they will face, emphasizing their labor on the political aspects and opportunities available to break the unity of the elite in key positions, in accordance to the political process theory.

Individuals that are discontent yearn for improvement and reforms.  Incorporating the methodologies presented here as outlined by both the resource mobilization and political process theories is one example of how an individual or a social group can become motivated and assist in the development of a social movement.  They can also elicit the support of a popular personality as other established organizations of social movements have with celebrities like Robert Redford or Jane Fonda.  Other tactics include the implementation of methods similar to organizations like The Wildlife Foundation and the Humane Society whose recruiting efforts to solicit new membership entail the use of mailers and incentives that include complimentary return address stickers and desk note cards with their logo which we continue to receive in the post.

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Conclusion

It takes great passion and determination for people to become involved with social movements, especially from individuals that face issues of injustice and equality.  Social movements that reach the “petitioning” stage will discern whether their movement can continue to move forward by the momentum and size of the forces that have gathered or whether they disband due to the lack of support, reflected by the number of signatures acquired.  One can determine the amount of populace dissatisfaction by visiting the official government website, “We the People”, where petitions are submitted.  Some of the recent petitions logged there include noteworthy causes from worthwhile movements like: the taxation of religious organizations and churches; a requirement that all genetically modified foods should be labeled as such; and the re-evaluation of the federal minimum wage for tipped employees.

Other petitions submitted are of an inane nature, like the deportation of British Citizen and CNN TV host, Piers Morgan, for his recent rants on gun control.  The most humorous petition we encountered, requested the US Government to build a Death Star.  In fact, they received so many signatures that White House Chief of Science and Space, Paul Shawcross, had to respond.  One of the reasons cited for its rejection: “The Administration does not support blowing up planets” (Dothan, 2013).

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In conclusion, social change is brought about by recurring economic crises that have not been sufficiently addressed.  Changing institutions, the control of resources and the mobilization of power are key components that motivate individuals to become involved in social movements as contributors, elders and sympathizers.  It is passion and a profound desire to make a difference that is deeply embedded into the human agency.  As long as those passions exist, people will continue to get involved making social change inevitable.

References:

Dothan, A. (2013, January 14). White House ups the ante for peition website: 100,000 signatures. Retrieved January 18, 2013, from Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-white-house-raises-signature-limit-for-petition-responses-20130116,0,973194.story

Jaquette, J., & Summerfield, G. (2006). Women and gender equity in development theory. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

McAdam, D. (1982). Political process and development of black insurgency. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.