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AnalyticalPaper – Social Movements

Asocial movement comprises of a number of people with a commonideology and coordinates to accomplish certain general goals. Theirprimary objective is to bring about social change. Throughout thehistory of America, social movements have played a major role in itsmaturation as well as changing the way people see things. The aim isto capitalize on political opportunities in order to foster change(Costain 36). The United States political structure has beenquestioned on several occasions due to institutionalized politicalmodels. It is because political power is concentrated on leadersrather than on the society. The leaders differ from each other interms of objectives and resources. Power is distributed to all theleaders and hence social movements take advantage to ensureresponsiveness and openness is achieved. The classical socialmovement model argues that some kind of disturbance and distress inthe social environment leads to disruptive psychological states suchas anxiety in individuals (Costain 39). Individuals then direct theirenergy into social groups that helps them relieve various forms ofemotional difficulties.

Thefirst social movement in the United States was for temperance andabolition of slavery. The people involved in the demonstrations werecivil institutions and religions. The protest occurred in 1830swhereby thousands of Americans were involved in the movement (Costain57). They demonstrated for a reform in the society as well as urgingreligious institutions to repent. It was a violent demonstration thatwas faced with fierce resistance. Applying the classical model, theprotestors were angry because the citizens and the nation as a wholehad refused to repent and change. They argued that the sins of thecountry would lead to a decrease in divine retribution. They werealso expressing their personal concerns and social problems proposingfor reformation. The social movement in the United States occurredwhen people were frustrated, manipulated, marginalized or evenalienated (Costain 65). They would protest violently, spontaneouslyor even irrationally. They were demonstrating for life-style, moraland identity issues rather than protesting for political and economicissues.

Theclassical model of social movements revealed different prototypes onthe various facets of social movements and the reasons for theiractions. The model uses numerous versions that try to answerquestions such as who is involved in these protests and what type ofprotests do they participate in? The versions include mass society,collective behavior, rising expectation and status inconsistency(Costain 73). The mass society theory argues that social protest canoccur due to social isolation. This is due to absence of establishedstructures that facilitate integration into the social and politicallife. Individuals develop strong feelings of anxiety and alienationand they engage in extreme behaviors to release these tensions.Status inconsistency is associated with the differences in ranking onvarious status dimensions such as occupation, education and income.An attempt to change the reality based cognitions can lead tocollective protests. The versions demonstrated by the classical modelargue that people demonstrate due to grievances, discontent, classconflict and anomie (Costain 63).

Majorityof the scholars identify that the emergence of most social movementsis due to interactions with national state. They would takeadvantages of the political opportunities to relieve their anxiety.Young argues that the social movements of today are beyond politicalstruggles and are now demonstrating for issues within the society(Costain 77). They demand for personal and social change. The firstsocial movement in the United States was questionable because it wasa form of life politics. It had mixed social and personal reforms.There are factors identified in the article that is not applicable into the classical model framework. There are new theories that explainthe purposes and forms of social movements. One of the factors is thecultural schemas and the making of national social movement. Thecollective action on the first American social movement made aninterregional protest successful. The protest in the year 1830s wereefficiently executed by a tied action of personal interests andnational purposes (Costain 79).

Thereligion could have rejected the protest, but instead agreed to join.It was a surprise that instead of protesting against economic issues,they were urging for repentance. Collective action represents theinterests of the group rather than individual problem althoughindividuals make personal decisions as to whether to join or not(Costain 82). Identification with a certain group helps answer thefrequent asked question of how an individual connects to the group.People participating in the protest changed their individualidentification to focus on the demand of what they thought the groupwanted by sharing their grievances, aims and objectives. It was clearthat civil and religious institutions were so powerful that theywould propel a social movement by a combination of issues such as sinand confession. The cultural schemas gave a clear meaning andmotivated people towards demonstrating for social change (Costain85).

Thefactors identified by Young criticize the classical model on numerousissues. The first criticism identifies social movements as a responseto strain. Young argues that the assumption that social movements arein response to strain is unrealistic. Young argues that there exist adifference between strain and collective protest (Costain93).The classical model makes people believe that social movements occurin an attempt to solve some elements of stress in the society. Theclassical model does not explain the political context that leads tosocial insurgency. Protests are shaped by numerous environmentalfactors and the perception of insurgent prospects lead to successfuldemonstrations. These factors are also known as cost push that amountto protest. The model assumes that social insurgency is less likelyto cause social movements because they are low levels of stress inthe society (Costain94).Young explains that these movements emerge as a result of ongoinginteractions within the political-economic environment. The theory iscriticized for not taking into consideration the actions ofopponents, allies and those of protesting groups.

Theother criticism is that individual discontent as the proximate causeof social movements. It assumes that the forces behind socialinsurgency leads to strain and stress that in turn promote socialmovements. Theassumption is untrue. The notion that political movements are theprimary sources of demonstrations is unclear because the protest in1830 was not politically influenced (Costain 96). Majority of theevidence given in the classical model is not satisfactory. Young alsoargues that the model addresses the psychological state as objectiverather than subjective. It only compares the levels of education andincome of different races and concludes that the difference betweenthe two is the cause of social movements. In addition, the theorydoes not establish measures of the behavior with individualsdemonstrating and non participants. The data on status inconsistencydoes not represent the whole population of Americans and hence it isinadequate to prove a theory.

Theother criticism is that the classical model demonstrates that thesocial movements represent a psychological instead of a politicalphenomenon (Costain 102). The classical social movement model arguesthat some kind of disturbance and distress in the social environmentleads to disruptive psychological states such as anxiety inindividuals. Individuals then direct their energy into social groupsthat helps them relieve various forms of emotional difficulties.Contrary, institutionalized politics are rational and demonstrate toachieve particular political goals.


Costain,Anne N.&nbspSocialMovements and American Political Institutions.Lanham: Rowman &amp Littlefield, 2011. Print.

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