The sociological study of social movements

Research found that evaluating the moral values of individual participants does not increase the morality or the actions of a larger movement.

We can only start to discern the distinction between "good" and "bad" movements if we assess the goals, tactics and outcomes of movements as collective phenomena.



How Good Social Movements Can Triumph over Bad Ones

  • The morality of a movement is measured by the kind of change it aims for. 'Good' movements try to pressure institutional authorities to reduce systemic inequality and injustices. 'Bad' movements are reactionary in response to 'good' movements and try to preserve exclusionary structures, laws and policies.
  • Large-scale institutional changes that broaden freedom or advance the cause of social justice often results from pressure exerted from the bottom up by ordinary people who push for reform collectively and outside the bounds of mainstream institutions.
  • Good intentions do not guarantee success.


Successful movements should:

  • Define their goals and target the institution that has the power to make the changes.
  • Act in a political environment in which they have the leverage to demand systemic change.
  • Include ordinary members in decisions about the goals and tactics, including organisations that link the movement to the communities that will benefit from the movement's success.
  • Gather sympathisers, celebrities, patrons who want to contribute.
  • Allow individuals to choose the actions they are willing to take.
  • Create an active and supportive internal life and culture among their participants.


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