The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Social movement

Social movements are broader political associations focussed on specific issues. Political science has developed an eloquent theory of social movements, highlighting the relation between popular movements and the formation of new political parties as well as discussing the function of social movements in relation to agenda setting and influence on politics.

In feudal society, economic relationships with the land defined political activity. Modern social movements became possible through the wider dissemination of literature, and increased mobility of labour due to the industrialisation of societies. Organised social structures like the modern day armies, political societies and popular movements required freedom of expression, education and relative economic independence.

Usually, the labor movement and socialist movement of the late 19th century are seen as the prototypical social movements, leading to the formation of communist and social democratic parties and organisations.

From 1815, Britain after victory in the Napoleonic Wars entered a period of social upheaval and change, caused by returning soldiers and unemployment. This resulted in class struggle in the Peterloo Massacre, the Reform Act of 1832, disputes over the Corn laws. Other European countries, such as France, began to see the emergence of political and social movements in the 19th Century. These social movements, set the background to which Karl Marx attempted to analyse social theory more generally.

1861 saw the beginning of the reform movements in Russia, as the feudal system was abolished. Unions, or Soviets were formed from 1905 as pressure for reform continued, resulting in the collapse of the Russian State at the end of the First World War.

In 1945, Britain after victory in the second world war entered a period of radical reform and change, as a workers rights social movement dominated politics until the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

In the 1970s, women's rights, peace, civil rights and environmental movements emerged, often dubbed New Social Movements. They lead inter alia to the formation of green parties.

Some find in the end of the 1990s the emergence of a new global social movement, the anti-globalization movement.

A list of social movements:

Last updated: 05-07-2005 15:09:28
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04