From Armand Mauss, Social Problems as Social Movements, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1975, pp. 38-71.

Chapter 2

Social Problems as Social Movements


We have presented the case for considering social problems as simply a special kind of social movement. This case rests in large part upon the proposition that the characteristics of social problems are typically also those of social movements. These characteristics have been discussed in preceding sections and include subjective definitions of reality, the formation of interest groups with their respective constructions of reality, the efforts of such groups to mobilize public opinion, and various other processes typical of collective behavior and social movements. In the present chapter, we shall see further how well social movement theory fits the case of social problems. Accordingly, we shall hereafter use the two terms more or less interchangeably. When we speak of social problems, it will be with the understanding that we are thinking of them as movements; and when we speak of movements, we shall be referring to social problem-movements, unless we specify some other kind.

In the previous chapter, we emphasized the importance of subjective constructions of reality over objective social conditions in generating social problem movements. Among the reasons for this choice of emphasis were: (1) the cultural and temporal relativity surrounding the issue of what is a problem--that is, the same social conditions may or may not be defined as problematic, depending on time and place; (2) the insufficiency of "objective" social conditions to produce social problems in and of themselves; and (3) the unpredictability of social problems, especially of any particular social problem, from given social conditions. Our de-emphasis of objective social conditions, however, should not be construed to mean that such conditions have no importance--only that the part which they play is much more dependent upon collective definition than the latter is upon them. Nevertheless, historical studies have indicated that social unrest, social problems, social movements, and the like are more likely to occur under some social conditions than under others. One important and rather obvious example of such a contingency is whether the political system permits the collective expression of new constructions of reality by interest groups. Totalitarian states do not, usually, and that restriction is probably why social movements of any kind are rare in such states, except, perhaps, those movements that result in a political coup. But this example is only a superficial instance of the susceptibility of social structures to the generation of social movements.

Structural Conduciveness and Strain


Neil Smelser (1962), among other sociologists, has pointed out that certain conditions can make societies susceptible to outbreaks of collective behavior, including social movements; and his book on the subject spells out what those conditions are: structural conduciveness, structural strain, the growth and spread of generalized belief, special precipitating factors, the mobilization of participants, and certain facilitating processes in the social control system. Of special interest to us here are the first two of these factors, conduciveness and strain, since these in particular exist before the movement begins and provide the setting in which it must arise. "Conduciveness" refers to the arrangements in a society that may either facilitate or restrain the rise of a particular kind of movement. For example, a society which already encourages individual autonomy in its political system and depends upon a market arrangement for its economic system, is probably more likely to get a women's liberation movement than is a society based on a traditional caste system. (See Chapter 11.) The other concept, "strain," refers to the inadequate functioning of society, particularly ambiguities and discrepancies in the normative system and inconsistencies between ideals and realities. Smelser explains the rise of social movements and other forms of collective behavior by means of a "value-added" model: no one of the factors listed above will produce collective behavior by itself, but each of the factors adds to the likelihood through its own additional weight and through its interaction with all the other factors. With all six of the factors present in certain ways, the likelihood of a movement's arising approaches certainty. However, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to predict just what kind of movement (Smelser, 1962: Chapter V).

The difficulties in prediction are increased to the extent that we try to rely on only one or two of the factors in the value-added model. Smelser's caution about relying upon "strain" could apply as well to "conduciveness" or to any of the other factors: structural strain, he reminds us (p. 66), is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the rise of movements, and any type of strain may give rise to any kind of collective behavior (including expressions other than movements ). He qualifies considerably the "objectiveness" of strain, furthermore, in a way that illustrates the subjective nature of the "underlying social conditions" for a movement:


Before we can classify any event or situation as a source of strain, we must assess (it) with reference to cultural standards and personal expectations. . . . One worker, for instance, may face unemployment as a temporary hardship to be endured calmly until business improves. Another may see unemployment as a threat to his whole personal identity. Strain, then, always expresses a relation between an event or situation and certain cultural and individual standards. (Smelser, 1962:51; italics added.)


No doubt "cultural standards" here could refer just as well to "subcultural" or "interest group" standards, and thus, even where "objective" strains in the social structure are thought of as prerequisites to the rise of social movements, we are still confronted with subjective definitions of reality.

In addition to his recognition of the importance of subjective ideas in the definition of "structural strain," Smelser (1962) has as one of the major components in his value-added model "the growth and spread of generalized belief," which corresponds to what we have been calling "public opinion." The types of generalized belief of greatest importance for the present study are probably those which Smelser (1962: IX and X) calls "norm-oriented" and "value-oriented" beliefs, but his "hostile" beliefs and "wish-fulfillment" beliefs also appear to get involved in many social problem-movements. Even though Smelser, then, is dealing with what many people would assume are objective factors in the underlying social setting, he makes very clear the dependence of these factors, and the movements they generate, upon the social constructions of reality held by the participants and the public at large. This approach would seem to undermine much of the explanation on which objectivists rely when they trace the rise of social problems to discrepancies between shared social standards and actual social conditions, to social disorganization, to social dysfunctions, to hypocrisies in the system, to rapid social change, and to other characteristics of the system "external" to the movement.

Even if one could confidently regard systemic factors as totally external to social constructions of reality, they still give us very limited explanation of the causes of social problems or other movements. Wilbert Moore (1963) has convincingly characterized societies of all kinds as "tension-management systems," and he has shown that all societies at all times undergo changes even without dramatic historical developments like revolutions or technological breakthroughs. Societies are constantly generating their own changes from such natural occurrences as gradual changes in population size and density or from the imperfections inevitable in any socialization process across generations. If all societies are constantly changing, if they are constantly in a state of "tension-management," and if, as Moore points out, there are always discrepancies between the ideals and the realities, then we can expect only a rather superficial explanation and understanding of the causes of social problems (or other movements) if we look primarily to such phenomena as rapid social change, social disorganization, normative inconsistencies, and the like. Lewis Killian (1964), who has made major contributions to the study of collective behavior, suggests, in a vein similar to Moore's, that we need no special theory to explain the rise of social movements from a particular social system. We must look for social movements, they suggest, in the very nature of the social order itself and in the natural gaps in the process of socialization. Since no social order can be expected to function equally well for everyone all the time, we can expect a certain amount of dissatisfaction or unrest in any society at any time.

Let us posit, then, that (1) societies can be considered "tension-management systems," in which there are always, to some degree, normative discrepancies, dysfunctions, and other strains brought about by continuous large- and small-scale changes in the society; (2) some societies (especially large and heterogeneous ones like our own) have to contend with (or "manage") more change and strain than do other societies; (3) such societies will generate more social problems (and other movements) than will the less dynamic and mobile ones; but (4) it is very difficult (if not impossible) to predict which social problem-movements will arise or when, from knowing the susceptibility factors in the social structure itself; because (5) the critical and ultimate determinants of social problems will be the perceptions and definitions held by publics and interest groups about the changes and strains in their social setting.

Stability and Change in the Incidence of Social Problems

A historical observation that further complicates the prediction of social problems on the basis of structural factors alone is the ebb and flow in their incidence over time in the same society, which does not always seem closely related to structural complexity or rates of change. In recent American history, for example, the periods which spawned the largest number of social problems and reform movements were the so-called Progressive Era (late 19th century up through World War I) and the Kennedy-Johnson years (the late 1950's and the 1960's). It would be difficult to make the case that these periods were very different in structural characteristics from the decades on either side of them, but they were periods when many people were concerned with a variety of social problems and concomitant reform movements. This observation raises the question of what causes fluctuation in the incidence of social problems.

The very fact that there are periods or eras which stand out as times of "social reform" would suggest that most of the time the incidence of social problems is fairly stable. Kai Erikson (1966) has an insight that may be applicable here. As a part of his analysis of "crime rates" in 16th-century Massachusetts, he argues that rates of crime and, indeed, rates of deviance in general tend to remain constant over long periods of time. Although there may be shifts in the particular kinds of deviance that receive attention every few years, the amount of deviance, including crime, taken as a whole does not fluctuate much. There seems to be a "quota" of deviance that any society can afford, because its social control apparatus is necessarily finite. This apparatus simply cannot be "spread thin" enough to handle heavy and unpredictable demands on its financial and logistical system. As a result, if the social control agencies (including police, courts, perhaps clergy and kinship authorities, too, in traditional societies ) are called upon to cope with sudden "waves" of one or two kinds of deviance, they must pay less attention to other kinds--a process which Erikson calls "displacement" of social control efforts. This theoretical position is derived ultimately from the functional model put forth by Durkheim (1964:67), who viewed deviance as "an integral part of all healthy societies" (though "regrettably" so). Hence, deviance (or crime) fulfills certain important functions in society, such as boundary-maintenance for the normative system (when culprits are punished as an example to others) and the reinforcement of group solidarity when members band together to punish or expel the culprit. Severe deviance, furthermore, serves the function of maintaining a fair amount of leeway for individual and group diversity, or even eccentricity, by keeping the social control agencies so busy with serious crimes that they cannot be used to crack down on lesser forms of deviance. Even in a society in which crimes in the usual sense were no longer committed, Durkheim explains (1964:67-69), "crime would not thereby disappear; it would only change its form, for the very cause which would thus dry up the sources of criminality would immediately open up new ones . . . . Imagine a society of saints, a perfect cloister of exemplary individuals. Crimes, properly so called, will thereby be unknown; but faults which appear venial to the layman will create there the same scandal that the ordinary offense does in ordinary (societies). This (hypothetical, perfect) society . . . will define these acts as criminal and treat them as such." It is in this sense, says Durkheim (67), that "crime is normal, because a society exempt from it is utterly impossible." So, putting the ideas of Durkheim and Erikson together, the argument is that every society generates or defines its own normal level of deviant behavior, and this level is likely to remain stable over time, although the particular offenses defined as deviant (or enforced as such) may vary from time to time.

We propose here that this Durkheim-Erikson argument be broadened beyond deviance to include all social problems. We therefore maintain that every society in a given span of time has its own normal quota of social problems. Although the specific social conditions which interest groups may pick out to define as problems will vary from time to time, the incidence of problems will remain stable. Not only is there a limit on the resources available for the sponsorship of causes, but there is also a limit on the challenges to the status quo which can be managed by social control agencies. As we shall see later, these agencies will attempt, with a combination of co-optation and repression, to keep the outbreak of social problems within manageable limits.

For those who would question this extension of Erikson's theory about deviance to the whole arena of social problems, several arguments can be offered. (1) Many of the social problems in our society center on deviant behavior anyway: crime, delinquency, sexual deviations, radical protest, mental illness, alcoholism, drug "abuse," and so on. (2) Even those social problems that do not address deviant behavior seem to develop through the same processes of definition and mobilization that define deviance, or they undertake to create and define new kinds of deviance. While we may not think of social problems like population, conservation, or poverty as involving deviance, the interest groups promoting such problems will always point the finger at certain "offenders" and question their morality. Thus, producing large families is considered immoral for those who have the means and the know-how to limit their offspring to two. Litterbugs are definitely "bad guys" for the environmentalist. Stingy, insensitive politicians stand in the way of programs for the poor. The male chauvinist is the "criminal" for the women's liberation movement. Though social problems of these kinds do not involve "deviant behavior" as we normally define it, they certainly do involve labelling certain recalcitrant types as though they were deviant (and, indeed, an effort to get them collectively defined as deviant). (3) All social problem-movements, whether they involve deviance or not, are, in Smelser's terminology, norm-oriented or value-oriented movements. They all attempt either to reaffirm or to redefine some aspects of the normative system. Thus, they are all "boundary-oriented" in the normative sense. Furthermore, even the social problem-movements not involving deviance share the same quality and style of those which do: campaigns and crusades which build and enhance the solidarity of the participants, the rallying slogans, and, as we observed above, the identification and definition of enemies or opponents.

We would therefore explain the stability in the incidence of social problems, not so much by reference to any lack of change or disorganization in the social structure as by postulating, with Durkheim and Erikson, a "normal quota" of social problems logistically possible for a society. Why, then, do we sometimes see periods in the history of a society which seem to produce outbreaks or fluctuations in the incidence of social problems? We would suggest at least three answers to that question. (1) The fluctuations may be only apparent, when a more thorough accounting for a period of history would show considerable stability. It is important to keep in mind that the incidence of social problems must be judged by their severity as well as by their sheer number. Thus, for example, we usually find very few social problems during times of world war or national disaster, probably because total wars constitute such a drain on the resources, energy, and emotions of a people that it is difficult for many of them to get aroused over other problems. The war becomes the one all-consuming problem. Also, those are typically times when special interests and their campaigns receive very little tolerance from the government or from the public at large, for no distractions must be permitted from the objectives of the war effort (or whatever the all-consuming problem is). In such periods, then, it is not that the total "quota" of social problems has changed, but rather that most of it is being "allocated" to one great problem. (2) There may actually be an increase or decrease in "the size and complexity of its social control apparatus," as Erikson would put it. Such a change in the "control apparatus," or the coping mechanisms of the society, could be expected to increase its quota of social problems. The quota might also be increased by a rapidly expanding economy, which would make available to interest groups more resources and leisure for campaigns. It may be noteworthy in this regard that the Progressive Era and the 1960's were both periods of great economic growth and prosperity, and they were also periods remarkable for the number and severity of social problems which they produced. (3) In times of a rapidly increasing division of labor and a growing economic surplus, it becomes more and more possible "for certain individuals and groups to engage in specialized activities not directly concerned with subsistence. These specialized activities . . . lead to specialization and segmentation in the common stock of knowledge. . . . This means that certain individuals are . . . freed from [subsistence activities] to fabricate myths . . ." and to generate theories (Berger and Luckmann, 1967: 81). In other words, the rise and fall of social problems is related to changes in the social structure and to changes in the economic and technological realms, but not in the way that objectivist theories maintain. Our argument is that social problems arise during these times of social change, not so much because of concomitant conditions like strain, disorganization, anomie, and the like, but simply because more people have more time, more resources, and more energy to address social conditions, to define some of them as problematic and to engage in the processes of collective behavior which will produce social problem-movements.

Types of Social Movements

Having discussed the part played by objective social conditions vs. that played by subjective definitions in the generation of social problems, let us take a closer look at social problem-movements. More than two decades ago, Herbert Blumer (1951) set forth a typology of social movements which still seems relevant. His main distinction is between general and .specific social movements, which differ according to the degree of their focus and organization. He describes also some kinds of movements which are distinguished mainly by their quality or style: expressive movements (including some religious movements and fashion movements), which seek to cope with personal and social dissatisfactions without aiming to change external social conditions; and nationalistic or revival movements, which seek to impose on present-day society certain idealized values or arrangements from the past. While the reform movements around social problems frequently partake of expressive or revivalist qualities, we are most concerned here with the more "quantitative" distinction Blumer makes between general and specific social movements.

General social movements consist mostly of "groping and unco-ordinated efforts" toward vague goals or objectives. They lack organization, leadership, and structure. They grow gradually out of what Blumer calls "cultural drifts," which are "gradual and pervasive changes in the values of a people." As a general movement begins to form from a cultural drift, it gradually acquires spokesmen who are more like "voices in the wilderness" than real leaders. A literature of protest and advocacy begins to develop, and the "media of interaction" among the people interested in the issues are in the form mainly of discussions, reading, and the selective perception and exchange of examples from social life to support their uneasiness. There is little or no concerted action by groups; most of the activity is on an individual basis. A general movement is carried by a vague collectivity of individuals--a "mass," as Blumer calls it, or perhaps a "public," as we have called it in the previous chapter.

A specific social movement usually grows out of a general movement as the latter grows out of a cultural drift. Instead of being carried by a mass or a public, the specific movement is an expression of the activities of interest groups and pressure groups, which have fairly well-defined goals. Blumer offers the example of the anti-slavery movement of the 19th century, which grew out of a more general humanitarian movement beginning somewhat earlier. Specific movements are apt to be of either a reform or revolutionary nature. They have certain generally acknowledged leaders, an overall organization broken down into a division of labor and roles, a guiding philosophy and set of rules, a body of traditions and expectations, and a kind of "we-consciousness." In short, a specific social movement is a kind of social organization, though not always as organized as established groups and institutions. Its organization and other characteristics are not, of course, present from the beginning, but they develop with the passage of time, largely out of the interaction of the movement with the rest of the society. For this reason, Blumer stresses the importance of the time dimension in the "career" of a specific social movement, a point to which we shall return later in this chapter. Most social problems are characterized by the traits of a specific social movement, though they often begin, and remain for a fairly long time, in the general movement stage.

As part of his comprehensive treatment on collective behavior, Smelser (1962 :IX and X) deals with two kinds of specific movements: norm-oriented and value-oriented movements. The first of these seeks to "restore, protect, modify, or create norms in the name of a generalized belief." It addresses existing norms and laws and concrete ways of doing things in a society, sometimes out of conservative tendencies, but usually out of a desire for some kind of change. In terms of the outline of a normative system, discussed in Chapter l, we would say that norm-oriented movements deal with the two top levels of the diagram (i.e., norms and laws). Those movements which deal with the bottom level of the diagram, however, Smelser calls value-oriented movements: collective attempts to "restore, protect, modify, or create values in the name of a generalized belief." Because value-oriented movements deal with the most fundamental and all-inclusive aspects of a culture, they might be described as trying, in effect, to create a new culture. They include many of the movements called by Blumer "expressive" and "nationalist," many of the religious movements of history, especially those that have swept whole societies and continents, and probably all of the movements based on the great "isms," such as Communism, Fascism, millenarianism, and the like, which attempt to reorder entire ways of life. By contrast, norm-oriented movements are content to leave the underlying culture and organization of a society pretty much intact, striving only for changes in (or preservation of) some of the social arrangements, rules, norms, laws, and other less fundamental aspects. Most social problems are of the norm-oriented type and only very rarely value-oriented, for they do not typically address the basis of the culture itself. The population problem-movement, for example, does not call for a basic change in the economy, in family life, or in any other institution; it advocates only that we establish as a norm the two-child family and encourage that norm through a variety of social and legal sanctions. To the extent, however, that a social problem-movement defines the source or cause of a problem as lying within the basic nature of the society (as, for example, when "radical" social theories claim that certain problems can be solved only by the abolition of capitalism), they take on some characteristics of a value-oriented movement; but the typical social problem is norm-oriented. Most of the movements dealt with in this textbook will be of the specific, norm-oriented kind, with all of the characteristics that Blumer, Smelser, and others have attributed to them.



Thus far, this chapter has dealt with how social problems or movements get started, and in this connection, we have considered both the underlying social conditions and the importance of collective definitions in identifying these conditions as problematic. In this section, we shall be concerned with the next logical question: Once social movements get going, by whatever means or causes, what are they like and what do they do? There is quite a voluminous literature on this question, some of which is represented in the bibliography at the end of the book. Here we shall be able to draw on such literature only in a general and summary way, with special focus, of course, on those ideas that are of special relevance to the theoretical stance of this book. Let us look first at the kind of structure or organization a social movement is likely to have.

Structural Characteristics of Social Movements

The usual pattern for a social movement resembles a series of three concentric rings or circles. The outermost ring represents a kind of public, or portion of the public, of the type that usually carries a general movement, except that in the case of a specific movement this public is made up of those whose sympathies definitely lean in the direction of the particular movement's program or ideology. These are not, however, the enthusiasts of a movement, for their interests are not yet critically involved. Their support for the movement waxes and wanes with the movement's own success and with the amount of pressure applied to the movement from the outside. They are often considered "fair weather friends" by the more deeply committed movement members. Nevertheless, they can be very important in (1) providing a good deal of the financial support and other resources that the movement needs; and (2) in using their votes and sheer numbers to add political strength (or at least the semblance of it) to the movement.

Within this ring comprising the sympathetic public, there is a much smaller one containing the active membership. This consists of individuals and organizations who have definite interests in the success of the movement, but these interests are not necessarily exclusively focused on the movement. They may have equally strong interests in quite other causes, and/or they may be more willing than some of the more zealous members to compromise with the existing situation and accept some reform and amelioration. Nevertheless, these are very important members of the movement. They are frequently well educated and skilled in committee work and other kinds of organizational behavior. They are often influential people whose public support for a movement will help to give it legitimacy and acceptance, especially if it begins as an unpopular movement suffering from repressive efforts by the government or by other traditional institutions.

The innermost ring of a social movement is its heart or core. It contains the principal leaders and the organizations having their goals exclusively in the success of the movement. The most zealous and committed members are also found in this core. If there is a central coordinating organization, committee, or other steering body for the movement, it is also located here, but there might be two or three separate major organizations committed to the movement who share this center space with a greater or lesser degree of cooperation and harmony. The attitudes of people at the core of the movement are likely to be rather uncompromising, sometimes a little paranoid, and in many ways rather like those of religious enthusiasts in a new sect. If the movement fulfills its goals, or for some other reason becomes obsolescent, the members and organizations at this inner core will frequently try to keep the movement going in new directions with new goals and causes, rather than permit it to die out (Gusfield, 1955; and Messinger, 1955). The success of any social movement depends upon the quality of the membership distributed among the three rings, as well as upon their sheer numbers. Mere size in the outermost circle will be very important, of course, but it is no substitute for commitment and skill in the two inner circles, especially in the core itself. A fairly small public can give the appearance of a powerful mass movement, if it has a committed leadership, skilled in propaganda. Such appears to have been the case in many movements, ranging from totalitarian party coups, as in Russia in 1917, to the mental health movement in the United States (cf. Chapter 9). The optimum circumstances for a successful movement, of course, would be a large outer circle of sympathizers, mobilized by an able and committed inner circle, which is surrounded by an aroused and influential middle circle. This is probably a fairly accurate description of the ecology and conservation movement discussed in Chapter 15.

Perhaps we can use the abortion issue again to illustrate the three-circled distribution of membership in a social movement. If we look just at the movement to promote easy abortions, we see that it has a sizeable public made up of the 40 percent (approximately) of the nation who reported in a survey that they would advocate abortions under nearly any circumstances for nearly any woman who wanted one. (See Chapter 12.) This public, perhaps along with women who themselves have wanted abortions but have been unable to get them, and other directly interested people, would comprise the outermost ring of the movement. In the middle ring, we would have organizations like the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Friends Service Committee, which have a variety of other causes and interests as well, but which give a portion of their time, energy, and resources to the promotion of more liberal abortion laws. Individual leaders and spokesmen in these movements, along with individuals from certain professions or walks of life who just happen to feel strongly about this issue, will also be part of the middle circle. Finally, in the core of the movement, are organizations formed specifically and exclusively to pursue its goals, such as the National Association for Repeal of Abortion Laws, the Association for the Study of Abortion, and the Women's National Abortion Action Coalition, which attempts, among other things, to coordinate the efforts of the other organizations and to spearhead the whole movement. In many cases, of course, individuals may belong to more than one of these organizations at the same time, even without being leaders in any of them. Such individuals also belong in the core.

Recruitment and Retention of Members

In this section, we will explore why people join and support a movement, particularly those people in the inner core, who give heavily of their time and resources. A "common sense" answer to the question is altruism; that is, some people have a strong desire to "do good" and therefore join movements that share this objective. While altruism should not be cynically dismissed as a motivation, the concept has no generally accepted operational definition. Defining altruism or "doing good" is like trying to define the "true religion": many people think they have it, but they cannot agree among themselves. People on all sides of nearly any social issue will claim that they are doing good, even though they are working for quite different and often opposite goals. Even if altruism were an objective, value-free term, it would be necessary to ask, as social scientists, why some people are more altruistic than others or have no altruism at all. In this text, we will not be questioning the altruism or sincerity of anyone, but we will be seeking more objective explanations for why people join and work for movements.

There is much literature on the personal and psychological reasons behind decisions to affiliate with movements, but there is little consensus among behavioral scientists about these motivations (see, e.g., Cantril, 1941; Heberle, 1951; Lang and Lang, 1961; and Toch, 1965). We alluded to this issue in the last chapter when we discussed the psychological publics from which interest groups might be recruited. There is indeed some reason to believe that people who join movements might be giving expression to a need for affiliation, a sense of dissatisfaction, or some other special psychic or emotional need. Glock's (1973) typology of "deprivation," to which we referred in the last chapter, is an attempt to specify the various kinds of deprivation which people might be seeking to assuage when they join movements, and others have pointed out the importance of economic needs and deprivations, as well as social lacks like status, affective ties, and the like. Two important theories of revolution, moreover, point out the tremendous importance in those extreme kinds of movements of personal dissatisfactions and frustrated rising expectations (Brinton, 1952; and Hopper, 1950). Some theorists have gone so far as to posit that joiners have psychological traits that are not altogether healthy and desirable. They point to a kind of fanaticism found in the "authoritarian personality" or in the "true believer" (Adorno, et al., 1950; and Hoffer, 1951).

There may well be some psychologically pained or disturbed people at the center of social movements, but such people are also found in the classroom and in the office. Since these characteristics are not likely to apply to many of the active participants in a movement, they are probably not helpful in shedding light on the motivation of joiners. Furthermore, if people do feel needs for affiliation, status, affection, identity, and the like, then it is probable that there is a distinctly social origin for these needs; hence we would do better to look to less esoteric and more plausibly demonstrable motivations. Some of these might even be in accidental situations, such as a certain crisis or turning point in one's life, of the kind Lofland and Stark (1965) have posited.

All in all, it is probably not necessary to look to theories about personal problems and inadequacies to understand why people join movements, or why they stay in them once they have joined. In the last chapter, we reviewed different kinds of interests that lead people to form interest groups and derivative pressure groups. Since these interest groups, whether or not formally organized, comprise in large part the middle and inner circles of a movement, then a sufficient explanation of people's joining and participating in a movement can be found in an investigation of the number and intensity of their interests. If a person's economic, occupational, political, moral, or other interests are threatened, or, rather, if he perceives that they are, then no other special theory is needed. Of course, a person is likely to have more than one kind of interest in his lifetime, and he must be expected to weigh all his interests and to arrange them in some kind of hierarchy before deciding how much support and time to give to a movement. In short, social movement joiners and activists are just like anybody else in these respects. Oberschall puts the matter rather succinctly:


No one is in a position to disregard where his next meal is coming from and whether he is going to have a roof over his head. Leaders and active participants in social movements are no different from other people: they fear punishment; they are vulnerable to social and economic pressures; they seek support and economic security; some can be co-opted, others corrupted. (Oberschall, 1973:159-60)


Oberschall, in fact, casts our contention about interests into a kind of "calculus" framework: whatever people's interests may be, they are likely to calculate the risks vs. the rewards of acting on those interests before they join a movement (Oberschall, 1973:162). People can be expected to be as much concerned with what they will be losing in those aspects of their lives outside the movement as they are with what they might gain by participating inside the movement. These gains and losses, of course, can be derived from any kind of interest. A person who stands to lose his job, his best friends, or his status in the community by joining a movement will have to be able to look forward to many compensations from life within the movement. Of course, a person who has few or no such involvements in life will have nothing to lose, and perhaps much to gain, by joining. Oberschall (1973:168-70) explains much of the participation that took place in the student movement of the 1960's as coming from the relatively young and uninvolved, who stood to lose little in "outside" society by joining the movement. We regard it as a sufficiently complex and helpful theory to say simply that as long as a person's "calculus" of interest risks and rewards balances in favor of participation, he will participate, and the more so the heavier that balance. When the calculus balances in the other direction, he will withdraw from the movement or become less active. We must always keep in mind, though, that a person's interests are varied. They are by no means necessarily economic and may indeed be psychological. The interests of people are more likely than not to be derived from their positions in the social structure. Social class, ethnicity, age, sex, religion, occupation, and many other elements in the social structure can provide the social base from which a movement draws its members. We expect, for example, that almost all the participants in the women's liberation movement are women (cf. Chapter l1). The civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's was carried mainly by a membership drawn from the most unassimilated ethnic groups, aided to some extent by many others. Participants on all sides of the abortion issue, the obscenity issue, and other social problems come from certain religious groups disproportionately (Chapters 10 and 12). The older people will be more involved than the younger in the problem movement dealing with old age and death. Other examples abound. In summary, then, we are saying that: (1) a person becomes, and continues to be, an active member of a social movement out of certain interests that are usually quite plausibly inferred and easily understood from (a) his or her position in the social structure, and/or (b) his or her special interests of an economic, social, political, occupational, moral, or psychological kind; (2) a person's participation in and enthusiasm for a social movement can be expected to rise or fall in accordance with his own calculus of the risks vs. the rewards he is likely to encounter inside and outside the movement, taking into account the variety and hierarchy of his interests.


Many of the observations made above will apply also to the leaders of a movement, who, after all, are among its most active and committed participants. Leaders emerge from a certain social base, have certain interests, and may possess certain personality traits that render them especially susceptible to service in the leadership of a movement. Perhaps even more than their followers, they must contend with the risk-reward calculus, and they are more vulnerable to a variety of risks within the movement. Leadership in movements is much more risky than leadership in regularly organized institutions or bureaucracies, because the leaders of movements usually serve without regularly designated authority and without salaries. When they do draw salaries, as in certain long-standing voluntary organizations, these are subject to the continuing acceptance and goodwill of their followers. They must rely for their effectiveness among their followers on delicate techniques of persuasion, motivation, and reinforcement. Considering that such skills are required, it is unlikely that many leaders of social movements are marginal people, wild-eyed fanatics, or otherwise psychologically disturbed, as some social theorists have suggested (Oberschall, 1973: 146-56). Of course, such a personality type may well appear in the leadership of a movement now and then, just as it does in regular social institutions, and such types may even make unique contributions to the success of a movement. It may also be true that certain kinds of movements, especially those defined by the public as "bizarre," may have, in both their leadership and their membership, a relatively large number of people regarded by the general public as "nuts" or "kooks." Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that characterizations of this kind are likely to develop about leaders after they have become prominent in a movement, partly as a result of the collective definition of "deviants" by the public at large and partly because the strains, frustrations, and other pressures upon leaders in a "cause" are liable to generate abnormal behavior in even the most stable and happy people (Oberschall, 1973:148-49).

Many of the studies of social movements indicate that their leaders come from a cross-section of mankind or are a cut above average in social background, intelligence, and skill. After reviewing some of these studies, Oberschall concludes that such is the case, at least, for political opposition movements, and we would suggest that it is even more likely in reform movements of a less militant and more problem-oriented kind:


It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the upper and middle strata in society supply the substantial bulk of opposition leaders to all manners of social movements in proportions far above that of their percentage in the population at large. But this is equally true for political leaders in . . . parties and in other institutionalized groups . . .(Oberschall, 1973:155)


In other words, the same qualities that make for successful leadership in more conventional social settings will be needed in successful social movements. A number of scholars have noted that the Progressive Movement, a general social movement which spawned and included a number of more specific ones like the anti-trust movement, feminism, and prohibition, was led by people from the upper strata of society. As we look around today at most of the social problem-movements in present society, we see the same phenomenon. Those who are leaders and spokesmen of the movements for "law and order," for population control, for ecology and the environment, for and against more liberal abortion laws, and on various sides of most of our other social problems or issues, are predominantly from the middle- and upper-middle classes. Even those problem-movements having specifically ethnic or lower-class memberships are often led in large part by people from the more privileged sectors of the society (e.g., civil rights or the war on poverty). Oberschall (1973:154-56) makes the interesting observation that leaders and spokesmen in movements are especially likely to come from the "free professions," to be lawyers, teachers, writers, and other intellectuals, who are freer, both socially and temporally, to conceive and advocate new ideas and policies. This observation recalls that of Berger and Luckmann (1967:81) about the "theoretical life" that is possible for intellectual "specialists" and theorists in societies like ours, with relative abundance and an extended division of labor.

Leaders can be classified according to style and function. For style, we shall draw upon the classical formulation of Max Weber (1957), which has been somewhat developed and elaborated by others. Weber pointed to three different types of authority upon which leaders can draw in order to gain the compliance of their followers (authority might be defined as "legitimate power"): charismatic, rational-legal, and traditional. The first type is especially common among leaders of new movements. It is derived from the personal charisma of the leader. Charisma, a Greek word, is a kind of extraordinary power or influence, sometimes appearing mystical or supernatural. To what extent charisma comes from a leader's own personality traits, and to what extent it is projected by a membership or by a certain crisis situation, is not clear. But he who has it is followed because the membership believes that he has truth and justice on his side and that he has the right to lead them. As used in social science, charisma is a value-neutral term, which can be applied to historical figures as diverse as Moses, Jesus, Napoleon, and Hitler. Not all social movements, of course, have charismatic leaders, but many do. One thinks of Martin Luther King as having this quality in the civil rights movement, but so, probably, did Joseph McCarthy in the anti-communist movement of the 1950's. Among contemporary social problem-movements, charismatic leaders might include Ralph Nader (environment and consumer protection), Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug (Women's Liberation), and Thomas Hayden or Abbie Hoffman (New Left).

A kind of leadership and authority more familiar to us, probably, is the rational-legal type, characteristic of modern corporations, bureaucracies, and other formal organizations. If there is any charisma in this kind of leadership, it will inhere in the office rather than in the leader who holds it (e.g., President of the United States), though one sometimes finds a charismatic personality in a charismatic office. Usually, however, one's legitimacy or right to lead in this situation is based upon his having been elected or appointed to the position according to a pre-existing set of rules and procedures. As a social movement grows and develops, it is increasingly likely to generate voluntary but formal organizations (e.g., Common Cause), sometimes even with salaried staffs, to carry on its work full time. Those social problem-movements which involve such formal organizations as part of their strength and support will include leadership of the rational-legal type, frequently along with individual charismatic leaders.

The third kind of leadership, traditional, is rarely found as part of any social movement, because by definition it takes time to develop, and most social movements are short-lived. Traditional leadership is the kind represented by kings, patriarchs, and similar leaders, who get their authority by means of a system of succession, usually, in which individual training, competence, and skill play little or no part, as they do in the rational-legal setting. An element of traditional leadership might be seen in the case of the "elder statesman" who occasionally associates with a movement for most of his life and continues to lead, just because he always has, perhaps long after his usefulness has disappeared. This phenomenon has occurred now and then in the radical movements and labor movements of the past, but it rarely if ever has occurred in the movements dealing with social problems.

While these three styles of leadership can be distinguished and discussed as ideal types, they are frequently mixed in actual practice. All three types can be useful in the same movement: the "old man" to give the movement a continuity and venerability; the efficient bureaucrat to keep it organized and supported; and the charismatic "firebrand" to capture the public imagination. Also, movements frequently evolve over time, so that a predominantly charismatic leadership gives way to a more rational-legal one as the movement outgrows its early struggling days and becomes more stable. Weber called this the "routinization" of charisma. Some movements, especially very unpopular ones, die out while still in the charismatic stage of leadership. Others evolve into either rational-legal or traditional forms. Still others may evolve into rational-legal and then traditional, or vice-versa. The changing patterns of leadership will depend largely on the needs of the movement in its interaction with the rest of its "host society."

The same observation can be made as we examine leadership of a movement according to its functions. Leaders, charismatic or not, are needed for different purposes at different stages of a movement's history. While some scholars have elaborated rather complex typologies of movement leaders (e.g., Hoffer, 1951 and Heberle, 1951), Smelser suggests that there are usually two basic types of leadership needed, according to function: "leadership in formulating the beliefs and leadership in mobilizing the participants for action. Sometimes the same person performs both these functions; in other cases, a division of leadership roles appears within a movement" (Smelser, 1962:297-98 and 355-56). And, one might add, there may be more than one person involved in providing each kind of leadership. One of the most interesting and troubling aspects of a movement's history, indeed, is the changing behavior of its leaders. Some no longer seem needed and drop out. Others engage in a power struggle to see whose program will prevail. Leadership in a movement is especially vulnerable to problems of this kind because it usually comes into existence without the regular legitimizing procedures characteristic of more settled organizations. Either the leadership begins as charismatic and experiences a "succession crisis" when the founding leaders disappear, or else regularly installed leaders in a variety of related but rival voluntary organizations compete for overall leadership. In any case; sudden and drastic transformation in the leadership of a movement may be wrought by the risk-reward calculating of the leaders, by the changing needs of the movement, and by the changing perceptions and definitions of the membership, to say nothing of the occasional fanatic or defector among the leaders. In some ways, it is surprising that social movements maintain any effective leadership over time at all!


Oberschall (1973:158) has characterized the central problem of mobilization for a social movement as one of "resource management"--the acquisition and use of money, time, talent, energy, and commitment, frequently in the face of opposition and repression from a hostile "host society" trying to deny the movement such resources. Two of the most important resources, of course, are the membership and the leadership. Given fair success in recruiting and arousing these, the rest of the needed resources may not be difficult to raise and manage. The relationship between leaders and members will also be very important, especially in the voluntary organizational frameworks characteristic of most social movements. Some of the organizations within the movement will be of an informal kind; people will get together in small community meetings under temporary or rotating chairmen, or they will communicate occasionally with likeminded friends and with emerging spokesmen of the movement. In these respects, they will be acting simply as "concerned citizens." However, when a group of such citizens assembles under a name like the "Society Against Problems" (SAP), draws up a charter or set by bylaws, raises money, divides into committees with specific functions, etc., then there is a formal organization. Whether formal or informal, these organizations will have to grapple with problems like coordinating efforts with those of related organizations, motivating members to work, finding some feasible system of sanctions (rewards and punishments) for members who do not work, or who seem otherwise "undesirable" in the organization, and so on. Such organizational problems greatly complicate the marshalling of resources in social movements, especially since almost all movements are based upon voluntary participation and leadership.

Once a movement has a viable organizational structure, formal or informal, with committed members and able leaders, then we can point to other critical elements in a successful mobilization. One of these is an appealing ideology or set of beliefs. These beliefs must be capable of providing a satisfactory explanation to members and prospective members concerning the causes of the problem and the steps that must be taken to solve it. One of the most important functions of an ideology is the legitimation of a movement, the explanation of the need for the movement and why it "belongs." Frequently the important elements of an ideology will be expressed in the form of slogans and symbols, which succinctly sum up the legitimacy of a movement and what it stands for, though usually in oversimplified terms. Most of us became acquainted with the peace symbol during the 1960's, which showed a stylized bomber, lest we forgot the damage it could do. The clenched fist atop the female cross symbolizes the women's liberation movement. Right-wing patriotic organizations distributed bumper stickers saying, "America: Love it or Leave it!" to which the liberal reformist organizations responded, "America: Change it or Lose it!" During the War on Poverty and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's, many reform-oriented groups, and sometimes even the federal government, used the slogan, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." All such symbols and slogans are intended to give brief and impressive expression to the basic ideals of an ideology, and, to the extent that they "catch on" and become popular and faddish, they provide important support to a movement even though their full meanings may not be understood by those who sport them. Ideologies, symbols, and slogans also, it must be remembered, have important personal functions for the members, quite aside from the help they give to the mobilization process. They help the members feel a part of something important, and they provide a sense of certainty and meaning where before there may have been confusion or alarm. In many respects, the symbols and ideologies characteristic of social movements (especially social problems) resemble those of religious sects; indeed, conversion to a movement has many of the same functions for recruits as religious conversion has.

Beyond ideology and slogans, mobilization involves a repertory of successful strategies and tactics, which will help to build membership, influence politicians, or raise money. By "strategy" we mean a long-range plan or policy, while "tactic" refers to a specific means or technique for carrying out the plan. Sometimes violence is involved as a strategy, a tactic, or both, or it develops accidentally. It is rarely a deliberate technique of the movement, however, and is more often perpetrated by hostile elements in the society in opposition to the movement. Especially in the case of social problem-movements in our society, violence is usually detrimental to the cause. Strategies and tactics in movements are generally those which we associate with any political action in our system: the seeking and forming of alliances, lobbying, picketing, fund-raising, speech-making, pamphleteering, broadcasting in the media, and so on. Sometimes a successful tactic can consist of no more than a skillful reaction to an unplanned precipitating incident. Smelser points to the boost which many movements have received from such incidents and their successful exploitation: spectacular crimes play into the hands of "law and order" movements; the arrest of a charismatic leader can produce solidarity in a movement that has been waning and breaking up (Smelser, 1962:292-96). Or, it can work the other way: a gasoline shortage, even if a product of collective definitions, can blunt the efforts of conservationists to "protect the environment" against petroleum exploitation. In any case, whether in response to unforeseen incidents or in the day-to-day struggle toward a movement's goals, the nature and timing of strategies and tactics are critical to successful mobilization. Frequently, a movement will change tactics or strategies in response to failures and successes. Smelser calls our attention to the Prohibition Movement, for example, which at first worked only through Protestant churches and then switched to special temperance organizations at the local level. Later on, mobilization focused mainly on the state level and the organization of Prohibition Parties to pressure the state legislatures, but then, around the turn of the present century, it reverted to work at the local level. Finally, it turned again to the state level and galvanized its various state organizations into a national movement that brought the passage of the 18th Amendment (Smelser, 1962:282-83). These shifts were not the result merely of the whims of the leadership, but, as is the case with any movement, they were responses to the interaction going on with the host society. It is to this interaction, and its consequences for a movement more generally, that we now turn.


By the "natural history" of a social movement, we mean the process of evolution through which a movement typically passes as a result primarily of its interaction with its social environment. While no two movements are exactly alike, of course, in the details of their history, there are still certain recurring patterns and regularities. Since we are conceiving of social problems here as a kind of social movement, we are positing that they, too, have a natural history. Quite a number of social scientists have used the natural history model in their treatment of social movements. One of the best known and most successful of these treatments has been that of Crane Brinton (1952), who applied the model to the development of revolutions, which represent an extreme kind of social movement. A German scholar, Ernst Troeltsch (1931), drawing somewhat upon the work of his colleague Max Weber, applied the same general notion to the development of new religious sects and their gradual transformation into regular churches. Herbert Blumer (1951), taking an idea from Dawson and Gettys in the 1920's traced five stages through which social movements typically pass. Since then, the scholars whose treatment of social movements has involved the idea of stages, implicitly or explicitly, have included Hopper (1950), Heberle (1951), Hoffer (1951), King (1956), Lang and Lang (1961), and Killian (1964).

It is interesting that other scholars, while not recognizing social problems as social movements per se, have nevertheless recognized that social problems also have a natural history and pass through stages. We would, of course, point out that the reason for this parallel is that problems are movements themselves. The natural history model for social problems was postulated as early as 1940 by Fuller and Myers (1941b), though it was criticized a decade later by Lemert (1951), not so much for its use as a general model as for the particular application of it that Fuller and Myers had made. In more recent years, Howard Becker (1966) has recommended the work of Fuller and Myers for further consideration, but he has not yet elaborated upon their work. Herbert Blumer, himself one of the originators of the natural history model for social movements (1951), suggested the model again more recently (1971) for application to social problems, without, apparently, seeing these as identical with social movements. Again he posits five stages, but not the same five as he had used for social movements a generation earlier. Even more recently, the idea of stages for the analysis of social problems was put forth by Leonard Reissman (1972), who conceives of social problems as having a "solution cycle" of three stages: identification, shaping, and disappearance. Reissman emphasizes the part played by collective definition and redefinition in the passage of a social problem through these stages. As we review the varied literature on both social movements and social problems, with particular reference to the use of a natural history model, we find two deficiencies which we feel can be remedied by our presentation in this book. (1) No one, as far as we know, has yet identified social problems with social movements, recognizing that, in fact, they are the same thing. Some have come close, especially Blumer, and we fully acknowledge our debt to their thinking, but they do not seem to have taken the last logical step of recognizing problems as movements. The importance of this last step is implied in Blumer's own recent article (1971), where he stresses the importance of an adequate theory of social problems as collective behavior, especially with regard to what happens at each stage of a problem's development. We would suggest that recognizing problems as movements makes it possible to apply to the analysis of problems all of the work that has already been done on movements, to which we propose to add our own modest contribution here. (2) Few, if any, of the existing formulations of natural history models, especially where social problems are concerned, have paid sufficient attention to the end of the life-cycle, to what might be called the "decline" or disappearance of social problems and/or movements. Most formulations, except possibly Reissman's, take the natural history model up through the "full blown" stage (e.g., "institutionalization," "development of tactics," "implementation," "reform," and the like), without much attention to what happens to a problem-movement after that. The same is true of the more recent formulation of Spector and Kitsuse (1973), although they apply different names to their stages. Our work will present some discussion of decline and demise, as well as of the earlier stages of the movement.

The Interaction of the Movement with the Host Society

It is perhaps obvious that the natural history of a social movement, whether of a problem kind or not, is dependent primarily upon the nature of its interaction with its "host society" (i.e., the society which produces it). Both the society and the movement are changed by this interaction, as Killian (1964:454) has so well pointed out. Later in this chapter, we shall discuss briefly some of the changes which the society experiences as the result of a social problem-movement, but here we are concerned mainly with the effect of the interaction upon the movement itself. Again, as Killian (1964:445) observed, a movement is always of an emergent nature, and what happens to it and its members "as a consequence of their interaction within the movement is vastly more important than the reasons why they first came into the movement," a commentary on personal interaction within the movement as well as on interaction between the movement and the milieu.

The crucial underlying fact in the relationship of a movement to its social environment is that each must contend with its own dilemma. For the movement, the dilemma consists of trying to maintain an identity, an integrity, and a continuing commitment to principles, while still trying to broaden its membership base. In terms of the concentric circle model used earlier, the movement must try to get as many members as possible into the outer and middle circles, without sacrificing the commitment and zeal of the membership in the core circle. The most zealous members are likely to take a rather uncompromising and purist stance toward the movement's goals; whereas a movement, to be effective, usually has to make certain pragmatic compromises in order to attract as much support as possible. For the host society, on the other hand, the dilemma consists of trying to accommodate the movement while still containing or controlling it, so that it does not go "too far" and create a general problem of social control. (This response assumes a society which recognizes reform movements as legitimate in the first place, of course.) These reciprocal dilemmas provide the context within which the movement and the society enter into an almost dialectical relationship, each making a series of responses and counter-responses to the moves of the other.

The host society makes its moves through traditional institutions, not just the government and, indeed, sometimes not involving the government at all. These institutions-government, business, churches, families--are not necessarily coordinated in their responses, except through the common commitment of their membership to certain traditional values and norms. Of course, representatives from these institutions might form a conservative opposition movement to the emerging social problem, but normally the traditional institutions of society can be expected to resist the reforms called for by the social problem-movement simply by a generalized inertia, apathy, or hostility. As traditional definitions and constructions of reality become less useful and satisfactory, defectors from traditional institutions may begin to support the movement in one or more of its three "rings," and it is the object of the movement's mobilization precisely to encourage such defection. Generally, however, the "burden of proof" stays with the movement, and the process of changing collective definitions of the situation is usually a laborious one. Sometimes the movement receives unintended help from the government or some other agency in the form of an incident or provocation which has the effect of galvanizing sentiment within the movement and increasing its circle of sympathizers. These incidents become episodal or anecdotal data of the kind mentioned in Chapter 1, which help to reshape "consensual reality." Thus, word of the murder of civil rights workers in the South increases public sentiment or sympathy for their movement, even among many Southerners. Or a series of prison riots may increase public interest in, and desire for, some kind of reform in our corrections system. The same episodes, however, might strengthen the call for "law and order."

It is rare for a movement to outlast its host society, except in those extreme cases where the movement is a successful revolution, and, even then, as Brinton (1952) has shown, a society has a way of "absorbing" a revolution, as the leaders of it turn to the hard realities of trying to govern in an established social or cultural setting. Especially in relatively permissive and assimilationist societies like our own, reformist movements tend to be tamed or absorbed through an accommodation in which both sides make compromises and come to terms with the other's position. The only alternatives to accommodation for the movement are revolution or elimination, the latter coming either from complete repression by the society or through the movement's own secession. While the movement is struggling to expand its own resource and membership base, without unduly compromising its critical goals, the host society is responding with a "double death-squeeze," made up of the twin pressures of co-optation and repression (Mauss, 1971c). by "co-optation," we mean ameliorative gestures in the direction of meeting and neutralizing the movement's criticisms, combined with a propaganda effort emphasizing those interests and values which the society shares with the reform movement. By "repression," we refer to social control techniques ranging from police action to ridicule, which can and do occur across all the institutions of the society. Smelser is among those who have pointed out that repression cannot be so severe that all avenues for dissent and agitation are closed, for that may crystallize the emerging movement and aid its mobilization. At the same time, co-optation cannot be so cordial as to raise unduly the aspirations of the movement's members, for then they may escalate their demands for reform. For the society, the problem is to maintain a "precarious balance" between repression and co-optation, appropriate to the movement's own "precarious balance" (Smelser's term), at a given stage of development, between power and oblivion (Smelser, 1962:282-86). The fortunes of a movement are thus determined in large part by the particular mixture of co-optation and repression applied by the society, and by its own manipulation of, and responses to, that mixture.

Stages in the Natural History of a Social Movement

It is neither novel nor profound to postulate, as we have done, that something as dynamic as a social movement has a career or natural history as it interacts with the rest of society. To go a step further and specify stages in that natural history, however, carries risks of oversimplification and distortion. Let us make clear, therefore, that we are offering the following formulation, not as an accurate and specific outline of every social movement, but as an ideal type of reality, to make possible empirical observations on the extent to which various movements correspond to this typification. While this formulation was developed mainly with radical protest movements in mind (Mauss, 1971c), any kind of movement fits it reasonably well, and the social problems discussed in this book are better understood in the light of this model. The five stages we call: (1) incipiency, (2) coalescence, (3) institutionalization, (4) fragmentation, and (5) demise. Some of these, especially the first three, are similar to what has been proposed by others; the last two have few, if any, parallels in the literature. A growth curve representing this five-stage life-cycle would have a shape approximating the normal curve, with the third stage at the apex. For some movements, however, the hypothetical curve would be sharper or flatter than normal. The chief impetus or force which projects a movement through these stages is the interaction between the movement and the society, with particular reference to the changing mix of co-optation and repression applied by the society and the movement's responses to that "mix."


The inception of a movement or social problem occurs while it is still in what Blumer calls the general stage, characterized by "groping, uncoordinated efforts . . . unorganized, with neither established leadership nor recognized membership, and little guidance or control" (Blumer, 1951:200-01). Such following as it has is in the form primarily of a concerned public of the kind which we represented above as the "outer ring" of the movement--people who have begun to feel a mild threat to the preservation or realization of certain vital interests. They begin to read and write articles in the media, hold occasional ad hoc meetings, write letters to congressmen, and the like. The initial response of the society is likely to be indulgent with a "mix" containing very little repression and a lot of co-optation (unless the movement is perceived as a highly subversive or abhorrent value-oriented one, in which case repression is likely to be immediate, formal, and thorough). Rather than generate conflict, most of the institutions and agencies of the society will attempt a restoration of the consensus through conciliation, compromise, and absorption. This response, in turn, requires the members having serious concerns to seek for an "identity," for a definition of their concerns, and thus for clear boundaries separating their definitions from those of the public at large. This boundary-testing will begin to arouse some hostility in the society, for it will involve some rejection of the compromise and co-optation being offered by the society. Unless the movement is already very large, and much more focused than is likely at this stage, the co-optive efforts of the society may keep the movement in this incipient stage for quite a long time. An example is the "death with dignity" movement associated with the "old age problem" in our society, in which there is a growing sentiment, centered in the medical professions, that "something should be done" and even a small organization in favor of euthanasia. In the society at large, probably everybody agrees that artificially keeping sick old people alive indefinitely is an undesirable practice. In some hospitals a compromise has been made in the form of withholding "artificial props" to life and letting the incurably ill die as quickly as nature takes its course. There is still considerable general sentiment, however, that more might be done to hasten the passing of one who is suffering severely, and, if that sentiment begins to crystallize into demands for euthanasia legislation, a repressive response is likely from most of the society, followed by further organization and mobilization by the euthanasists. This development will bring the next stage in the life of the movement.


The next stage is coalescence, which is marked by the gradual formation of the two inner rings of the movement. Formal and informal organizations begin to develop out of segments of the sympathetic public that have become the most aroused by perceived threats to the preservation or realization of their interests. In the words of Turner and Killian, such people will begin to "supplement their informal discussion with some organization to promote their convictions effectively and insure more sustained activity" (Turner and Killian, 1957:307). This development will be in response to repressive and provocative acts on the parts of the government or of other institutions of the "establishment"; it may also occur as the result of disappointment from perceived failures of the government or society to take ameliorative action after raising general hopes and expectations that such would be forthcoming. There may not yet be much (if any) society-wide coordination at this stage, but there will be alliances formed, ad hoc committees and caucuses springing up here and there, and some more formal associations organized at local and regional levels. In short, a change in the "mix" toward a larger proportion of repression will usually bring coalescence of the movement. The movement cannot usually be stopped at this point without massive repression, or else massive co-optation approaching capitulation on the part of the society. The current ecology movement reached this stage after a series of provocations like off-shore oil spills and the Alaska pipeline plan. Prior to those provocations, it was largely co-opted, for who could be opposed to clean air, clean land, and clean water? However, this movement has now begun to coalesce and is moving steadily toward the next stage. (See Chapter 15.) Another movement that passed through the stage of coalescence in recent years is the anti-obscenity/pornography campaign. (See Chapter 10.) Starting in the 1950's as a generalized sentiment for "decency" and against "smut," it gradually coalesced in response to increasingly liberal decisions by state and federal courts. It finally came sufficiently to the attention of the government to require the appointment of a Presidential Commission to survey the problem. This was a sign that it had reached the next stage.


When the government and other traditional institutions take official notice of a problem or movement and work out a series of standard coping mechanisms to manage it, the movement is institutionalized. A distinction must be made here, however, between the institutionalization of a movement, to which we are referring, and the institutionalization of its program. The latter use of the term implies a widespread and/or official adoption of many of the movement's goals or objectives, which is frequently accompanied by the rapid decline of the movement itself. We are here referring instead to the institutionalization of the movement, which implies that it is still mobilizing toward getting its program adopted. Institutionalization in this sense is accompanied by all the characteristics of a "full blown" movement: society-wide organization and coordination (unless the movement happens to deal with strictly local issues); a large base of members and resources; an extended division of labor; regular thrusts into the political processes of the society (e.g., lobbying, campaigning in elections); and growing respectability.* It is during this stage that the movement enjoys its greatest success: the mass media begin to take it seriously, politicians begin to vie for its favor, and some of its spokesmen become fashionable and perhaps well-paid speakers at rallies, meetings, and other public events. Legislation begins to be passed in an effort to "solve the problem" which the movement has defined. Thus, institutionalization means, for the movement, its period of greatest power, support, and fashionability; for the society, it means taking account of the movement with a repertory of routines which have the effect of greatly increasing the co-optation element in the mix. Repression is now reserved only for the fanatics and extremists, usually very few, who refuse to be "bought off" by the co-optation and begin to try other strategies and tactics to justify their raison d'etre. Most of the social problems that come to mind today have reached the institutionalization stage or have even begun to pass out of it and go into decline. Still enjoying the hey-day of institutionalization are the law and order movement (including crime and delinquency definitions); drug and alcohol problems; the movement against obscenity and pornography; women's liberation; the ecology and environment movement; and the population problem. The chapters in this book devoted to these topics will describe those characteristics which seem to warrant placing such problems in the institutionalization stage. Other problems, which seem to have passed the peak of institutionalization, will be mentioned in the discussion of the fourth stage.


An irony in the natural history of social movements is that their very success leads to fragmentation. Of course, fragmentation can occur through conflicts and pressures at any stage of a social movement's life (Smelser, 1962:304-05; Oberschall, 1973:143), but here we are referring to "normal fragmentation," which occurs typically after a movement has enjoyed a period of success and respectability, and is caused more by co-optation than by repression; that is the irony. Smelser seems to be referring to this phenomenon when he speaks of the "divisive effects of institutional accommodation" (1962:363). There are several reasons for the process of fragmentation. (1) In terms of the concentric circle structure, accommodations and co-optations have stripped away the outer ring and much of the middle ring; that is, many of the sympathetic public and active supporters have come to feel that "things have really improved" and that the threat to their vital interests has greatly subsided. This redefinition of the situation will cause them to turn to other (perhaps related) causes or to drop out altogether. At the same time, they will join with the rest of the society in labelling the uncompromising purists in the center circle as "fanatics," "far-out extremists," etc., thereby actually participating in the growing repression which now becomes the fate of the movement's survivors. (2) Those who remain in the movement will fall to fighting among themselves over strategy and tactics for the future: some will call for continuing the original struggle until total success has been achieved; others will call for a modification of program; still others will advocate displacement of original goals altogether and a turning toward new objectives. In large part, these controversies will have a basis in the differential interests of the participants, deriving from their respective locations in the social structure, as well as from their personal commitments. The radical or New Left movement of the 1960's, for example, began to break up in the middle and latter half of that decade over differential interests of the blacks and whites in the movement and, among the blacks, the differing interests of the middle and lower classes (Mauss, 1971c: 198-99). (3) Not the least of the reasons for fragmentation will be the changing requirements of leadership as the movement's earlier charisma is routinized and the rational organizer becomes more important than the charismatic ideologue. Leaders may begin contending with each other for supremacy and each may attempt to collect his own following or fragment from the movement. Not only will the different styles and functions of leadership be at stake in this process, but also the various personal interests of the leaders themselves (Smelser, 1962:359-63). Some will be "bought off" by the co-optive efforts of the society, but others' interests will be better served by trying to lead segments of the movement into new paths. Besides the radical protest movement and the civil rights movement, the war on poverty began to show signs of fragmentation in the late 1960's. In all three movements, institutionalization was enjoyed in the earlier part of that decade, but since that time different spokesmen and different segments of the movements have gone in different directions. (See Chapters 6 and 14.)


The final stage of a movement is its demise. Within the movement, the demise is seldom recognized. Instead, this stage might be defined by the movement as "success," since most of its goals may have been accomplished through co-optation, or it might be defined as a temporary setback for an otherwise still vital movement. However the demise is defined by the movement, it is simply a "mopping up" phase for the establishment or the society. The co-optation process has appropriated the most critical elements of the movement's program, has "bought off" many of its leaders and most effective members, and has choked off most of its outside support. This leaves only small bands of "true believers" who appear increasingly ridiculous and who, in desperation, may even resort to violence or terrorism to keep the movement alive (as, for example, the Weathermen did at the end of the New Left movement). Their behavior alienates them still further from the rest of the society and from their erstwhile reformist colleagues, and they are either driven to complete secession from the society or left to face the onslaught of total repression from a now unrestrained public consensus. The mix of co-optation and repression with which the interaction began has now been transformed from almost total co-optation, in the incipiency stage, to almost total repression, in the final stage. While the society at large is also surely affected in many ways by this process, it seems inescapable that a social problem-movement will ultimately experience fragmentation and demise.

Let us here re-emphasize that the process just described is an ideal type of historical reality, one only approximated by the actual histories of social problems. It will not always be possible, without considerably more historical research, to specify the "cutting points" between the five stages of a problem or movement. There is still much room, therefore, among scholars and students, for controversy over the number of stages, their demarcations, and their appropriate designations. It is less debatable, however, that, whatever the specifics, social problems and other movements have a life-cycle involving a rise, a thriving, and a decline, though little attention in the scientific literature has been paid to the process of decline. (Figure 2-1 offers a simple graphic outline of the life-cycle.)


We have argued also that this life-cycle occurs independently of objective reality for the most part. It has its inception in the collective definitions of its members and sympathizers of the nature of reality, and it is moved through its various stages by its interaction with the host society, an interaction that involves a process of mutual definitions and selective perceptions. While the objective reality of those who are co-opted or repressed may change, no objective change is needed in the putatively problematic social conditions in order for the movement's life-cycle to run its course. The cycle begins and ends with individuals and groups on all sides of an issue acting out their own perceived interests in response to each other. When the interaction we have described brings the movement to an end, then the social problem disappears, whatever may be the case with the social conditions which had once be defined as problematic.


Social problems are rarely "solved" in anything near the sense originally expected and demanded by the interest groups that identify them. Their disappearance may take several forms and may seem, in fact, rather mysterious. Blumer (1971) himself recently observed the proclivity of some social problems to "languish, perish, or just fade away." Edward Banfield, after reviewing the great problems of our cities and noting the important part played by collective and interest-group definitions in the rise of these problems, observes, "Hard as it may be for a nation of inveterate problem-solvers to believe, social problems sometimes disappear in the normal course of events," and he devotes some attention to those events (Banfield, 1970:257). Smelser, too, observes the "inherent tendency for even successful movements to leave a residue of disappointment," because the expectations and hopes of the proponents are always unrealistically high (1962:305).

Patterns and Varieties of Demise

Much of this chapter has been devoted to a discussion of the ideal-typical pattern which is normally followed in the development of a social problem through the various stages in its natural history (Figure 2-1). Certain important variations of that pattern might be noted at this time. The first of these is the abortive pattern represented by Figure 2-2. Applicable here is the observation by Smelser that a movement "under conditions of continuous repression tends to become moribund." (1962:366) In terms of our model, a society (usually through the government) almost always has the power to bring to bear overpowering repression in either of the first two stages of growth, thereby unbalancing the risk/reward ratio too much for it to be in anyone's interest to continue in the movement. This is the usual response to movements (even benign, mildly reformist ones) in totalitarian societies, and it is at least theoretically possible even in our own society. Indeed, this seems to be the appropriate characterization for the abortive end to certain American Indian religious movements that got started late in the last century (LaBarre, 1970). A second variation of our model, one which permits the movement to go almost to complete demise, is the revival pattern (Figure 2-3). In this case, a movement retains a flicker of life even after severe decline and flares up again later, sometimes a generation or two later, in response to new definitions by the appropriate interest groups. An example of this pattern is the Feminist Movement, which became moribund after its co-optation with the passage of the 19th Amendment and a variety of protectionist measures on behalf of women. It seems to have remained quiescent for almost fifty years, with only an occasional public notice, until it was revived in the form of the contemporary Women's Liberation Movement. (See Chapter 11.) The current ecology and environment movement has revived concerns similar to those of early conservationists. Still a third variation of our model is represented in Figure 2-4-the overlapping pattern. In this pattern, a sequel to an earlier movement gets going before the latter has completely died out. We have suggested elsewhere that this variation might fit the left-wing radical movements of the present century (Mauss, 1971b). The Old Left seems to have "passed the torch," as it were, to the New Left before disappearing from the national scene. Chapter 8 suggests that this pattern might apply to the relationship between the earlier Temperance Movement and the contemporary campaign against alcoholism. The difference between the overlapping and revival patterns, besides the coincidence in time peculiar to overlapping movements, is that revivals are more likely to involve somewhat different objectives and interests in the sequel movement. Apart from all these variations, it might be observed again that the basic "normal" pattern is itself subject to considerable variation in "flatness" and "steepness."


Residues and Redefinitions


A number of scholars have noted that after social movements have passed their peak a number of different things can happen to them. We have already noted that the interaction of a movement with society inevitably brings it to an end, but fragments and residues of the movement frequently provide some interesting, and usually unexpected, consequences. As far as the movement itself is concerned, though its original form will die out, it may, as Messinger (1955) shows, survive as quite a different entity, perhaps even a recreational one! Also, its various fragments may join with other emerging movements to provide new causes. If a movement has had any degree of success, however, that success is most likely to take the form of at least partial adoption or institutionalization of its program by the society. This is especially true in the case of social problems movements. Even less successful movements will usually leave behind some residues, if only in the form of new fads.

In general, one can find the residues of social movements at three different levels of the society. At the most general level, that of popular culture, a movement may at least bring changes in argot, jokes, leisure-time activities, styles, and the like. The New Left and related hippie movements of the 1960's, while achieving few of their formal objectives, left a residue of long hair styles for men and new word usages ("freak out," "right on"). As a result of the civil rights movement of the same period, Negroes are now called "Blacks," a term which was insulting a generation earlier. Of even more importance are the new definitions of social phenomena that come into currency in the wake of a problem-movement. As a result of the "child-savers" movement, non-conforming adolescents were defined as troubled children needing "protection" from a bad social environment, instead of merely "juvenile delinquents" or "young thugs." As a result of the mental hygiene movement, certain forms of deviant behavior are now defined as "mental illness" and treated as such by a class of physicians called psychiatrists. The campaign against alcoholism has likewise succeeded in getting that condition defined as a "disease" and a public health problem, rather than a character disorder or crime. Certain literary products are variously defined as "art" or as "smut," depending on the fortunes of the anti-pornography interest groups in our society.

At a somewhat more critical level, that of norms (and sometimes values), a social movement may also leave a telling residue. Some such changes involve only folkways. One can no longer tell "nigger" jokes in polite society without scorn. Indeed, such long-standing American entertainment institutions as minstrel shows and "Amos 'n' Andy" programs are clearly casualties of the civil rights movement and of the concomitant emergence of black consciousness and pride. More important normative boundaries are also changed by movements. Certainly more freedom and opportunity are accorded to women in our society as a result of "women's lib"; quite aside from actual changes in the law, the very role definitions of the "place of the woman" have been drastically altered. The population movement seems to have contributed to a new definition of large families as unfashionable, if not downright immoral. A great many of the problem-movements examined in this book have already made important normative changes in our culture, or are clearly in the process of doing so, whether they have been "successful" movements or not.

The most conspicuous level at which social problems leave their residues and redefinitions is the level of laws and law enforcement. One could almost say that the volume and depth of change at this level is the most important indicator of the "success" of a social problem-movement, or at least of its historical importance. It is at this level, too, that there so often appears the discrepancy between the "manifest" and the "latent" functions of new laws, or between what the new laws are intended to do and what they actually end up doing unexpectedly. One of the most celebrated examples of this discrepancy is to be seen in the Prohibition amendment, which spawned an enormous amount of "secondary" crime in the process of making alcoholic beverages illegal. Almost all problem-oriented laws which create contraband products have the same impact: the creation of new crimes and a new class of criminals. In a recent posthumous essay, Arnold Rose has considerably elaborated on this principle. As he states his theme: "Laws are attempts to deal with social problems; they usually transform the social problems in some unanticipated way; in so doing, they often create new social problems" (Rose, 1968). He then goes on to point out the part played by law in generating juvenile delinquency, race conflict, drug problems, and a great many other social problems through the unexpected consequences of new laws. The entire legal structure of our nation's welfare system has produced a new social problem, that of welfare itself. Whereas before we had only the one problem of indigence and poverty, we now have that problem plus a second one, welfare, created to "solve" the first one.

There are several reasons for this kind of outcome or "legacy" from social problems. (1) In our zeal to solve problems through laws, we often pass laws that do not have sufficient support in the traditional norms of the society, so that enforcement is an awesome burden. (2) As Blumer (1971) has pointed out, the laws actually designed by reformers are often watered down in the legislative or enforcement process, with the result that they fail to fulfill their intended or manifest functions, while still fulfilling a host of undesirable latent functions. (3) As a related point, Ross and Staines, as well as Leonard Reissman, have pointed to the essentially political nature of both the definition and the solution of social problems (Ross and Staines, 1972; and Reissman, 1972); that is, the laws that are passed and enforced around a given social problem are likely to be a reflection more of the interests of politicians and enforcement officials than of the imperatives of the "problem situation." Becker (1963) has made a similar point.


After establishing in Chapter 1 the importance of interest groups and their constructions of reality in the genesis of social problems, we began Chapter 2 with a consideration of the part played by conditions in the social structure itself in the genesis of social problems. We applied the theoretical notions of Durkheim and Erikson in arguing that the incidence and severity of social problems in a society depend, not so much upon objectively "problematic" conditions, as upon the "quota" which is logistically possible for a society to manage.

We then moved on to describe the nature and structure of social problem-movements, distinguishing between general and specific ones and, among specific ones, between value- and norm-oriented movements, noting that almost all social problems are movements of the specific, norm-oriented kind. We described movements as having a structure resembling three concentric circles or rings, with the more active and zealous segments found in the inner two rings. Next we considered some characteristics of members and leaders in social movements, using a risk/reward calculus to account for the ability of a movement to mobilize them.

The natural history of a social movement occupied a major portion of the chapter, in which passage of a movement through the five stages of its life-cycle or natural history was explained as a function of the twin pressures of co-optation and repression, which are applied in various mixtures by the host society. Particular attention was given to the part played by those pressures in the fragmentation and demise of a movement.

In the final section of the chapter, we considered what happens to the movement and to the society after the movement has declined and disappeared. We stressed that the putatively "problematic" conditions around which the movement was started play little or no part in what happens to it and that it, in turn, often leaves those conditions unchanged, if not worse. The "legacy" of a movement, as we conceived of it, consists of residues and redefinitions at the levels of popular culture, norms, and laws. The laws are probably the most important legacy of the movement, and they are frequently responsible for generating new problems unforeseen when they were so eagerly legislated.

In the chapters that follow, we will apply the theoretical model, developed in these first two chapters, to a variety of actual social problems.


* As used here, "institutionalization" thus encompasses Stages Two, Three and Four of the model proposed by Spector and Kitsuse (1973), while their first stage and mine are very similar.