Theories of Terrorism – Theories of Social Movements

CCJ4934 Theories of Terrorism – Theories of Social Movements and Terrorism Assignment

Discipline: – Criminal Justice

Type of service: Essay

Spacing: Double spacing

Paper format: APA

Number of pages: 1 page

Number of sources: 3 sources

Paper details:

Theories of Social Movements and Terrorism Assignment

Discuss one of the theories of social movements presented below. You may need to do additional research to obtain a more thorough understanding. After examining the theory:

1) Identify what a social movement is

2) Describe in your own words what the theory explains

3) What are the strengths of the theory

4) What are the weaknesses of the theory

5) Provide an example of the theory (hypothetical or real)

Present your work in 1 double spaced page and submit as a document in Canvas.


Deprivation theory (a.k.a Relative Deprivation Theory) – 1960s

Deprivation theory argues that social movements have their foundations among people who feel deprived of some good(s) or resource(s). According to this approach, individuals who are lacking some good, service, or comfort are more likely to organize a social movement to improve (or defend) their conditions

There are two significant problems with this theory. First, since most people feel deprived at one level or another almost all the time, the theory has a hard time explaining why the groups that form social movements do when other people are also deprived. Second, the reasoning behind this theory is circular – often the only evidence for deprivation is the social movement. If deprivation is claimed to be the cause but the only evidence for such is the movement, the reasoning is circular.

Marxist Theory – 1880s

Derived from Karl Marx, Marxism as an ideology and theory of social change has had an immense impact on the practice and the analysis of social movements. Marxism arose from an analysis of movements structured by conflicts between industrial workers and their capitalist employers in the 19th century. In the twentieth century a variety of neo-Marxist theories have been developed that have opened themselves to adding questions of race, gender, environment, and other issues to an analysis centered in (shifting) political economic conditions. Class-based movements, both revolutionary and labor-reformist, have always been stronger in Europe than in the US and so has Marxist theory as a tool for understanding social movements, but important Marxist movements and theories have also evolved in the US. Marxist approaches have been and remain influential ways of understanding the role of political economy and class differences as key forces in many historical and current social movements, and they continue to challenge approaches that are limited by their inability to imagine serious alternatives to consumer capitalist social structures.

Mass society theory (a.k.a. collective action/collective behavior theories) – 1950s

Mass society theory argues that social movements are made up of individuals in large societies who feel insignificant or socially detached. Social movements, according to this theory, provide a sense of empowerment and belonging that the movement members would otherwise not have.

Very little support has been found for this theory. James Aho (1990), in his study of Idaho Christian Patriotism, did not find that members of that movement were more likely to have been socially detached. In fact, the key to joining the movement was having a friend or associate who was a member of the movement.

Social strain theory (a.k.a. value-added theory) – 1960s

Social strain theory, also known as value-added theory, proposes six factors that encourage social movement development:

structural conduciveness – people come to believe their society has problems

structural strain – people experience deprivation

growth and spread of a solution – a solution to the problems people are experiencing is proposed and spreads

precipitating factors – discontent usually requires a catalyst (often a specific event) to turn it into a social movement

lack of social control – the entity that is to be changed must be at least somewhat open to the change; if the social movement is quickly and powerfully repressed, it may never materialize

mobilization – this is the actual organizing and active component of the movement; people do what needs to be done

This theory is also subject to circular reasoning as it incorporates, at least in part, deprivation theory and relies upon it, and social/structural strain for the underlying motivation of social movement activism. However, social movement activism is, like in the case of deprivation theory, often the only indication that there was strain or deprivation.

Resource mobilization theory – 1970s

Resource mobilization theory emphasizes the importance of resources in social movement development and success. Resources are understood here to include: knowledge, money, media, labor, solidarity, legitimacy, and internal and external support from power elite. The theory argues that social movements develop when individuals with grievances are able to mobilize sufficient resources to take action. The emphasis on resources offers an explanation why some discontented/deprived individuals are able to organize while others are not.

Some of the assumptions of the theory include:

there will always be grounds for protest in modern, politically pluralistic societies because there is constant discontent (i.e., grievances or deprivation); this de-emphasizes the importance of these factors as it makes them ubiquitous

actors are rational; they weigh the costs and benefits from movement participation

members are recruited through networks; commitment is maintained by building a collective identity and continuing to nurture interpersonal relationships

movement organization is contingent upon the aggregation of resources

social movement organizations require resources and continuity of leadership

social movement entrepreneurs and protest organizations are the catalysts which transform collective discontent into social movements; social movement organizations form the backbone of social movements

the form of the resources shapes the activities of the movement (e.g., access to a TV station will result in the extensive use TV media)

movements develop in contingent opportunity structures that influence their efforts to mobilize; as each movement’s response to the opportunity structures depends on the movement’s organization and resources, there is no clear pattern of movement development nor are specific movement techniques or methods universal

Critics of this theory argue that there is too much of an emphasis on resources, especially financial resources. Some movements are effective without an influx of money and are more dependent upon the movement members for time and labor (e.g., the civil rights movement in the U.S.).

Political process theory – 1980s

Political process theory is similar to resource mobilization in many regards, but tends to emphasize a different component of social structure that is important for social movement development: political opportunities. Political process theory argues that there are three vital components for movement formation: insurgent consciousness, organizational strength, and political opportunities.

Insurgent consciousness refers back to the ideas of deprivation and grievances. The idea is that certain members of society feel like they are being mistreated or that somehow the system is unjust. The insurgent consciousness is the collective sense of injustice that movement members (or potential movement members) feel and serves as the motivation for movement organization.

Organizational strength falls inline with resource-mobilization theory, arguing that in order for a social movement to organize it must have strong leadership and sufficient resources.

Political opportunity refers to the receptivity or vulnerability of the existing political system to challenge. This vulnerability can be the result of any of the following (or a combination thereof):

growth of political pluralism

decline in effectiveness of repression

elite disunity; the leading factions are internally fragmented

a broadening of access to institutional participation in political processes

support of organized opposition by elites

One of the advantages of the political process theory is that it addresses the issue of timing or emergence of social movements. Some groups may have the insurgent consciousness and resources to mobilize, but because political opportunities are closed, they will not have any success. The theory, then, argues that all three of these components are important.

Critics of the political process theory and resource-mobilization theory point out that neither theory discusses movement culture to any great degree. This has presented culture theorists an opportunity to expound on the importance of culture.

One advance on the political process theory is the political mediation model, which outlines the way in which the political context facing movement actors intersects with the strategic choices that movements make. An additional strength of this model is that it can look at the outcomes of social movements not only in terms of success or failure but also in terms of consequences (whether intentional or unintentional, positive or negative) and in terms of collective benefits.

Culture theory a.k.a. Frame Analysis Theory – 1980s

More recent strains of theory understand social movements through their cultures – collectively shared beliefs, ideologies, values and other meanings about the world. These include explorations into the “collective identities” and “collective action frames” of movements and movement organizations. Culture theory builds upon both the political process and resource-mobilization theories but extends them in two ways. First, it emphasizes the importance of movement culture. Second, it attempts to address the free-rider problem.

Both resource-mobilization theory and political process theory include a sense of injustice in their approaches. Culture theory brings this sense of injustice to the forefront of movement creation by arguing that, in order for social movements to successfully mobilize individuals, they must develop an injustice frame. An injustice frame is a collection of ideas and symbols that illustrate both how significant the problem is as well as what the movement can do to alleviate it,

“Like a picture frame, an issue frame marks off some part of the world. Like a building frame, it holds things together. It provides coherence to an array of symbols, images, and arguments, linking them through an underlying organizing idea that suggests what is essential – what consequences and values are at stake. We do not see the frame directly, but infer its presence by its characteristic expressions and language. Each frame gives the advantage to certain ways of talking and thinking, while it places others out of the picture.”

Important characteristics of the injustice frames include:

Facts take on their meaning by being embedded in frames, which render them relevant and significant or irrelevant and trivial.

People carry around multiple frames in their heads.

Successful reframing involves the ability to enter into the worldview of our adversaries.

All frames contain implicit or explicit appeals to moral principles.

In emphasizing the injustice frame, culture theory also addresses the free-rider problem. The free-rider problem refers to the idea that people will not be motivated to participate in a social movement that will use up their personal resources (e.g., time, money, etc.) if they can still receive the benefits without participating. In other words, if person X knows that movement Y is working to improve environmental conditions in his neighborhood, he is presented with a choice: join or not join the movement. If he believes the movement will succeed without him, he can avoid participation in the movement, save his resources, and still reap the benefits – this is free-riding. A significant problem for social movement theory has been to explain why people join movements if they believe the movement can/will succeed without their contribution. Culture theory argues that, in conjunction with social networks being an important contact tool, the injustice frame will provide the motivation for people to contribute to the movement.

Framing processes includes three separate components:

Diagnostic frame: the movement organization frames what is the problem or what they are critiquing

Prognostic frame: the movement organization frames what is the desirable solution to the problem

Motivational frame: the movement organization frames a “call to arms” by suggesting and encouraging that people take action to solve the problem

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