Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 22 - March 2021 عربى
Terminology Corner
Social movement

the term originated around 1850 by German sociologist Lorenz von Stein,[1] in its contemporary usage, commonly refers to collective action, involving an informal grouping of individuals and organizations focused on common political or social goals and manifesting a visible and recognizable force in the public arena.

A social movement is a major vehicle for ordinary people`s participation in public politics through a series of contentious performances, displays and campaigns by which ordinary people make collective claims on others. Charles Tilly ascribes social movements as having any of three major elements:

  1. Campaigns: a sustained, organized public effort making collective claims on target authorities;
  2. Social movement repertoire: employment of combinations from among the following forms of political action: creation of special-purpose associations and coalitions, public meetings, solemn processions, vigils, rallies, demonstrations, petition drives, statements to and in public media, and pamphleteering; and
  3. Participants` concerted public representation displays worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitments on the part of themselves and/or their constituencies.[2]

Sydney Tarrow distinguishes social movements from political parties and interest groups, describing a social movement as collective challenges [to elites, authorities, other groups or cultural codes] by people with common purposes and solidarity in sustained interactions with elites, opponents and authorities.[3] (For more information, log onto to HIC-HLRN website: at www.hlrn.org.)


[1] Lorenz von Stein, Geschichte der sozialen Bewegung in Frankreich von 1789 bis auf unsre Tage, 3 vols. (Leipzig: 1850); History of the French Social Movement from 1789 to 1850 (transl. by Kaethe Mengelberg) (New York: Bedminster Press, 1964).

[2] Charles Tilly, Social Movements, 1768–2004 (Boulder CO, Paradigm Publishers, 2004).

[3] Sidney Tarrow, Power in Movement: Collective Action, Social Movements and Politics (Cambridge and London: Cambridge University Press, 1994).



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