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One critic of Smelser's Value Added Theory is Robert E. Bartholomew, who argues that Smelser's ideas about "mass hysteria" have been used to undermine the cultural complexity of non-western cultures. Bartholomew finds the labels that Smelser uses to be pejorative, and indeed Smelser's belief that social movements are driven by irrational responses can be seen as dismissive. Bartholomew also adds that Smelser's theory does not enable sociologists to predict future social movements, and that it is often applied retroactively to events that have already occurred. Bartholomew asserts that Smelser's theories are not specific enough to accurately account for the rise of social movements: "[Smelser's categories] are so vaguely defined as to be present in all societies at all periods."
James B. Rule likewise asserts that Smelser's theory is so vague that it holds little use value for sociologists. He thinks that Smelser's categories do not add any insight into social movements, and that in some cases Smelser states the obvious. Rule writes, "Indeed, does any element of Smelser's theory disclose empirical relations that would not be anticipated otherwise? I think the answer is negative [...]"
Smelser's theory would eventually fall out of favor by the 1970s.
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