Social and Discrete Protest Movements and Their Development of Strategies

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Socialand Discrete Protest Movements and Their Development of Strategies

Socialand Discrete Protest Movements and Their Development of Strategies


Theconcept of social movement has become a prominent aspect in thecontemporary discussion of citizenship and change. In fact, socialmovements have succeeded to secure human rights across the world,winning important triumphs and consolidating societies. Socialmovements have managed to cultivate struggles against escalatingdisparity, paucity, deepening dispossession, diminished human rights.In addition, they fight daily to secure rights for safety,healthcare, natural resources, housing, food, and education. However,achieving success in today’s world has become complex for thesocial movements since they have to contend with dominantinternational forces and interests especially governments andcapitalists thus, they have progressively built local andinternational alliances. The dynamism of social movements has a richhistory especially in the protection of the poor and thedispossessed. The dynamism has progressed from a single struggle to acollective action that counters the excesses of the powerful. Infact, Snow and Moss (2014) have perceived the struggle of socialmovements as components of an extended lasting action rather than adisconnected event. Social movements across the world have developedfrom local bases with trivial goals to collective forces withnational bases. Today, social movements are concerned with variousaspects of the connection between society and nature as well as withmultifaceted cultural embellishment. In their inception, they hadspecific objectives such as hindering the construction of disposalplants or dams, but the development of the movements has also changedthe objectives. In this regards, the assessment defines socialmovements and offer a development aspect of the movement byillustrating how they develop counterhegemonic approaches as well asnotes the differing facets with discrete protest groups.

Socialmovements denote a cluster action or a large assemblage oforganizations or persons, sometimes informal that concentrate onexplicit social, economic, or political issues. In fact, theystruggle to execute, resist, or disengage social change. However, theterm is usually distinct from political, religious, and particularmovements such as youth movements. In the correct context, socialmovements occur in communities and tend to influence indirectly ordirectly the social order of a society. Today, scholars denote socialmovement as wide variety of collective endeavors to bring change incertain establishments or create a new order completely (Weber etal., 2013). Snow and Moss (2014) define social movements as, “Formsof shared action that emerge in reaction to circumstances ofsubjugation, disparity, and unmet economic, political, social, andcultural demands,” (16). On the other hand, Jasper (2011) and Boffand Vilela (2014) define social movement as a combination ofcollective ideas and actions usually with a magnitude of continuityand organization outside of institutional channels, concerned withaltering patterns of social life. In this regards, they encompass anorganized set of fundamentals or components pursuing a collectiveagenda of social change. Whether focusing on affirmative action or ongroup-related connections, social movements have existed across theworld and history. Instances of earlier social movements includemovements to end the Transatlantic Slave Trade of the 16thcentury, movements to gain women’s suffrage in 19thcentury, and movements of industrial workers during the IndustrialRevolution.

However,it is during the 20thcentury, that social movements experienced the highest growth sincetheir inception as movements seeking national liberation developed inAsia, Africa, Pacific, and the Middle East. Other movements duringthis period developed to counter dictatorship especially in LatinAmerica while others developed for peace, feminism, environment,sexual orientation, ethnic prejudice, and anti-militarism. Most ofthe social movements of the 20thcentury occurred against the backdrop of economic and politicalcrises, increased urbanization and globalization, rise of mass media,rapid industrial and scientific change, and expansion ofcommunication technologies. In this regards, it is essential tounderstand that social movements are dynamic, historical or socialoccurrences shaped by situations, but they are also contingentoccurrences that diminish and increase in reaction to factors thatconstrain or enable them. As such, understanding social movementsmeans that one must comprehend the contestation that occurs withinthe movements, memberships, impacts, approaches, and the time factorof the movements.

Growth,Development and Qualification of social movements

Althoughthe earliest forms of social movements occurred as early as 16thcentury, the first organized social movements occurred in England in18thcentury. These movements were connected to broad political andeconomic change including market capitalization, social mobility, andpolitical representation (Weber et al., 2013). Several scholars suchas Boff and Vilela (2014), Snow, and Moss (2014) opine that the firstorganized social movement encompassed around John Wilkes, acontroversial political figure and the editor of “TheNorth Briton.”Wilkes condemned vigorously the government of Lord Bute and the peaceterms that the administration agreed to during the 1763 Treaty ofParis, which led to his arrest on charges of seditious libel.However, Wilkes denounced the arrest as illegitimate and thepresiding judge ruled in his favor. After the episode, Wilkes becamea popular figure to the increasing movement for popular sovereigntyamong the Middle Class. Later Wilkes was imprisoned on anothercharge, people began to chant for his release and a social movementemerged. In 1769, an activist group, “Societyfor the Supporters of the Bill of Rights,”began to promote Wilkes policies thus, the birth of the first-eversustained social movement. Later, other movements such as the BritishAbolitionist Movement, socialist and labor movements of the 18thand 19thcenturies occurred.

Accordingto Smith (2014), “Lorenz von Stein, a German sociologist firstintroduced the term social movement in 1848 into intellectualdiscussions,” (14). Later, in 1960s, a group of scholars such asTilly, Zald, and Gamson began to formulate enhanced political andorganizational arguments to account for social changes and unrests aswell as explain the organizations of social movements (Jasper, 2011).In their analysis, they endeavored to explain the causes of socialunrests and changes and the underlying implications of these unreststo the society. In addition, they employed an institutional viewpointto discuss the development of social movements. It is worth notingthat Zald and Denton explained the formation and development ofsocial movements as one that results from social injustices ratherthan commitment to survival concerns (Snow and Moss, 2014). In fact,Jasper (2011) opines that unlike protest movements, social movementsdo not develop from irrational behavior but rather from reformactivities such as the Civil Rights Movement. In this regards, socialmovements do not develop to stress a common grievance but theydevelop to fight against social injustices as well as to seek redresson mechanisms of mobilizations and opportunities for all.

Thedevelopment of movements depends on the magnitude of the wantedchange, the commitment of the members, the approaches employed by thepowerful forces that the movements have to contend with, and themagnitude of the sought change. In this regards, movements mayenvisage their commitment and change as occurring over a long period,over generations, over a lifetime, or until the sought after changeoccurs. In addition, participation of the movement in the desiredchange can develop over generations as people born into activistsocieties often become active members of the movements. On the otherhand, during their formation, social movements go through phases ofgrowth and change, in some instances developing systematically inimpact and dynamism and in others diminishing in reaction to externalpressures and internal dynamics. In addition, movements cease toexist when they address their fundamental concern, due to systematicclampdown by external forces, and due to internal factors. Externalforces such as governments can subdue social movements throughtargeted persecution, assassination of key members of the movements,and cultivation of propaganda and campaign to discredit visiblemembers of the movements. Internal factors may include failure toadapt social or political plan to altering context or trepidations ofmembers, power struggle, lack of harmony among members, andconflicts.

Althoughreasons exist on why social movements form, scholars continue toargue on the main objective behind the formation of social movements(Mirabito and Berry, 2015). In fact, social theorists have generatedseveral theories to explain the existence of social movements, butthese theories have not considered the central initiative and reasonbehind the formation of these movements. As Weber et al. (2013)suggest not all circumstances of disparity, paucity, or socialinjustice give rise to movements thus, activists build movements inthe sense of active and deliberate investment of labor, resources,and ideas.

Mostscholars such as Jasper (2011) and Diani (2013) believe that personssharing the same thoughts for transformation are not social movementunless these persons or groups are involved in collective action.Such an analysis shows that shared ideas do not qualify as socialmovements, but rather they act as pre-conditions for the presence orformation of a social movement. In addition, Smelser (2011) opinesthat mass and trends migration do not constitute social movements asthese trend are only uncoordinated actions of people. In fact, assuggested in the description of social movements’ aspects to dowith social implications do not necessarily constitute a socialmovement. As illustrated a perceived gap between people’saspirations and the current ethics usually allow people to aspire forsocial change. When the established institutions and organizationsfail to attain the desired change, people usually resort to socialmovements as the vehicle for the new element they desire in thesociety. In fact, the civil society craves for a transformation, butthe social structure tend to remain rigid on the craved changesthus, the formation of social movements. However, these movementsare not incorporated in the current social order of the societythus, they are commonly unconventional. The discrepancy between thesocial order and civil society determines the dynamic and magnitudeof the social movement. On the other hand, the subjugation thatsubsists between social order and civil society leads to mobilizationcommonly in an organizational perspective where people harnessresources and ideas in support of the cause. Later mass mobilizationof people occurs where the leaders of the movement recruit thesociety behind the cause.

Typesof social movements

Theredoes not exist a particular, standard typology of these movements.Different movements have different aspects and objectives thus, thedevelopment of different classification to social movement. Scholarshave attempted to categorize social movements based on theirobjectives, scope, targets, type of change desired, methods of work,and range of the movements (Smith, 2014 Opp, 2011 Opp, 2013).However, a common but exceedingly subjective distinction on socialmovements is between revolutionary and reform movements. A reformmovement advocates transformation that will preserve prevailingvalues but provide enhanced means for implementing the values.Conversely, a revolutionary movement advocates for the replacement ofprevailing values. Other scholars advance other typologies of thesocial movements such as reactionary and progressive where theprogressive argues for a new social arrangement while the reactionarypromotes for the restoration of a previous order of social affairs.Johnston (2013) and Suh (2014) suggest that the typology of socialmovement should ground on the public definition of the movements,character of the antagonism evoked, and the means of actionavailable. Most scholars define a movement that fails to threaten theinterests or values of any significant segment of society asrespectable and one that does not have a rival movement as anon-factional.

Briefanalysis of social movements’ theories

Thetheory of social movement has transformed over time in reaction toshifting theoretical viewpoints among scholars and novel forms ofsocial mobilization. In this regards, theories on social movementslay emphasis on diverse factors including person’s psychology,historical framework, shifting institutional power, structuraldisparity, and symbolism.

Theoriesof framing

Developedin 1970s and 1980s, the theories of framing engage aspects of socialsensibility and culture of movements arguing that social movementsgenerate and develop around the structure of new frames foridentification and comprehending existing struggles and socialconcerns. Benford and Snow (2000) suggest that theories of framingemphasize how conscription takes shape around and dynamicallyinvolves the construction of specific opinions, connotations, moral,and cognitive structure of a problem. The mobilization andconstruction of ideas or meanings may encompass selecting fromobtainable range of concepts, arguments, or schemes. “Thus,involves struggles to promote a social or political agenda andpromote certain meanings and problem construed definitions,” Smith,2014, p. 14). These theories support some of the concerns of civicviewpoints on citizenship as they recognize a multiplicity ofinterests within community and assume that citizens form factionalgroups around these interests. In this context, social movementsbuild a ground for individuals to relate with a cause while alsoidentifying root causes thus, cultivate appropriate approaches totackle the issues.

Theoriesof resource mobilization and political process

Thetheories of resource mobilization emanated from the formative debatesabout the collective action as debated by Olson (1965) and collectivebehavior as debated by Park (1921) (Luna, 2014). The theory focusedon rewards, balance of costs, and incentives that proffer individualswith the motivation to become engrossed in activities and change. Thetheory involves the employment of a rational actor approach linked toa structural system model to generate rational activities andexchanges of people. Since the theories of resource mobilizationassess the effectiveness of movements on their magnitude to generateresources, the theories of political process were developed as acritique to this aspect. The theories consider the impact of shiftingpower frameworks as well as the way the frameworks create prospectsand affect the emphasis of social mobilization.

RelativeDeprivation Theory

Thedeprivation theory asserts that social movements manifest amongindividuals who sense a feeling of deficiency of some of the societyaspects such as comfortable lifestyle, amenities and diet. A sense ofinequality on abundance of the others and failed expectations drivethese individuals to movements (Swain, 2012). According to thistheory, people who feel that they lack resources that they deem tohave a right to, plan a social movement to demand the same or supporttheir situations. Either, these people feel deprived of others whotend to has acquired more economic resources, power and status orthey feel disadvantaged about a stop of beneficial situations such asa worse turn on a system of economy drivers in a nation (Davis,2011).

RationalChoice Theory

Rationalaction theory or choice theory still refers to rational choicetheory. This theory dwells on the official modelling of the economicand social behaviour. Rational choice theory suggests that socialmovements result from a collective of social behaviours thatoriginate from individual decision-making or actors (Opp, 2011 Opp,2013). Individual choices permit them to exercise their preferences,weight the expenses and the gains of alternative courses of action.These people are logical actors who consider every factorstrategically before they state their options. Mostly, theseindividuals select what maximizes their utility and do itcollectively thereby giving rise to a social movement (Ness, 2014).

Featuresand dynamics of social movements

Asocial movement does not exist merely as a perpetuated mass as itpossesses motivational and organizational mechanisms with a capacityto sustain members. A social movement sustains its membership througha period of waiting and inaction. In this regards, a social movementis a combination of administration and naturalness. In addition, amovement generates leadership, identity, and coordination as well asprovides boundaries for its continuity. It is worth noting thatsocial change and social movements have an intrinsic relation.Movements do not include the actions of individuals as members ofstable social groups with unquestioned and established principles,norms, and structures. On the other hand, a social movement is acollectivity with shared principles and common objectives.

Althougha social movement is a continuing and sustained collectivity, it isnot an eternal collectivity. Social movements have a natural cycle ora life cycle in that they grow, develop, attain failures and success,and ultimately dissolve and die (Colas, 2013 Smith and West, 2012).Luna (2014) asserts that social movements usually evolve in a placeand time conducive to their development thus, their evidentinterdependence with the propagation of ideas. The occurrence ofsocial movements develops in different forms because of polarizingdifferences among groups of people. In addition, the creation ofsocial movements requires an initiating action a specific, singleaction that begins a sequence of events in a given community andultimately leads to the creation of a social movement (Davis, 2012).

Socialmovements and protests


Asocial movement tends to follow a particular organisation in itsmandate to carry out intended actions even though many of them lackformal organisation. A group of people usually without power sitsdown to discuss ways of influencing the society by either promoting,implementing or resting a social change. After the identification ofa problem that could be inadequate or failure to address an issuesuch as poor working conditions, the group plans for the undertakingof essential actions. The people structure their activities to attainsufficiency. For instance, they form small organisations withselected members who can be insiders or outsiders and supporters whowill facilitate grassroots campaigns or fundraising towards themovement. Some can have a single leader and an official system ofmembership agreements together with stipulated methods of carryingout their activities. Their movement could employ the use ofuniformed placards illustrating their call, and members could matchin designed attires for the course.

Asocial protest, on the other hand, is disorganised because it followsevents that unfold at that time and anywhere. There is no specificorder in how they approach their supporting activities (McCurdy,2012 Colas, 2013). Different individuals witnessing a certain eventmay offer different statements in the best they can to express theirregards. One or two witnesses can start a demonstration and severalindividuals who witnessed or just heard about the event can join aswell to implicate their stands (Caldeira, 2015). Protests have nospecific leader to direct the entire action of the intended need. Forinstance, employees can call a strike action immediately when theylearning the mistreatment of one of the fellow workers haveespecially when it directly violates the law. An employee can begin ademonstration while others join him on that instance in demand forthe right action and outcomes.


Peoplecreate social movements deliberately to address particular areas ofinterest that benefit all members of the society. Collective mindsdriven by universal interests come together to form a social movement(Smith and West, 2012 Suh, 2014). Examples of social movements withparticular interest include labour movements that at controlling theworkplace, conditions and employee status, peace movements,ecological movements and democratic movements. Social movements canbe limited to form alternative and reformative social movements(Macionis, 2013). In addition, they can be radical to form redemptiveor revolutionary movements. They can extend to target a specificgroup of people or include all depending on the magnitude of changeas well as the subject of change. They naturally advocate for changesin some laws or norms. For example, the green movement is a reformmovement that advocates for ecological laws and climate issues whilethe America Civil Rights Movement is a radical movement that fightsfor fairness under the law in spite of races, religion, gender andcolour (Stewart et al., 2012).

Socialprotests, on the other hand, have an explicit social intention thatcontrols their audience to the necessary social actions. Individualrewards drive individuals to participate in social protests and notto the best of the entire population (Mattoni and Teune, 2014). Amajority of the protesters represent their aggregate interests tochallenge the mainstream principles. These protests can be public andexclusively play a marginal role in movements that challenge aparticular lifestyle, adoption of rituals, adoption of particularclothes, boycotts, lobbying, online activities, adoption of certainhaircuts and adoption of certain means of transport(Hammond-Callaghan and Hayday, 2012). Such actions of self-expressionare sometimes restricted and would be unlawful without issues orapplications of protest permits. A social protest can itself be thesubject of anti-protest. Social protest can take various forms thatinclude destructive nature, non-destructive nature, direct actions,political rallies, public rallies, sports demonstration, labourstrikes, consumer demonstration, civil disobedience and governmentprotests among others (Xiong, 2013).


Asocial movement has a life cycle: people create it, it grows, itachieves successes or even fails before it eventually dissolves andstops to exist. The lifespan of a social movement occurs in stages(Staggenborg, 2011). First, it takes a time to form while engaging insome goals and some theories then finally emerges. More time isconsumed after the emergence of a movement to establish a sense ofcoherence with regards to ideals and memberships (Ruiz-Junco, 2014).In the later times, social movements become bureaucratised bydeveloping their sets of rules, regulations and procedures (Coy,2010). From this point, social movements take more time to assumesome paths and consequences that include co-optation of leaders,failures, successes, creation of bigger streams or repression byprevalent larger groups.

Asocial protest, on the other hand, is short-lived. It lacks stages ofdevelopment because it has no initial intended actions. Socialprotest revolves around brief agendas that can be addressed or solvedin a span of days and few weeks. They exist to justify and meet acertain temporary need (Hammond-Callaghan and Hayday, 2012).Accordingto Mattoni and Teune (2014) crowds, demonstrations and strikes are ofepisodic or concise duration driven by impulse. Social protests areshort-lived impulses that can give rise to long-term targets and whenthey are maintained situational groupings occur to result in a socialmovement. For example, one of the most common protests that happenedin Montgomery, Alabama involving a black woman, Rosa Parks refusingto grant her seat to a white passenger resulted in a bus boycottfollowing Parks arrest. This protest was successful in a day to endthe segregation rules in buses during the 1950s (Stewart et al.,2012).

Developmentof counterhegemonic strategies

Asocial movement is possibly the vigorous vehicle for developingcounter-hegemonic schemes as well as contesting domination in stateregimes (Staggenborg, 2012). Counter-hegemonic strategies implyattempts to dismantle or review the existence of predominant staterule over others. Social movements either oppose or confront thispower to establish status quo for the belief and benefit for many(Zald and McCarthy, 2014). This piece of writing discusses the mannerin which social movements develop counter-hegemonic strategies. Asocial movement develops counter-hegemonic strategies either bycollective action or by acting as waves of activism. One of thestrategies that social movements adapts to develop counter-hegemonicstrategies is the use of hidden networks to discuss necessaryagendas. For example, the Latino social movement operates as the webto execute the labor, women and ecological courses (Arthos, 2013).Secondly, the social movements act as the collective power with thestrength to challenge and to transform state relations since theyview themselves as political actors and socialites. The socialmovements begin developing counter-hegemonic strategies byestablishing society awareness. They form official ideology and goalsto function as messages passed to influence all outsiders to erectunity within the movements of the membership (Rajagopal, 2012).

Thesocial movements then focus on consciousness rising in their internalworking to make a more polarising language. Groups of peoples beginby encouraging other people to share their stands against hegemonythrough the mean of persuasion (́inLáo-Montes, 2013).Propaganda can be used in addition to persuasion to raise awarenessamong other individuals to identify the course. The groupcommunicates the need for alterations in the status quo. Some of thefew people who early comprehend the significant problem try to drawmore people in a way of their point of view. They form networksincluding the social media platforms to persuade a massive number ofpeople from various states calling a notable attention to theproblem. In some instance, the social movements trigger events toillustrate the need for following a certain course (Rajagopal, 2012).

Afterdeveloping social awareness and conducting sufficient persuasion,social movements proceed to mobilizing stages. Social movements adoptvigorous activity such as holding rallies to optimise theirvisibility in a quest for deeply founded support. They then encouragefirst joiners of the movement in collaboration to establish powerfulmoves for recognition among the collective power (Ikenberry et al.,2013). Once the group gains enough consensuses and support againstthe existing powers, they then try overthrowing the governing systemthrough the power of democracy or violence. Similarly, the socialmovement uses the same trend to sustain the mainstream struggles forpower delocalization. Later, the movements secure the gains alreadyacquired while evaluating novel ways of continuing to incite thechange (Power, Dillane &amp Devereux 2012).

Asocial movement can equally employ a discursive strategy tunedtowards a cultural, economy and political conditions (Josephson,2014). The plan involves the exploration of intuition language foruse as the future key to the wide social life and translates to highpriority. Studies that reify or naturalize political and economiccomponents assist in correcting and evaluating the micro-foundationsof the course (Power et al., 2012).The influential people of thesocial movement address the emergent structural aspects of thepolitical and economic orders with conceptual ideals. This planreduces conflicts, misunderstanding and contradictions important tocapitalism.

TheInternational Platform on Policy Coherence for Development IPPCD isan example of a coherent strategy adopted by OECD with intentions offunctioning as an interactive tool to build power over time. IPPCDcomprise of repository documents along with general publications,collective information on numerous national experiences andpresentations. This plan serves members of the movement withimperative material for standing on their goals and perspectives. Themonthly featured topics offer OECD proof of the benefits taking placebecause of coherent factors bearing witness to its viability. Theonline consultations make it easy for new members joining the courseas well as readily availing necessary tools and ways of assessing themovement (Josephson, 2014).

Themedia culture present another example of perhaps the most commonlyand recently adapted strategies to enhance counter-hegemonicactivities by the social movements. New counter-hegemonic schemes arenegotiating and renegotiating their terms on established socialnetworks. Culture jamming, media forums, online activism andcyber-dissidence are counteracting the predominant stereotypes andideologies of lifestyle, cultures and human behaviour (Zald andMcCarthy, 2014). The media portrays information or mages that imply acourse in reflection to the rest of the world and events. This aspectpermits the establishment and the perpetuation of the positivestereotypes that the social movements are passing or want to pass tothe targeted people of common view(Arthos, J. (2013).Social movements can engage the media to create useful pictures oftheir courses to achieve counter-hegemonic objectives.

Mediaculture has enhanced and progressed the counterhegemonic strategiesof social movements greatly. Media culture has helped to setdifferent values across countries, as it is the most common form ofcommunication. In fact, the Arab Spring saw people take to socialmedia to start uprising in their countries. Countries such as Egyptand Libya used the social media to develop uprisings, whichultimately led to revolutions. This shows that media culture isperhaps the best form of developing counterhegemonic approachesespecially as it can generate and develop new principles and normsfor a whole country.


Thesocial media movements use a collective power to establish some ofthe counter-hegemonic strategies. One of the most powerful tools theyuse is persuasion to develop greater social awareness of a courseworth fighting or standing. The persuasion can be direct or indirectdepending on the group of people approached. Alternatively, thesocial media grants individuals power to exercise democracy overcertain issues of the society. Discursive strategies touch on thecrucial parts of the political, economic and social conditions of aparticular nation. The media has been used as the trendiest strategyto carry out counter-hegemonic strategies as they reach millions ofsimilar minds in real time. These sensitive issues and media platformdraw members to build a powerful and influential network.International Platform on Policy Coherence for Development IPPCD is agood example of an online strategy established by OECD to furnish itsmembership with trending details of the social movement goals.


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