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Sociology | Class 12 | Social Movements


We frequently believe that the rights we have came into being by accident. It is critical to keep in mind the historical struggles that made the attainment of these rights possible.

The global socialist movements, the struggle against Black apartheid in South Africa, and the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s have all profoundly altered the course of history.

Social movements alter societies in addition to that. Other social movements are also inspired by them.

Characteristics of Social Movements

  • It requires ongoing, sustained group effort. Such action frequently involves calling for modifications to state law or practise and is directed against the state.

  • There must be some organisation in collective action. The leadership and organisational structure of this group may set forth how members interact, make decisions, and carry them out.

  • A social movement's participants have shared goals and ideologies as well. A social movement has a general focus or method of action for enacting (or preventing) change.

  • These distinguishing qualities change over time. Over the course of a social movement's existence, they might alter.

  • Social movements struggle to quickly alter society. There will undoubtedly be opposition and resistance because it runs counter to both ingrained interests and values. Nevertheless, changes do occur over time.

Differentiating between social movements and social change

The social landscape is constantly changing. The numerous individual and collective actions gathered over a long period of time and space make up the broad historical processes of social change. Social movements aim to achieve a few particular objectives. Long-term, ongoing social action and effort are required.

Counter Movement

Sometimes oppositional movements emerge to defend the status quo. The use of counter movements occurs frequently.

  • Sati supporters established Dharma Sabha and petitioned the British not to pass laws against sati when Raja Rammohun Roy ran an anti-sati campaign and founded the Brahmo Samaj.

  • Many people objected when reformers demanded that girls attend school, arguing that this would be disastrous for society.

  • Reformers faced social backlash when they advocated for widow remarriage. Some so-called "upper caste" children had their enrollment in schools withdrawn by their families when the so-called "lower caste" kids started attending.

  • A backlash against proposals to expand reservation in educational institutions has emerged.

Social movement actions

While demonstrations are the most obvious example of collective action, social movements also take other, equally significant actions.

  • Meetings are held by social movement activists to mobilise the public around issues that are important to them. Such activities promote mutual understanding and set the stage for a sense of consensus or agreement regarding how to advance the group's agenda.

  • Social movements also develop campaigns that involve influencing the government, the media, and other significant public opinion-shapers.

  • Different forms of protest are also developed by social movements. Processions lit by candles and torches, the use of black cloth, street theatre, music, and poetry are a few examples.

  • Gandhi used cutting-edge tactics in the struggle for freedom, including ahimsa, satyagraha, and the use of the charkha.

Social Movements and Sociology

  • Social movements aim to alter some aspect of society in a nation.

    • French revolution took place during a time of suffering, depression, and a desire for freedom and equality.

    • British industrial revolt: the cry of the underpaid and mistreated common man.

  • Social movements may cause societal breakdown or disorder, according to Emile Durkheim. Individuals are less significant than society.

    • spoke about the social facts, religion, suicide, and the division of labour.

  • Sociology is the study of society, and social movements frequently aim to improve the lot of the lower classes.

  • Poor people and depressed groups use protests as their only means of expression because they lack any other options.

Social Movement Theories

Theory of Relative Deprivation

Everyone experiences some form of deprivation, but not all deprivations result in social movements.

However, according to this theory, any deprivation of a particular group's basic needs will trigger a social movement. This theory's premise is that the person

  • Feels resentful (unhappy with the situation) and

  • Has a psychological factor that makes them feel deprived.

  • A social movement shouldn't or won't result from every deprivation.

  • A social movement cannot be founded on deprivation alone.

  • There are many other elements at play.

Theory of collective action

  • In his book The Logic of Collective Action, Mancur Olson makes the case that a social movement is simply a collection of self-interested, logical individuals acting in concert.

  • A person will only join a social movement if they stand to benefit from it.

  • This theory is based on the rational question: Why should I join a social movement if I don't gain anything?

Resource mobilisation theory

  • given by Zald and McCarthy.

  • Everyone involved in a social movement, they claimed, need not have self interest.

  • They claimed that a social movement can succeed if it is able to mobilise resources (people, effective leaders, financial resources, and political support), such as Anna Hazare (2011), who did not act in his own self-interest.

  • Sociologists assert that individuals can produce resources. There is no need to mobilise them. Since new identities, resources, and other things are created, a social movement need not rely on already-existing ones.

  • For instance, the struggle for freedom had few financial or political resources, but it did have a strong leader.

Social Movement Types

There are three categories for social movements.

  • The reformist Movement is a movement where the reformers try to change the mindset of the people regarding a particular issue.

  • A revolutionary movement is one that employs extreme or violent tactics to change society. (May employ weapons). For instance, Bhagat Singh, Subash Chandra Bose, and the Indian National Army

  • The Redemptive Movement was founded to undo previous actions. It lies to alter peoples' perspectives. For instance, Shree Narayan founded the Anti-Brahmin Movement.

Another way of classifying: old and new

Old Movements

The political party system served as the framework for the earlier social movements. The Indian National Movement was spearheaded by the Indian National Congress. The Chinese Revolution was steered by the Communist Party of China.

Some people today think that the 'old' class-based political action spearheaded by trade unions and workers' parties is waning. Others countered that class-based oppression and inequality were no longer major issues in the wealthy West with its welfare state.

New Movements

The political parties played a significant role in the early social movements. Rajni Kothari, a political scientist, says that people's growing dissatisfaction with parliamentary democracy is what led to the explosion of social movements in India in the 1970s. Kothari contends that elites have taken control of the state's institutions.

The "new" social movements focused on issues of quality of life, such as having a clean environment, rather than altering the distribution of power in society.

It follows that many of the new social movements have an international focus. The fact that the old and new movements are cooperating in fresh coalitions like the World Social Forum, which has been bringing attention to the dangers of globalisation, is noteworthy.

Ecological Movement

Concerns over unrestrained use of natural resources and a development model that generates new needs that call for even more exploitation of already-depleted natural resources have grown significantly over the years.

The assumption that all demographic groups will benefit from development has also been criticised in relation to this model of development. Therefore, large dams uproot people from their homes and livelihoods. Agriculturalists are evicted from their homes and livelihood by industries.

Such intertwined interests and ideologies are well-illustrated by the Chipko movement, an example of the ecological movement, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The oak and rhododendron forests close to the villages were saved, according to Ramachandra Guha in his book Unquiet Woods. The villagers, including a significant number of women, moved forward to hug the trees when government forest contractors arrived to fell them.

Class Based Movement

Peasant Movement

  • During the pre-Colonial period, there were movements, but they were not localised, so we were unaware of them because the peasants were too afraid to organise their own. Due to their poverty, they were unable to mobilise people.

  • Colonial 19th Century - A few uprisings did gain a lot of support.

  • Gandhi helped people all over India during the Bengal Revolt, which occurred during the years 1917 to 1920, when he was planting indigo after returning from South Africa.

    • There were 2 important movements. There were numerous revolts involving the forest in 1920, including Champaran and Bardoli.

  • Organizations were established, including the All India Kissan Sabha (AlKS) and the Bihar Provincial Kissan Sabha (West Bengal).

    • Farmers had to give the government 50% of their profits.

    • They wanted to keep 60% of the profit and give the remaining third to government sharecroppers (supported by CPI and AIKS).

  • Naxalbari was a peasant movement that evolved into the New Farmers Movement in West Bengal.

  • Farmers pooled funds, constructed roads, and other infrastructure because they were fed up with politicians making false promises. They did all the work and blocked government vehicles from passing.

  • They waited years for the administration to assist them, but since they received none, they handled things themselves. primarily related to the market.

  • Prices decreased with more government support; taxes were cut; subsidiaries supported prices; easy loans were made available; exploitation was stopped; and methods of protest were employed.

  • bandhs, railroads, and blocked roads. There are no politicians or administrators driving. Women's issues and environmental concerns were gradually embraced by new farmer movements.

Workers Movement

The workers during the colonial era experienced their own issues.

Calcutta, Bombay, and Chennai

  • The initial issues related to pay and working conditions.

  • Trade unions are associations that are made up of workers.

  • At first, the protest was localised, but as a national movement gained strength, the workers movement also did.

  • There were textile strikes and workers strikes in the early 20th century.

  • Gandhi ji's TLA (textile labour association) and B.P. Wadia's AITUC (all India trade union congress) were set up. The British became extremely cautious after the creation of ATTUC.

  • The British passed a number of laws with their own rules and regulations, such as the Trade Union Act. AITUC gradually grew in strength and received support from communists.

  • Indian National Trade Union Congress was created as a result. Radicals and Congress departed. At the local, regional, and national levels, AITUC grew in strength.


  • During the recession, many people lost their jobs.

  • There were protests and inflation.


  • Numerous rail strikes affected urban transportation.

  • requesting higher pay and better working conditions.

  • No protests are permitted during an emergency.

Movement based on Caste

The Dalit Movement

  • They were fighting for dignity and self-respect, which set them apart from other movements.

  • They craved physical contact. Gandhi ji, a few Brahmins, and other people were fighting in addition to the Dalits.

  • It was an effort to combat discrimination. Untouchability as a concept was to be abandoned.

  • The idea of untouchability had associations with destiny and clean air.

  • Every Dalit movement that took place in India fought for dignity and self-respect in addition to a specific issue or agenda (such as wages or employment).

Panther Dalit Movement

  • Prior to the advent of the media, the Dalit movement could be disregarded.

  • Because Dalit literature included poems, plays, songs, stories about their lives and tribulations, etc., it quickly gained popularity.

  • This changed people's perspectives and highlighted Dalits' struggle for self-respect and the need to bring about change in all spheres of life.

OBC Movement

  • These are other disadvantaged groups having socially and economically weaker backgrounds.

  • they belong to the forward caste despite having a poor economy.

  • Avoid having an untouchable status.

  • OBC was first used for those who were economically disadvantaged in Madras and Bombay.

  • All India Backward Classes League/Federation (AIBCL/F).


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