What are the characteristics of a social movement?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The key characteristics of a social movement are these:

  • They are generally used by political outsiders.  People who already have political power do not need to engage in social movements.
  • They are generally grassroots in origin.  These are movements that start from the bottom up, not from the top down.
  • They tend to use unconventional tactics.  They do not lobby politicians or give campaign donations.  Instead, they stage sit-ins and protest marches.
  • They are made up of people who have a shared sense of grievance.  People who join such a movement must feel very strongly that they are being mistreated.

Overall, then, a social movement is something that is done by outsiders to the political process.  They use unconventional tactics to try to make their demands heard by those who have power.