Defining a Social Movement

Collective action is defined as “a collaborative effort that takes place in groups and diverges from the social norms of the situation” and draws attention.

Social Movements are a type of “collective action that are large groupings of individuals or organizations focusing on certain social or political issues of society.” (Raskoff, 2013) It is “a collective behavior that is purposeful, organized, and institutionalized, but not ritualized.” A social movement can begin with one person as long as they can get others to believe in what they stand for, support and join. Throughout history there have been many important role models who stood for something they believed in and began a social movement such as Martin Luther King and Gloria Steinem. Martin Luther King had the support of NAACP, Urban League, SNCC, CORE, and SCLC and all other protestors to change America’s conscience about civil rights, economic justice, poverty, and war. And Gloria Steinem popularized feminist ideas as an activist with the support of women that joined her different organizations and foundations.

Social Movements are subcategorized into four distinctive types:

  1. Alternative – social movements seek limited social change and tend to be focused on a narrow group of people.
  2. Redemptive – social movements focused on a narrow group of people, but they advocate for more radical change.
  3. Reformative – social movements advocate for limited social change but seek to effect that change across an entire society.
  4. Revolutionary – social movements seek to make radical change across an entire society.




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