(Paper 2: Sociology)
Practice Question: Do you agree that social movements are caused by opportunity structures that are generated by media? Why? 10 Marks (2019)
Approaching the question : Introduction; About opportunity structures, the relation between social movements and media.
Social movements are a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals or organizations that focus on specific political or social issues. In other words, they carry out, resist or undo a social change.
TYPES OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
*Revolutionary movement is a specific type of social movement dedicated to carrying out revolutionary reforms and gain some control of the state. If they do not aim for an exclusive control, they are not revolutionary.
*A reformative social movement advocates for minor changes instead of radical changes. For example revolutionary movements can scale down their demands and agree to share powers with others, becoming a political party.
*redemptive social movements: A redemptive social movement is radical in scope but focused on the individual.
SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, MEDIA AND OPPORTUNITY STRUCTURES
Samuel Huntington contributed greatly to the Modernization theory. He
argues instability surfaces when institutions cannot keep up with societal and economic
changes. Consequently, society will strive to replace the current institutions with ones
that can meet current social and political demands. However, Ted Gurr adds
relative deprivation to fill in a gap in modernization theory. Gurr argues that even if
institutions are able to catch up with societal and economic changes the feeling of relative deprivation will also lead people to mass organize.
Rational choice theory also introduces individuals as rational actors who make choices based on the costs and benefits of alternative courses of action that will most likely maximize their utility.
Mobilising structures : social networks and media
Resource mobilization theory argues that resources – such as time, money, organizational skills, and certain social or political opportunities – are critical to the formation and success of social movements. Although types of resources may vary, the availability of applicable resources, and actors’ abilities to use them effectively are critical for collective action.
Charles Tilly criticizes previous approaches to social movement theory for placing the individual as the primary unit of social movements. The degree of group identification appears to be a strong predictor of collective action participation. Thus, social movements depend on social networks that will function as an initial core made up of densely know clusters of stronger ties that then mobilize weakly linked individuals spreading discontent into a mass movement.
Social media and social movements
Social networks and the media – provided five key aspects to the formation of social movements. These were: communication, organization, mobilization, validation, and scope enlargement. The diffusion of information between different countries through traditional media outlets generally takes longer than information going through social media. The fast spread of information – especially internationally – helps with validation,
mobilization, and scope enlargement. Perhaps one of the most striking features of this
new method of communication is its ability to bypass the bias of official sources and the
mass media, and give a voice to ordinary citizens in transforming the political landscape
of their country .
“How could we interpret the media-generated opinions concerning social
movements? It is presumably too early to introduce certain predictions about this daily-changed and user-generated media. Indeed, media is all about what we share. Whether it should be used as a means of revolutions or a radical social transformation is subjected to further studies. A revolution is generally depended upon people’s will rather than communication tools. Media would be helpful only citizens find it necessary in social transformations.”
(Paper 2: Sociology)