Power and Protest  (Social Movements)  -  Contents Page. 


                                                                                                                                                Updated: Oct. 2007.             



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On this page:

1. Introductory note: what is a social movement.

2. Examples.

3. Why study social movements?

4. Origins of these notes.

5. Aims and learning outcomes of these pages.

6. Contents of the Power and Protest pages.


1. Introductory note: what is a social movement?


"a collective endeavour to promote or resist change in the society of which it forms part"

(Bottomore 1979).


“a collective body distinguished by a high level of commitment and political activism, but often lacking a clear organisation” (Heywood 1997)


2. Examples:


the labour movement,


the green movement… and see under Contents below…


3. Why study social movements?


The study of social movements brings together Sociology and Politics: social movements often have a

political impact, but they do not set out to be political organisations or parties.


Sociologists are interested in the nature of such movements and how they work, but a central question is:

why do social movements arise?


This is an especially pertinent question – and a Political question - in (so-called) democracies: if there is

a democratic political system, why don’t people work within it when they want something changed?


It is my view that most people desire more control over their own lives, and

that this desire always manifests itself somehow. (See also the Social

Movement Theory page: Power and Protest: Social Movement Theory)


But sometimes the political system blocks or frustrates such desires.


Then protest and social movements (as well as pressure-groups, which are

more organised groupings) are likely to arise.


Should you be interested – actively or passively – in these questions you will

want to know more about social movements.



4. These notes have their origins in:


(i) an issue of the New Internationalist (NI) magazine (Issue No. 309, January-February 1999) titled The

Radical Twentieth Century;  


(ii) a course on social movements, as part of the Politics Degree at UEL, which I designed and helped to

teach. I took the liberty of using the same name that NI had come up with: The radical Twentieth century.    

See: UEL Course Outlines



5. Aims and Learning outcomes of the pages on Power and Protest

(Social Movements):



In attempting to understand social movements the aim is that you should become familiar with the following, in both general terms and in relation to each movement:


- the beliefs or ideology behind a social movement

- the origins (intellectual as well as historical) and the social/political context

- features of such movements, viz: aims organisation and strategies

- their impact and effectiveness, especially in political terms

- whether such movements still exist or have contemporary relevance

- comparisons between the social movement and other movements or organisations with similar aims or beliefs.


You should also gain an understanding of:


- relevant concepts and theories from politics and social theory (e.g. definitions and typologies of social

  movements and “new” social movements, such descriptive terms as "radical" and reformist)


- the role of the state/politics, in relation both to occurrence of radical movements and in reaction to them.


These notes will also try to link the specific, “case study”, aspects (especially relating to the “practice” of social movements) with the “theory”.



6 .Contents of the Power and Protest (Social Movements) Pages:



You will find on these pages:


(a)     - some notes on the sociological theory of social movements:


See: Power and Protest: Social Movement Theory



(b)     - a brief overview of the history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, focussing on social

movements (and therefore on the countries or regions in which they originated). This includes a brief

discussion of whether the social movements in this period were particularly “radical” or not:


Power and Protest - Social Movements in the 20th Century


(c)     - notes on the specific social movements:    (under construction!)



          1. the labour movement                  part 1 (history up to 1926)   part 2  (20th century)                             part 3 (issues)


          2. the Russian Revolution              link


          3. the movement for colonial liberation – in particular: Gandhi (not yet written up)


          4. the anti-nuclear and anti-war movement       1 the anti-war movement                          2 the anti-nuclear movement


                                                                                      3 non-violence (not yet written up)          4 peace and war today


5. the civil rights movement in USA (not yet written up)


6. the women’s movement and feminism          link


          7. the movements of the 1960s – including a discussion of the concept of “new social movements”       link


8. the environmental and green movements      link


     notes on climate change and ‘sceptics’         link


9. the anti-globalisation movement (not yet written up)




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