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In what stage of a social movement would you consider the Occupy Wall St. protest to be?

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misssbooo | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted October 22, 2011 at 2:44 AM via web

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In what stage of a social movement would you consider the Occupy Wall St. protest to be?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 22, 2011 at 4:31 AM (Answer #1)

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When looking at social movements, it is important to note that the stages of Blumer's typology are not always applicable to every social movement.  While the first answer can be defended, it is clear that Occupy Wall St. does not fit perfectly into the stage of coalescence.  Instead, it may need to be viewed as a social movement that does not have the preoccupation with organization and politics that is required in order to fit into Blumer's typology.  We must also realize that these stages will not fit all movements perfectly.

For example, it is true the OWS has progressed to the point where people have joined together and the protest is more out in the open than it is private.  However, OWS does not seem to be anywhere near to the stage of picking leaders or having any sort of organization.  There is no NAACP  to provide structure to the movement.  There is no Martin Luther King Jr. to be its leader.  In addition, the actions of OWS are really not particularly strategic or collective.  Its actions are, as Al Gore has said a "primal scream" rather than a statement of purpose.

In order to truly fit into the stage of coalescence, OWS would need to have clear demands and a clear organization.  OWS most definitely does not have either of these.  Coalescence is a stage where there is a serious focus on concerted, strategic action and that is clearly lacking in OWS.

I would argue that OWS is, at this point at least, the sort of movement that does not fit Blumer's typology.  It is one that seems to be more about promoting some sort of lifestyle change rather than one that is about achieving specific goals.  It seems to be in some way pushing for a society that is more just and less greedy, but these desires have not really been translated into political demands.

Blumer's typology is made for more organized movements like the Civil Rights Movement.  OWS seems at this point to be a less organized "movement" along the lines of the 1960s counterculture.

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 22, 2011 at 3:16 AM (Answer #2)

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There are four stages in any social movement: Emergence, Coalescence, Bureaucratization, and Decline.

Emergence- In this stage, the movement is initial and preliminary, with little or no organization. The movement simply stems from unhappiness with a specific policy or condition.At this stage, there is no true social movement. Instead, consideration is based upon individual dislike of something and spoken about in close circles.

Coalescence- This stage is known, more commonly, as the "popular stage." In this stage, the individuals join together to show their dissatisfaction with the policy or social condition. Here, people are just starting to form groups to educate others so that numbers grow. It is also in this stage where a leadership is established and strategies are fleshed out. Events are planned so as to gain support of other individuals who have yet to join the collective whole.

Bureaucratization- This stage is known, more commonly, as the formalization stage. In this stage, the movement has succeeded at maintaining high levels of organization, coalition strategies, raised awareness, and have a staff which runs the daily operations and goals of the organization. At this stage, the movement no longer relies upon small rallies to add numbers and followers of their cause. Instead, the organization has gained enough political power to have full-time paid employees and formal recognition by the government. Not many social movements are able to reach this stage given many social movements are fueled by emotion and emotion can only carry one so far.

Decline- This stage is known, more commonly, as the institutionalization stage. The name of this stage is misleading if known by "Decline." Decline does not refer to failure; instead, it refers to one of four sub-stages with fall under the main stage of Decline: Failure, Success, Co-optation, or Repression.

In Failure, the movement simply fails for a number of reasons. In Success, the movement is able to take a stand and make a difference. Once this happens, there is no longer a need for the movement. Co-optation is where a movement is absorbed by another (typically with similar views but ones which are more generalized). Repression happens when more powerful groups (such as the government) force the movement to shut down.

Therefore, based upon these descriptions of the stages of social movements, the Occupy Wall Street social movement would fall into the Coalescence stage based upon the statement posted upon their own site:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions.

The fact that the movement does not have a staff which runs the daily operations and goals of the organization, it has not reached the level of Bureaucratization. While it has surpassed the level of Emergence, it is more than individuals speaking about a problem, the only stage which it would fit into is Coalescence.

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