A Dissertation on New Social Movement Theory (2011)
New Social Movement Theory Dissertation – There appears to be a high level of consensus among European students of social movements about trends in the recent past. Two parallel and opposed developments have occurred. On one hand, labour movements, concerned to improve workers’ material conditions, have declined in significance.
On the other hand, new social movements, concerned with such oppression as those around gender, sexuality and race and with such pathologies of modernity as militarism and environmental degradation, have become more important. This consensus, which began to emerge in the early 1980s, was not accidental.
That period witnessed the rapid growth of peace movements, and the increasing prominence of the Green movement in West Germany and elsewhere. Around the same time most of the advanced economies of Europe, North America, and Japan experienced significant declines in levels of strike action.
Reflecting on these dual and opposing trends, social movement theorists sought explanations to encompass both developments. Why were New Social Movements (NSMs) becoming more important while labour movements were declining? Out of their reflections, in an intellectual context marked by a discrediting of traditional Marxism, there appeared a paradigmatic account, which this article critically reviews.
In summary terms, a process of systemic change has occurred – variously the emergence of post-industrial society, programmed society, post-Fordism, high modernity or post-modernity involving a shift in social composition which has in turn been reflected in the fate of social movements. The working class has been subject to shrinkage, attenuation and incorporation, with weakening effects on labour movements. Simultaneously, the service class or new middle class has grown, and with it have expanded new movements either based on that class or on no class at all.
The systemic shift is associated with a change in contested issues. Where previously “material” questions were central in social conflict, now post-material, symbolic or identity issues are taking centre stage. The waning of old movements and the waxing of new movements is part and parcel of a societal, structural change. Thus the modernization of economy and polity is producing, or develops in tandem with, a set of cultural changes which find expression in new patterns of social movements.
The argument is by now familiar. It appears to have several parts. A series of broad societal transformations are identified, along with their principal contradictions. These transformations and contradictions simultaneously supply both the issues which the newly emerging movements seek to confront, and the actors best equipped to develop challenges to the emerging new social order.
- 12,000 words – 46 pages in length
- Excellent use of literature
- Good analysis of subject area
- Well written throughout
- Ideal for sociology students
New Social Movements
Beyond the Paradigm
Analyzing Class and Social Movements
An Example: Racism and British Trade Unionism
Secular-Structural or Conjunctural Explanation?
Roots of the Current Conjuncture
The Return of Class?
An Open Conclusion