Bringing the Crowd Back In: The Nonorganizational Elements of Social Movements

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Bringing the Crowd Back In:

The Nonorganizational Elements of Social Movements*

Pamela E. Oliver

University of Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin 53706

608-262-6829 / 262-2921

836-1731 (home): often best

* This paper was presented at the 1985 meeting of the American Sociological Association in Washington, D.C. I would like to thank Gary Marx and Ralph Turner for their comments.
NOTE: This is the pre-publication manuscript version of a paper that was published in: Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Volume 11, pages 1-30. 1989. Greenwich, Conn., JAI Press. Please cite the published version.

Organizations are very important in social movements, but they are not the whole story. Social movements are exceedingly complex phenomena encompassing the actions of organizations and their members, the actions of nonmembers in activities planned by organizations, and the actions of nonmembers in activities that organizations have nothing to do with, and may even oppose. Crowds and diffuse collectivities are important parts of social movements. This essay sketches an understanding of social movements which integrates organizational and nonorganizational elements of social movements, and the relations among them. Social movements are viewed as large, complex sets of collective events oriented toward some general social change goal. These events are seen not merely as common responses to the same external stimulus, but as affecting each other and accumulating into the dynamic event we call a movement. Actions can affect the likelihood of other actions by creating occasions for action, by altering material conditions, by changing a group's social organization, by altering beliefs, or by adding knowledge. The effects of one action on another are filtered through communication networks and the mass media. Giving attention to the ways in which actions affect other actions will allow us to understand the dynamic processes involved in the growth (or lack of growth) of widespread social movements.

Bringing the Crowd Back In:

The Nonorganizational Elements of Social Movements

Real social movements are complex mixtures of ideological pronouncements by leaders, diverse actions undertaken by crowds and organizations, and shifts in the consciousness and daily actions of people. In real social movements, actions affect other actions: they are not just isolated, independent responses external economic or political conditions. But our theory usually treats social movements as long-lasting single actions or as coherent social groups and fails to capture the ways actions affect each other. Much of our vocabulary is borrowed from the study of organizations. Marx and Wood noted ten years ago a general failure to link the study of social movements with the study of crowds (1975 p. 372, 416). The situation is not much different today. We lack a coherent theoretical account of the place of crowds and consciousness in social movements.

To set the stage for theorizing, we must begin with what we know empirically about social movements. Consider the Black Movement of the 1950s and 1960s,1 not because it was typical or average -- it certainly was not -- but because it was very large and complex and it encompassed in one movement many of the disparate features of social movements. What was this movement like? First, even during the period of NAACP hegemony, it was never coterminous with any single organization, and as the movement exploded, many movement organizations played important roles, organizations such as SNCC, CORE, SCLC, and the Black Panthers. These organizations (and their leaders or members) engaged in collective activities such as filing lawsuits, organizing sit-ins and boycotts, and making speeches. Organizations which were not movement organizations, notably black churches, often mobilized mass support for these activities. Morris (1984) stresses the importance of indigenous black organizations and describes a complex decentralized upheaval in which locally organized "movement centers" planned campaigns in their own cities. Even though there is a lively scholarly debate about the relative importance of various preexisting and movement organizations, it is clear that both kinds of organizations were important.
Important as these organizations were, and as complex as the organizational structure was, there was much more to the Black Movement than the actions of organizations. To begin with, people who were not members of movement organizations often participated in mass events such as boycotts, marches, rallies, demonstrations, and sit-ins. (In resource mobilization terms, they are the "transitory teams" mobilized by the activist cadre.) Although empirical research indicates that organizational ties -- especially through churches, black colleges, and civic organizations -- were very important channels for mobilization and block recruitment, so were other social network ties, especially kinship, friendship, and common residence.
Even this does not capture the full complexity of the movement, for widespread crowd events added to the turmoil. Some crowd events were derived from organizational events. Many sit-ins, lie-ins, kneel-ins, and swim-ins were conducted by ad hoc groups strongly influenced by but not necessarily organizationally linked to the movement organizations. Sometimes rioting or brawling would erupt in a city experiencing a sustained nonviolent campaign.
Then there were the riots in Northern cities. They were certainly not planned or even encouraged by Black Movement organizations. In fact, they were universally opposed by existing civil rights organizations and their leaders. Organizations never started and never controlled the riots. Nevertheless, these classic crowd actions were an integral part of what many called the black "revolution" of the 1960s (Killian 1975). They were clearly sparked by the climate of protest created by the civil rights demonstrations, and they in turn altered the course of the organized parts of the movement. More militant leaders and organizations were created or rose in prominence as a consequence of the riots, and existing organizations altered their rhetoric and moved their bases of operations north to address the issues raised by the riots. Riots were viewed by whites as more frightening, perhaps, but as the same general class of behavior as a demonstration,2 and generally conceded social benefits in response to the riots.
Finally, the movement raised the pride and consciousness of the mass of nonactivist blacks in important and enduring ways. Not only did the majority of blacks feel proud of the movement, their collective sense of culture and group pride rose. This shift in consciousness began with the period of black protests during World War II and continued with the postwar anticolonial struggles in Africa, but was accelerated by the movement activities of the 1950s and 1960s. Rising consciousness led millions of blacks to change the ways they dealt with whites in interpersonal encounters, a change that had a big effect on the perceptions and behavior of many whites.
All these different kinds of actions affected each other, and it was these interactions that created the social movement. Collective actions occur all the time. Blacks have petitioned, sued, and lobbied on their own behalf throughout American history, and from time to time before the 1950s they had rioted, sat in, marched, rallied, and boycotted. But something else happened in the 1950s and 1960s. The pace of action accelerated and exploded. Although external social and political conditions were important, they were not the whole story. Actions caused other actions. The NAACP's litigation strategy produced the 1954 Supreme Court decision which raised blacks expectations and caused conflicts over school integration. Whites' refusal to obey the law led blacks to seek extralegal strategies. The 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott was an example for the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-6, which was largely planned although its specific precipitating incident was not (Morris 1984, pp. 51-3). This boycott in turn provided an example for Tallahassee's Florida A and M students who started a boycott after an entirely spontaneous precipitating incident, a boycott which was taken up soon after by the local NAACP and indigenous black leadership (Killian 1984). In 1960, the sit-ins sparked other sit-ins and the Freedom Rides, which provoked violent responses and fueled the conflict further. In the early 1960s, centrally planned campaigns and demonstrations set the example for countless smaller skirmishes, many of them spontaneous in their origins. These civil rights protests influenced the beliefs of poor urban blacks and fed into the riots and their interpretation. The early riots and responses to them served as examples for later riots.3 Riots led existing organizations and leaders to shift their focus, and sparked the creation of new leaders and new organizations.
It is this sequence of action/reaction, this chain reaction that makes a social movement a social movement. These chains of action and reaction were outside the control or direction of any person or organization. If we accept this view of what a massive social movement is really like, and my reading of the literature is that most sociologists would, then it follows that it is misleading to equate a social movement with any kind of single collective decision-making entity, no matter how loosely structured. Whole social movements are not at all like armies at war with hierarchical command and centralized leadership. They are not like organizations, not even very informal ones. They are more like networks. They are made up of lots of smaller collective units, each acting autonomously in accord with their own internal logic. Different parts of a movement influence each other, but do not control them.
If we are to theorize sensibly about whole social movements, we must be able to speak about these shifting relations among very different kinds of collective entities experiencing very different kinds of events. We cannot do this with an organizational vocabulary and organizational metaphors. But all too often we speak of movement strategy, tactics, leadership, membership, recruitment, division of labor, success and failure -- terms which strictly apply only to coherent decision-making entities (i.e. organizations or groups), not to crowds, collectivities, or whole social movements.
It can be a useful simplifying assumption to ignore the inner workings of a social movement when discussing the interactions between a movement and its opposition or environment. Metaphorical use of an organizational vocabulary in this case can be quite useful, as long as we understand that it is metaphorical. But there are dangers if this kind of language is the only language we use for social movements.
First, it is all too easy to forget the metaphor and to attribute intentions to the movement as a whole, or to collective entities which cannot support them. Discussions of movement strategy all too often are couched in the language of lessons to be learned, as if a movement could choose its strategy. But of course it cannot. Movements are shaped by the complex interactions of collective entities whose intentions are often quite divergent. Movement histories may provide object lessons for the leaders of movement organizations, but one of those lessons must be their fundamental inability to control much of what happens in a social movement.
Secondly, the use of organizational language diverts our attention from the very interesting problem of what goes on inside a social movement, from the question of how diverse kinds of actions actually do influence each other. Why do riots occur in waves? To say that there is imitation is to give a label to the phenomenon, not to explain it. How did demonstrations in the South spark riots in the North? What was the mechanism? What is the nature of the relationship between crowds and organizations? How do shifts in mass consciousness occur? When are these shifts enduring, and when are they volatile? Does consciousness really matter for anything except itself? These questions are worthy of research, and are obscured by organizational language.
This essay develops a different way of talking about social movements, a language that accords the same theoretical status to crowds, consciousness, and organizations, so that propositions about their interrelations can be articulated. I have sketchily reviewed a variety of literatures about crowds and consciousness, seeking to show how collectivities which are not organizations may still be treated as collective actors. This review does not purport to be definitive. Rather, I try to show how existing knowledge can be incorporated into a different framework. I say very little about organizations, not because they are unimportant, but because our scholarship lately has been mostly about organizations.


To acknowledge the complexity and fluidity of social movements is not to give up on rigorous research about them, nor is it to require that each research project encompass the totality of a movement. Each event in a social movement is like throwing a rock into a pond, creating ripples which eventually damp out and become imperceptible. We cannot possibly follow out all the direct and indirect effects of every action. But we do not have to be able to find the end of the ripples: we do not have to draw boundaries around social movements to study them (Turner 1981, and Marwell and Oliver 1984, make this point.) Instead, each research project focuses on a few key features or processes while ignoring others. We should expect to have research and theory on movement organizations, or crowds in movements, or the role of mass media in movements, and so forth.

But we do need some overarching theoretical structure that allows us to link these different processes together and generate propositions about the relations among them. Such a structure requires a vocabulary which does not automatically invoke images of unitary groups or organizations. After reviewing and analyzing dozens of published definitions of the concept of a social movement, Marwell and Oliver (1984) propose to define a social movement as a large, complex set of collective events oriented toward some general social change goal. The most important feature of this definition is its sharp distinction between any single collective action oriented toward some specific social change goal, and a social movement which, by definition, encompasses many different actions. In this view, a social movement generally encompasses a wide variety of different types of actions oriented toward a variety of specific goals, employing a variety of ideological interpretations, and undertaken by a variety of different kinds of actors.

Marwell and Oliver also propose the term "collective campaign" to describe sets of actions which are smaller, less complex, and oriented toward more specific social change goals. This concept allows us to avoid the discomfort of having to call a series of protests by dormitory students a social movement for lack of a better term. It is also useful for discussing the activities of a single collective actor over time. Social movements are usually made up of a number of collective campaigns by a number of different collective actors.4
If social movements are viewed as complex sets of collective actions and campaigns, then the organizational structure of a whole social movement would in general include several organizations and their organizational relations; a variety of informal groups who get involved in movement activities; episodic crowds; mass changes in individual beliefs and actions and shifts in public opinion; and the interactions among these elements.
Of course, the actions in a social movement interact with those on the other side of an issue, and thus not part of the social movement as it is defined here. I don't think anything will be gained by trying to use the term social movement for all related actions, regardless of which side of an issue they are on, even though many of the relations among actions discussed below hold for actions inside and outside the movement. Existing social movements literature defines several kinds of collective actors outside the social movement but relevant to it. Some movements face opponents, i.e. sets of actors who oppose the social change goal the movement supports, while other movements face only targets, whose inertia or indifference needs to be overcome. Movement opposition may be either entrenched elites or power blocks (i.e. government, the ruling class) or another social movement (i.e. a countermovement). These opponents, particularly when they are countermovements, may themselves be complex sets of interrelated actions, rather than coherent decision-making organizations capable of pursuing rational strategies. Targets may be relatively coherent organizations, or unorganized masses or publics. In some cases, third party audiences are important. For example, it is often argued that confrontations between Civil Rights protestors and white supremacist local governments were played before an audience of northern whites, whose eventual repugnance for the tactics of white southerners was a significant factor in the struggle.
Although I believe the particular definition given by Marwell and Oliver is the clearest and most precise, this view of social movements is quite consistent with much of the literature. Almost everyone who has written theoretically about social movements has addressed in one way or another the complexity of large movements. Gusfield (1981) critiques what he calls the "linear" conception of social movements, although he stresses meanings and understandings, rather than actions. Oberschall has often written about actions within a movement affecting other actions (for example, 1980; 1973, p. 298) and has stated that social movements could be viewed as "a social interaction field with zones of varying organizational density" (1978, p. 267). McAdam (1982, pp. 52-3) explicitly includes feedback from the movement back into the movement as part of his model. The populational analyses that Tilly and his colleagues perform fit readily into this conception, as do their discussions of the interplay between crowds and organizations in the development of national democratic states (see Tilly 1978 and Tilly, Tilly, and Tilly 1975). Turner and Killian, separately and in their joint work, often speak of the fluidity and complexity of movements, and address specific issues about crowds and consciousness (Turner and Killian 19725; Turner 1981; Killian 1975). Smelser's (1962, pp. 109-110) definition of movements in terms of their generalized beliefs is entirely compatible with a vision of movements as diffuse and complex, although his own work and that of those in his theoretical tradition rarely addresses movement complexity in much detail (Marx and Wood 1975, pp. 407-8). It is widely recognized that collective violence occurs in waves (e.g. Lofland 1981, p. 435; Pitcher, Hamblin and Miller 1978). The black riots in the 1960s were seen by the general public (Turner 1969) and by sociologists as protests which were somehow related to the black movement (Morgan and Clark 1973; Spilerman 1970, 1976; Rossi and Berk 1970; Lang and Lang 1970).


It is one thing to say that social movements are complex aggregates of actions, and quite another to develop theory which can address this complexity in a useful way. We need to understand the mechanisms through which disparate kinds of actions by widely separated groups of individuals can affect each other and accumulate and have a kind of unified effect. To this end, we may organize what we already know about the factors which lead people to act in a way that will permit a disciplined search for the important relationships among actions.


As a starting point, consider the model in Figure 1. We use the term "collectivity" to refer to any collective entity, be it an organization, an informal group, a crowd, or a public. In this simple model, one collectivity does something and its action has some consequences. A communication process generates information about the event and its consequences. This information is taken in by a second collectivity which interprets it. This interpreted information may alter the second collectivity's prospects for subsequent collective action. We may discuss this model in two ways. First, we briefly consider the "black box" in the middle, identifying some important features of the communication process and the process of interpreting and deciding. Secondly, we ignore the black box, and inventory the ways in which information about the first action influences the prospects for a second action.

Communication Processes

Communication links are never perfect: they never carry all possible information, and they never provide links between all possible collective entities. Thus, processes that determine exactly what information gets transmitted (and what does not) and exactly to whom it is transmitted are crucial features of social movements. There has been much discussion of the effects of the mass media on social movements, arguing that the media provide a mode of communication among unconnected individuals, and that media reports of movement events are often very distorted (see, for example, Molotch 1974, 1979; Molotch and Lester 1975; Gitlin 1980; Jenkins 1983, p. 546; Oberschall 1978). I have seen no treatments of movement-controlled mass media, even though these clearly exist and are important. In 1964, 78% of surveyed blacks read at least one black newspaper (calculated from Marx 1967, p. 73).

There has also been a great deal of research in the collective behavior tradition about the personal transmission of rumor within collectivities (for comprehensive treatments see Shibutani 1966; Turner and Killian 1972, pp. 30ff). Personal communication is also important between collectivities. Crowd behavior in the past is regularly found to have spread across time from a single point of origin along major transportation routes (Rude 1964, p. 25; Shibutani 1966, pp. 103-6). In the 20th century, the telephone now permits rapid diffusion of information through personal networks: Morris (1982, 1984) tells how activists called acquaintances in other cities to urge them to have sit-ins of their own.
Both mass communication and personal communication are important in all social movements. The mass media can provide communication bridges that jump geographic and social barriers and, with today's technology, can do it very quickly. But they are highly selective in what information they transmit. Conversely, personal communications can be about almost anything, but they must be made between people who are in immediate physical proximity to one another, or who have some preexisting social relationship. The two forms of communication are used together. People discuss and evaluate the news they hear from the mass media, and they use the mass media to check the news they hear through personal sources (Shibutani 1966, pp. 31-62; Lang and Lang 1981; Turner and Killian 1972, pp. 112-118, 199-243).

The Process of Interpreting and Deciding
Although whole social movements cannot make decisions, decisions are made in social movements. They are made by different kinds of collective entities: organizations, informal groups, crowds, and local collectivities.6 Each kind of collective entity has its distinctive patterns of decision-making, but some general principles apply to all. In all cases, it is ultimately individuals who make choices about their actions, but these choices are made in interaction with others, and in this sense, collective entities may be said to act. People normally go about the routines of life without making collective decisions, but under certain circumstances, people begin to think about the possibility of some kind of collective action, and then they enter a calculation mode wherein they decide what to do (Collins 1981). In all cases the fundamental process of a collective decision is the same: people talk to each other about what to do, some individuals start to act in particular ways (which in the case of organizations may automatically determine resource allocations), then other individuals decide whether to cooperate with those action, do something else, or do nothing. It is this process which produces a collective decision. The rules mapping individual choices into collective decisions differ depending on the type of collective entity, and different types of entities are capable of supporting different levels of coordination among actions. The important thing about a social movement is that these collective decisions by one collective entity are influenced by the collective decisions of other collective entities.
Whether transmitted personally or through the mass media, new information is significant for collective action only after it has been discussed and interpreted by a collectivity. It must be stressed that this process of interpretation does not produce homogeneity. Most people have some beliefs which they perceive as being different from those of their family and friends. But the framework within which these beliefs are understood is shared.

Organizations, crowds, and local collectivities differ in the details of the ways collective understandings are reached, because of the different social relations and interactions among the individuals in different kinds of collective entities. Specification of these differences is beyond the scope of this paper, but there is a great deal of research in organizational psychology, collective behavior, and small groups which tells us a great deal about this matter.

How Actions Affect Other Actions
Now we may consider how the communicated and interpreted information about one action by one collectivity can affect the prospects for subsequent action by another collectivity. This section takes the "black box" as a given, and inventories a variety of ways in which actions can affect each other. Underlying this inventory is the assumptions that collective actions are undertaken by people who make relatively conscious decisions, and that these decisions are strongly but not exclusively instrumentalist. To say decisions are instrumentalist is to say that they are made with an eye toward accomplishing the goals toward which the social movement is oriented. Nothing in this assumption excludes the importance of emotion or sheer expressiveness, but we do assume that movement actions usually have some instrumental component.

Creating an Occasion. One of the most important ways in which collective actions are affected by prior actions is in the creation of an occasion for deciding. Most people spend most of their time going about their daily business. They do not think about whether to march in a demonstration, or petition city hall, or riot. Their daily discussions with others usually do not revolve around these questions. It takes a major event to alter these circumstances. (Collins 1981 makes this argument.) Hearing about collective action by others is one such event. It can lead people to start discussing the question of whether they, too, should do something collective. The likelihood that previous actions will create such an occasion is positively related to the size and drama of the action and to the similarity between the previous actors and the group under consideration. The likelihood of an occasion being created is positively related to the number of prior actions that have occurred recently, but the marginal impact of each additional previous action doubtless declines.

The creation of an occasion does not ensure that collective action will take place. Rather, it means that people will begin the calculation processes involved in deciding whether to act. Empirically we would note the presence of an occasion by identifying a change in what people talk about. We would hear more discussion of the possibilities of collective action. Depending on who is right about the fundamental causes of collective action, we might find conversation about grievances, that is, discussions about whether things are good or bad and who is responsible for them, or we might find conversation about efficiencies, that is, discussions about whether a particular form of action would be likely to produce a desired change, and what the benefits and costs of such action would be. In either case, people would be signalling each other about their intentions to act or lack thereof.
Of course, not all occasions are caused by other collective actions. The members of organizations may be continually discussing the possibilities for action and calculating the benefits and costs of various options. Or they may begin to look for possibilities for action simply because they are together in an organization and are seeking to expand it or maintain it. The occasions for crowd events or shifts in consciousness in a diffuse collectivity may arise because of some major external event, such as a depression or war, or an especially dramatic incident. Sometimes an individual may be able to create an occasion by the sheer power of persuasion.
If the creation of occasions were the only mechanism for sparking collective actions, we would probably not see social movements grow. Once a group is talking about the possibility of acting, the occasion exists. If they choose not to act at that point, further occasion-sparking incidents will have no further effect. Chains of reaction due only to the creation of occasions should peak early as the news is created, and then die down just as fast, when every group has acted (or chosen not to act) once. However, collective actions can also alter the conditions that go into people's decisions once they are in the calculation mode. They pay attention to new information and may decide to act once or many times.

Changes in Objective Conditions. The political-economic structure constrains the possibilities for action within a society. Major changes in the political economy are usually exogenous to a social movement: most collective actions (or even whole social movements) make no significant difference in the political economy. Of course, on those rare occasions when the accumulation of a social movement does produce such a major change, such as toppling a regime, there will be huge effects on subsequent collective action. But most collective actions have only small effects on the polity and virtually none on the economy. However, these small effects on the polity sometimes create large openings for certain forms of collective action.

Small political changes can create new resources, such as voting blocks, sympathetic legislators, agencies offering grants, or communication media. These new resources usually affect organizations and organizational behavior much more than they affect crowds and diffuse collectivities, since the latter usually rely only on their own behavior.
Small political changes can produce big changes in the effectiveness of social control. Spilerman (1976) reports that although the frequency of racial disorders in American cities in the 1960s was largely a function of the size of the black population, the severity of the disorders had a strong negative relation to the number of prior disorders in the city, which he interprets as due to the increased effectiveness of social control agents due to experience. Authorities who are initially overwhelmed in the face of tactical innovation learn how to deal with it over time (McAdam 1983). The relation between the extent of previous actions and the effectiveness of social control is probably curvilinear. When disruption involves a relatively small proportion of the population, social control agents show a positive learning curve when has a dampening effect on subsequent action. But if disruption becomes widespread enough to strain social control resources, the effect of subsequent actions will accelerate, with each action making social control less and less effective for subsequent actions.
Although movement actions rarely can affect the whole structure of political and economic opportunities, they often can affect the prospects for obtaining or losing relatively specific benefits. We may use the term "collective goods" to refer to the myriad of specific issues and conditions around which movement campaigns may be oriented. Which specific benefits are relevant is, of course, largely due to the content of ideas within the population specifying which things are important and which are not. But given that some issues are deemed relevant, there are objective conditions to which these conditions are relevant. Blacks had objective levels of economic deprivation, objective experiences interacting with white employers, police, bus drivers, and store clerks, and encountered objective levels of violence by whites. When abortion became an issue to women, the laws and de facto practices about abortion had an objective status; the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion created an objective fact around which the antiabortion movement coalesced.
Collective actions can affect the prospects for other actions by succeeding in providing collective goods (or in removing collective bads). Success in achieving a collective good means that it is now provided where it was not before, or that something undesirable has been removed. It is well established that such success usually reduces dramatically the likelihood of future collective actions to obtain that particular good or closely related ones. The Townsend Movement is a classic case of a movement dying in the face of even partial success in obtaining its goals (Messinger 1955). Even when collective action is required to maintain continued provision of the good, sufficient collective action is often not forthcoming.
Conversely, success in achieving a collective good often increases dramatically the likelihood of future collective actions opposed to that collective good. The 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion was the impetus to the antiabortion movement. Reagan's election in 1980 was followed by a huge upsurge of contributions to feminist and prochoice and, to a lesser extent, liberal movement organizations.

Changes in Social Organization. The social organization of a collective entity, including its communication networks, informal social ties, and organizational structure, is always an important determinant of the level and form of collective action by that collective entity (see, for example, Turner and Killian 1972, p. 261; McAdam 1982, pp. 43-48; Oberschall 1973, pp. 102-148; and Tilly 1978, pp. 62-69). This social organization is generally relatively slow to change and is not often dramatically affected by collective action.

Nevertheless, collective action sometimes produces relatively small changes in a group's overall social organization which can have big effects on subsequent collective actions. Morris (1984, pp. 141-157) reports that the acquaintanceships formed at the Highlander Folk School's leadership workshops created informal social ties among activists which cross-cut organizational affiliations and geographic boundaries, and which were very important for diffusing information about strategy and tactics in the Civil Rights phase of the Black Movement. The collective action of arranging and publicizing a women's forum may increase the social ties among women in a community, which may permit the organization of a massive march the next year. The collective action of organizing group transportation to a rally in Washington may increase the social ties among those who ride the bus together. An insurrection or riot may increase "us versus them" sentiments. The 1960s riots led many established middle-class black organizations to reorient their programs and attempt to establish ties with lower class blacks (Anderson, 1973). Collective campaigns around a single issue often result in the formation of an organization which continues after the campaign and initiates collective actions addressing other issues.
Of course, collective actions may also affect a group's social organization in ways which hinder subsequent actions. This occurs most often through polarization among subgroups or factional disputes among leaders. There are many instances of one civil rights organization acting in ways which angered the leaders of other civil rights organization, thus reducing their ability to cooperate in subsequent actions. Blacks and whites in the civil rights movement became increasingly angry and distrustful with each other. The bombing of a University of Wisconsin building made moderate antiwar activists in Madison unwilling to continue working with more radical antiwar activists. Nevertheless, in general, the social organizational changes produced by collective action usually seem to promote further action rather than reduce it, although they may alter its form.

Changes in Beliefs. Ideas are important in social movements. Turner and Killian (1972, p. 259) call the critical idea a "sense of injustice"; McAdam (1982, p. 48) gives the name "cognitive liberation" to the same general idea. The ideas relevant to collective action may be divided into those relating to grievance, and those relating to the efficacy of action.7 A sense of injustice or grievance couples negative feelings about some state of affairs with a sense that it is a societal (rather than personal) problem, what Ferree and Miller (1985) call a system attribution. To act collectively, people must believe that such action would be efficacious, i.e. that change is possible but that it will not happen automatically, without collective action.

The question of whether grievances matter has been debated in the literature. McCarthy and Zald (1973, 1977) and Tilly (Tilly, Tilly, and Tilly 1975; Tilly 1978) argue that resources are more important for the rise of social movements than grievances. McPhail (1971) argues that individual attitudes were at best weak predictors of riot participation. On the other hand, case studies do find concern about an issue to be a major predictor of participation. For example, Walsh and Warland (1983) find that active opponents to the reopening of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant were more concerned about the risks than those who were not active. Marx's survey of blacks in 1964 found positive relations between membership in civil rights organizations, attitudinal militancy, and attitudes toward the police and school integration (1967, pp. 40-48), although members and militants were less antiwhite (1967, pp. 199-200).
It is possible to generate some predictions about the relative importance of the injustice and efficacy components of beliefs for collective action. Economically and politically oppressed populations generally have quite high proportions of people who feel discontented even during quiet periods of low collective protest. It is in such populations that low correlations are found across time between deprivation levels and collective action, and in such populations that individual levels of grievance are weak predictors of participation in collective action. When the population has a very high mean level of enduring grievance, variation within the population is small relative to the mean and is of relatively little significance. Instead, beliefs about efficacy, and objective circumstances such as resource flows and political opportunities, are most important.
However, other social movements arise from populations which do not have enduring high grievance levels, in which people within the population can and do disagree about whether conditions are unjust. When this is the situation, discontent levels can change significantly and this change can affect collective action. It is in these conditions that collective actions which influence perceptions of justice or injustice can influence subsequent actions. In our recent history, the student movement, the antiwar movement, and the women's movement all arose from such populations; activists in movements opposed to nuclear power or nuclear weapons have higher grievance levels than nonactivists. Thus, we might expect collective actions oriented toward raising grievance levels, that is, educational and propaganda efforts, to have great influence only when the population is not already aggrieved.
While the sense of grievance is only sometimes relevant, the sense of efficacy is always relevant to collective action. A successful collective action by other members of the oppressed group can change hopelessness into hope and thereby motivate other collective action. The NAACP's success in winning the 1954 Brown versus The Board of Education suit in the Supreme Court is widely viewed as having a dramatic effect on black people's beliefs in the possibilities for change (e.g. Killian 1975). Any collective action which is not met with brutal repression can be seen as a kind of success and encourage subsequent actions by others. There is doubtless a similarity gradient which works simultaneously along the dimensions of similarity to the successful action, the group, and the issue. Similar actions by other members of the same aggrieved group are most likely, but somewhat different actions by other members of the same aggrieved group, or similar actions by other aggrieved groups, are also quite likely. There is even diffusion to quite dissimilar entities and actions, so that certain historical periods witness many kinds of collective actions by many different groups.
Once actions stop producing successes -- because subsequent goals are harder to attain after initial victories, or initial promises of change are not fulfilled, or the responses of opponents or social control agents become more effective -- people's estimates of the probability of success decline and collective action begins to taper off.
In ongoing battles between movements and countermovements, victories by the other side may encourage rather than discourage further action. When people are calculating courses of action, losses or potential losses of benefits are a powerful impetus to action, as long as people in a group feel efficacious, that is, as long as they believe they have a reasonable chance of succeeding. The recent history of struggles between antiabortion and prochoice actions has shown this pattern; both sides have substantial support in the population and substantial resource bases, so each side is invigorated by temporary successes on the other side.

Changes in Knowledge. News of previous actions includes tactical information which can influence subsequent actions. McAdam (1983) shows that the peaks of Civil Rights activity were due to tactical innovations. People learn how to conduct sit-ins, or make Molotov cocktails, or organize alternate transportation so a bus boycott can succeed. This knowledge can be viewed analytically as operating through the perceived efficacy of action (or through the creation of occasions), but tactical diffusion is important enough to be discussed by itself.

Sometimes, especially when the information is transmitted intentionally from one group to another, new users of tactics replicate previous users. But often, especially when the information diffuses informally or through the mass media, the exact tactical details are often obscured, and new users of the tactic modify it somewhat, sometimes yielding new tactical innovations which are further diffused. Almost all of the tactical repertoire of any era can be traced to modifications of previous tactics, or to the revival or expansion of long-extant tactics. Although the 1960 sit-in in Greensboro is often cited as a tactical innovation, for example, scholars of the Black Movement have shown that there were occasional sit-ins by blacks at least since the 1940s, and the Greensboro sit-in was preceded for several years by test sit-ins in which blacks would attempt to be served in white establishments, but would leave rather than forcing the authorities to arrest them. The focussed public accommodations sit-in, in which protestors attempted to behave like ordinary customers and be served, evolved into a sitting occupation of a public place designed to obstruct normal business activities. The sitting occupation is, of course, very similar to a sit-down strike, which has long been used by workers.

Changes in Self Perceptions. People are changed by social movements. Active participants in collective actions are changed by their participation and experiences. The experience of participating in one collective action often makes them feel more efficacious and ready for more. They often undergo a process of progressive commitment (Turner and Killian, 1972, pp. 335-360; John Wilson 1973, pp. 300-328; Gerlach and Hine 1970, pp. 99-158). This process seems to leave them permanently different: follow-up studies of 1960s activists find that they are more likely than others to be politically active and in movement-related careers (Oliver 1983). Movement activists come to value the image of themselves as activists as an end in itself, so that it becomes an intrinsic motivation to "do the right thing."

But the movement can also change those who are not participants, or at least not yet. Probably the most important thing it does is to make "standing up" positively valued in a group. When the idea starts diffusing that the moral or ethical thing to do is to express resistance to injustice, whether or not the expression is instrumental in stopping the injustice in any specific way, and when people start talking this way in their informal networks and judging each other according to this criterion, the group is becoming ready to act in some way. If the target is distant authority, standing up makes the group easy to organize for mass demonstrations, or perhaps ready to riot. If there are nearby targets, such as husbands or coworkers, standing up can take the form of millions of individual incidents of interpersonal resistance.
This diffusion of individual defiance is significant in itself, but it is also significant for its effects on other movement actions. There are two kinds of effects: the direct effects on collectivity members in their propensity to support movement actions, and the indirect effects on the targets, opponents, and audiences of movements. The direct effects are very important, but they are also quite straightforward. As Turner and Killian (1972, pp. 139-141) argue, many crowd events arise out of populations which are mobilized in this way, and this rise in consciousness provides a support base for movement organizations.
The indirect effects are more subtle. The symbolic political climate within which crowd and organizational actions are interpreted is altered by changes in the microsocial texture of relations between those who are part of the movement and others. Most people gain most of their impressions about other social groups from the few members of those groups they happen to encounter. Whites rely heavily on black employees or coworkers for their ideas about the mood and goals of the black community. They observe and interpret their speech and behavior and, until the changing microsocial climate made such behavior unacceptable, often asked black acquaintances directly to interpret black actions, or to listen to their own interpretations. Most men rely on their wives, lovers, or female coworkers for their interpretation of how women in general feel about the women's movement. In premovement times, blacks or women in these interactions would often reassure whites or men that they were happy with the relationship. When blacks and, later, women stopped providing this reassurance -- when they became more assertive or hostile in their interactions and started defending the issues raised by the movement -- whites and men were forced to reevaluate their impressions. There have been a number of public incidents of male politicians' actions being affected by discussions with their wives about women's rights or abortion, but most of these effects are more indirect. These changing personal impressions feed into the "public" (i.e. dominant) perception of the movement and influence its interpretation which, in turn, affects the responses to subsequent actions (Turner 1969).


Although crowds have not been comfortably handled by most theoretical treatments of social movements, it would of course be incorrect to imply that no one has studied crowds in social movements. There is, in fact, a fairly lively literature concerning the relative value of unruly crowds and organizations for producing social change on behalf of oppressed populations. The poles of the debate may be defined by Gamson (1975) who argues that bureaucratized organizations obtain more benefits, and Piven and Cloward (1977) who argue that only unruliness produces benefits, and that organizations reduce unruliness. This literature has been well summarized by Jenkins (1983) who concludes that unruliness is often effective for producing change, but that unruliness is not incompatible with the formation of strong organizations. Rude (1964) and Tilly (1978; Tilly, Tilly, and Tilly 1975) argue that although riots and other crowd outbursts were common throughout European history, it is only with the rise of broader ideologies and national organizations that crowds contributed to major social change. Oberschall (1973, pp. 118-135) makes the same theoretical point in comparative terms, arguing that oppressed groups who lack associational linkages can produce only sporadic outbursts, not sustained and widespread pressure for change. Recent revisionist scholarship on the civil rights movement stresses that its unruliness was planned by indigenous black organizations (Morris 1984; McAdam 1982). Although it is important to get the facts right for any particular historical movement, to say which organizations or which crowds did what and to what effect, it is probably a dead end to debate whether organizations or crowds are generally more important or effective. As Jenkins' review suggests, it doubtless depends on which organizations, which goals, and which crowds we are talking about.
But this whole debate raises a theoretical issue which has not been really pursued: how do organizations and crowds affect each other? One obvious answer is that sometimes organizations organize crowd events. Because of an odd cultural belief that spontaneous protests are somehow more genuine, there is some tendency on the part of the organizers to downplay their role (Killian 1984 makes this point), and a kind of debunking spirit among researchers to put the organizers back in the spotlight. In the civil rights debate, there is the added thematic undertone of whether blacks were capable of organizing themselves in politically effective ways, with earlier scholarship giving perhaps undue emphasis to outside white liberals or radicals, and current scholarship stressing blacks as actors in their own behalf.
When crowd events are organized by organizations, the theoretical linkages are clear. The organization is a decision-making entity which arranges a time and place, publicizes the event, and activates its linkages to other organizations to persuade them to cooperate with the event. Whether the event is large or not depends on whether many people decide to play the role of participant in the event. It is well known that most people come to crowd events in groups, either informal or organizational (McPhail and Wohlstein 1983, pp. 585-6). These groups have faced the rather simple decision to participate or not in a well-defined event.
But not all crowd events are organized by organizations. Once assembled, crowds sometimes engage in activities the organizations never intended; in fact, part of the organizational planning of a crowd event often includes social control measures to prevent the occurrence of spontaneous crowd action. And, of course, natural crowds sometimes riot of their own accord, outside the control or wishes of any organization. In these cases, we must understand how crowds act and how those actions are influenced by ongoing historical events. We know that the popular image of a riot as something started intentionally by an outside agitator is false. But we need to have a better understanding of what is true.

Recent scholarship has devoted attention to discovering exactly what goes on inside a crowd (for reviews see Turner and Killian 1972, pp. 79-95; McPhail and Wohlstein 1983). We may sketch a simple picture based on this research. The individuals in a crowd rarely all do the same thing. Behavior is highly differentiated. Crowds are not mindless. A major activity in crowds is milling, wherein individual people move around and talk things over with other people in the crowd. The decision-making process in a crowd is very different from that in an organization because there are few shared agreements about how to make a collective decision. Proposals are often made implicitly rather than verbally, simply by taking some action. Other people agree to the action by joining it, or disagree by attempting to prevent it or by doing something else. Still others just watch, or leave the scene.

What is missing from this story is the social movement context of many crowd events. All the action in this sketch occurs at the time and place of the crowd event. This may be a correct model for crowd actions ("issueless riots") which are not linked to social movements (Marx 1970), although even in such cases the crowds rarely innovate and instead select from among prevailing repertoires of action (Couch 1968). As noted above, accounts of the 1960s riots recognized the significance of the larger movement context, but this recognition has not been incorporated into a theoretical account of how the movement context affects crowd behavior. To address this issue, we need to recognize that the decision-making process leading up to a crowd event is almost over by the time the crowd event itself starts. This is true not only for demonstrations organized by organizations, but for spontaneous events.8
Consider first Berk's (1974) account of the steps leading up to Northwestern University students building a barricade to block a major street as a protest against the bombing of Haiphong Harbor in 1972. A mass meeting had previously been scheduled about dormitory fees and was expected to be confrontational. Without official announcements or circulars, many students and some faculty came to believe that the meeting would be used to call for a University strike to protest the bombing. There was much discussion and debate about both a strike and the housing issues. Four hundred students attended the meeting. Discussions continued at this meeting both in the official speech-giving mode and in numerous small conversations throughout the crowd. (Berk provides extensive detail on the content of these discussions.) A barricade had been erected in 1970, and erecting a barricade was discussed as one possibility among others, but the official democratic decision of the meeting was to take a campus-wide vote about a strike. There was much discussion and grumbling as about half the students somewhat defiantly jaywalked home in the middle of the street. Then one student tried to move a fence section onto the street; he called to two friends to help, and together they dragged enough fencing across the road to block it completely. They called to others to join them, and the majority (about 200) did. The rest kept walking. Only about 30 actually approached the fence. During the next three minutes, there was intensive conversation among crowd members about what to do. Berk says many of the arguments were clear and cogent. "Within minutes it was clear that those wanting to erect a barricade would do so, while those opposed would not intervene. With about fifty people following in the street and fifty more supporting the fence, the barricade was moved a block and a half south to a main intersection. . . . In ten minutes a substantial structure was built and about 250 students were milling around, many still arguing." (p. 361)
In this event, the actual erection of the barricade could be treated as an event that started as the students walked home, but it is really the product of a decision-making process that began when the bombing coincided with an upcoming meeting. Although a strike was what most people were talking about, the possibility of erecting a barricade was recognized all along. The assumption that the students would do something was itself a product of the times, of the ongoing history of student opposition to the war. The population was already mobilized; it was already in the collective decision-making mode. The ideology of standing up already existed. This was a campus that had been rather apathetic during most of the antiwar movement, but they had been influenced by their times and many felt the necessity of acting. In this crowd event, the decision occurred in a relatively small time and space locus, although it was clearly influenced by the larger movement.
For the 1960s riots, limiting attention to a particular time and space is even more damaging. For the 24 riots studied by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission) in 1967, the particular precipitating incidents were usually minor, even trivial. Tension heightened in an increasingly disturbed social atmosphere in which three or more incidents occurred in the weeks or months prior to the outbreak. Observers with their "ears to the ghetto" claimed they could tell a riot was coming, because rumors that there was about to be a riot were everywhere (Hundley 1968). People would be discussing the possibility of a riot, talking about how it was time to make whites pay attention, saying that it was time to "blow the place up." The final precipitating incident for the riot was no different from any of the preceding incidents except that it was more likely to involve the police and less likely to involve a political event (Kerner 1968). The actual riot would start when some people began "rioting" (sometimes brawling, sometimes throwing rocks through windows, sometimes attacking the police who are nearly always the source of the final precipitating incident) and were not stopped. This failure of social control encouraged others to join in, and the riot was on.
Perhaps the most telling data is Singer's (1968) survey of how rioters found out about the 1967 Detroit riot. As McPhail and Miller (1973) note, the major content of their information was assembling instructions. What is most telling is that the vast majority of rioters reported receiving no information about the precipitating event or any grievance in the communication which led them to join the riot. All they reported receiving was the assembling instruction "there's a riot at X location" or, less often, the vaguer message that there was a riot or a specific activity (e.g. looting) going on in an unspecified location. Clearly, these rioters were ready to riot. All they needed to know was when and where to show up. They were not overcome by sudden passion: most delayed joining the riot for at least an hour while they finished up what they were doing when they received the call. McPhail (McPhail 1971; McPhail and Miller 1973) has stressed that proximity to the protest and news about it are the most important predictors of participation, but this should not be interpreted to mean that a crowd event is an accidental product of circumstance.
It is very clear that the decision to riot began in the preceding weeks in collective discussions among members of the community. To say that there was a collective decision is not to imply that this decision was unanimous: every riot was different, and community support for the rioters ranged from minimal to widespread. But there was clearly a collective process involving both potential rioters and opponents of the riot through which shared understandings and expectations were created. Blacks widely believed that a riot was one way to force whites to pay attention to their problems. They emphasized the virtue of standing up to whitey, and many saw rioting as one way to stand up. Potential rioters established that there would be enough of them to make the riot successful, that is, that there would be some safety in numbers minimizing their chance of arrest, and that the disorder would not be likely to be so small that the police could easily control it. Nonparticipants prepared to be off the streets and made arrangements for their children. Opponents of the riot tried to cool things off, to persuade others not to riot, and organized counterriot patrols. The final precipitating incident just triggered an event that was ready to go, in much the same way that Rosa Park's arrest just happened to be the specific trigger for a boycott that was already planned.
Crowd events which are parts of social movements arise from these larger processes. Marx (1970) suggests that there are objective criteria for telling whether a particular riot is part of a social movement, including the presence of a generalized belief, development out of prolonged community conflict and a focussed context, an overlap between conventional activism and the riot, the presence of riot spokesmen, the presentation of demands, selective attacks, or links between ideology and targets. These suggestions are a mixture of causes (i.e. the prior presence of a movement) and effects (selective attacks, links between ideology and targets), but they point us in directions we ought to look. Each of these events occurs as part of an ongoing political discourse among a community of people, a discourse which takes account of and incorporates external events, including movement activities by other groups elsewhere.
There is evidence that this political context makes a difference in the internal patterns of an event itself. For example, the patterns of participation and of selection of targets for arson and looting were very different in the 1960s protest riots than they were in the genuinely spontaneous riot which occurred during the 1977 blackout in New York (Perry and Pugh 1978, pp. 183-6). The blackout riot involved mostly criminal elements and black- and white-owned shops were equally likely to be hit. The 1980 Miami riot, which was a protest riot, was different from the 1960s riots, in that white civilians were attacked (Ladner et al. 1981). A post-riot survey in Miami showed grievance levels much higher than a comparable survey in Detroit after its 1967 riot. The five most pressing problems were seen as serious problems by an average of 52% of Detroit residents, but were seen as serious by 90% of the Miami residents (Ladner et al. 1981, pp. 194-5). We may interpret these data as showing that it takes a bigger stimulus to provoke a riot in the absence of a larger movement context than in its presence.
In short, crowd events which are parts of larger social movements can be fully understood only in that larger movement context. But if this is true, we need to consider just how the larger movement impinges on the crowd. The research cited above makes it clear that the particular participants in any event emerge from a larger community of discourse, a collectivity within which shared beliefs, norms, and values are created. The crowd in a social movement cannot be understood apart from its context. Thus, the problem of consciousness is important not only for itself, but for its effect on crowds.

Consciousness and Collectivities in Social Movements
An important part of what happens in a social movement is people change their feelings about themselves and change the ways they deal with others. It is not just that the activists undergo a conversion process and grow in their commitment to the movement, although this process is certainly important. Nonactivists and even people who do not support "the movement" (that is, the movement organizations or crowd events) are changed in ways that contribute to the overall thrust and impact of the movement.
These shifts in consciousness can be much more enduring than the bursts of movement activity. (Turner 1983, makes this point.) Schuman and Hatchett (1974, pp. 1-18) found that blacks in Detroit in 1971 had higher grievance levels than a comparable sample in 1968. They more likely to feel that whites were trying to keep blacks down, that they personally could trust no white people, that employers discriminated in favor of whites, that shop clerks were more polite to whites, and that they would prefer to live in a black-dominated neighborhood. Those sampled in 1971 were more likely to feel that violence should be used if laws and persuasion or nonviolent protest did not work, but less likely to feel that the 1967 Detroit riot had made whites be more in favor of equal rights for blacks than those sampled shortly after the riot in 1968. Between 1966 and 1980, national samples of blacks showed a steady decline in the proportion thinking the pace of civil rights progress was "about right" and a steady increase in the proportion thinking it was "too slow" (Schuman, Steeh, and Bobo 1985, pp. 141-3). The best interpretation of these data is that black consciousness remained high even as the crowd and organization actions died down. Further, the declining belief in the good intentions of whites can be viewed as evidence in a declining belief in the prospects for change which would, presumably, require the cooperation of whites.
To discuss consciousness, we need to have some image of the collective entity which supports it. Consciousness is a collective phenomenon, not an individual attitude. We may call the groups to which consciousness may be attributed "collectivities." Turner and Killian (1972, pp. 112-118, 199-243) write about collectivities almost in the way we need, although we will require a few modifications. We may use the term "diffuse collectivities" to refer generally to what Turner and Killian call diffuse crowds, masses, and publics. In all cases, the collective entity is a large number of people in loose interaction who share some common focus and sense of being part of a larger collectivity (p. 113). Diffuse collectivities are made up of informal or primary groups linked by ties of acquaintanceship and the casual conversations of strangers. Individuals form their ideas and behaviors within these diffuse collectivities. They are most influenced by those to whom they have the strongest ties, but they take account of information learned from strangers, especially as they talk it over with their friends and family. Diffuse collectivities always exhibit diversity in the ideas and actions of their members, but they can undergo massive shifts in the central tendency and dispersion of these distributions. Although the people in a diffuse collectivity are never unanimous, their actions and ideas are collective phenomena. They construct meanings (Shibutani 1966) and decide what to do in close interaction with others.
Turner and Killian and Shibutani are thinking of diffuse collectivities such as all blacks or all people concerned about nuclear power plants. But to capture the complexity of whole social movements, we need to define what we may call a local collectivity, whose interactional structure is understood to be the same as the idea of a diffuse collectivity, except that it is geographically or socially bounded. While all blacks are a diffuse collectivity, blacks in Detroit are a local collectivity. We can find local collectivities by network analysis: there are clusters of interaction which are relatively bounded. Obviously, there are more local collectivities within more diffuse collectivities. Empirical research could probably tell us more than we know now about where the significant boundaries of collectivities are in terms of collective decision-making.
There is some evidence that the local collectivities from which riots were drawn were particular neighborhoods within cities. Warren (1969) found significant characteristics distinguishing riot and counterriot neighborhoods in Detroit; Stark et al. (1974) showed that the Watts riot spread by neighborhoods, although it eventually spread to virtually all neighborhoods within a rather large area of poor black neighborhoods.
Turner and Killian (1972, pp. 139-141) provide useful descriptions of how what they call "diffuse crowds" provide the substratum for "compact crowds" and organizations. They are the source of new recruits, they are the context from which new crowd events are precipitated, they maintain continuity, the provide support for movement organizations, and they can be important adjuncts to movement organizations. If we add to their discussion a recognition of the importance of the local collectivity as the unit which actually interacts and sustains this continuity, we have a good basis for examining the ways in which consciousness contributes to the more active parts of a social movement.

Apart from its effects on crowd and organizational action, consciousness is interesting in its own right. People who share a consciousness do not all say and do the same thing. A collectivity always exhibits a distribution of beliefs and behaviors. In the 1960s, the distribution of black consciousness underwent a shift in its central tendency, at least in terms of the ways blacks behaved in the presence of whites. Black people became more assertive and even hostile in their encounters with whites. They expressed more symbolic solidarity with other blacks, for example, in making a point to greet other blacks in predominantly white settings, or in refusing to socialize with whites. Although these changes had little direct effect on blacks' economic conditions or political power, they had tremendous impact on the patterns of social interaction in integrated settings.

Shifts in consciousness have been important for the feminist movement, as well. One major impact of this movement has been to change the ways millions of women interact with men and other women. Many women considered themselves feminists who never belonged to a feminist organization. Perhaps the most visible part of the this movement for most business and professional men was the experience of being rebuked for sexist language or behavior in work settings. The rise in consciousness also influenced intimate relations and increased the density of social network ties among women.
Millions of tiny microsocial changes like these change the political and symbolic climate, often in profound ways. Perrow (1979) speaks of the vast differences in public discourse between the 1950s and the 1970s. Snow and Machalek (1984, p. 1734) say that religious converts reason and speak differently. In smaller, more subtle ways, we see the same sorts of processes happening when whole collectivities raise their consciousness. Language that used to be part of respectable political discourse becomes anachronistic and laughable. Gerlach and Hine (1970) speak of the "glass wall" between people inside the movement and outside it. Consciousness raising creates this glass wall not only between mobilized collectivities and those outside them, but between the language of the past and the language of the present. The diffusion of this language and these ideas through local collectivities and out into diffuse collectivities is an important part of any massive social movement.


Whole social movements are complex phenomena encompassing organizations, informal groups, crowds, consciousness, and the interactions among all these elements. It is a mistake to equate a movement with the organizations pursuing its goals. Although we all know this, crowds and consciousness have not been very well integrated into an understanding of social movements. The writing about crowds and consciousness often fails to capture the larger movement context. Much of the problem in theorizing about whole social movements has been our over-reliance on organizational metaphors in our theorizing about movements. Viewing social movements theoretically as complex sets of actions by different entities should free us to generate propositions about the relations among these different elements of social movements.
Social movements should not be understood as static things, but as chains of reactions as actions of one kind in one place by one entity influence actions of other kinds in other places by other entities. Any locale or historical period or issue has some collective events that could, in principle, lead to a social movement. To explain why a social movement arises in one place and not another, or at one time and not another, or around one issue and not another, we must explain why the collective events in one case set off reactions that lead to more events, while in the other case the initial events remain isolated. Did the initial events succeed or fail? Was information about the initial event communicated? To whom, and in what form? How was that information interpreted? What was the impact of that interpreted information on the factors that might reasonably affect the prospects for action? To ask these questions is not to deny the importance of the larger political and economic context, but to point to a whole new set of questions about the logic of social movements.
Clearly, many of the movements we want to study are smaller and simpler than the Black Movement or Women's Movement. We are interested in sets of actions oriented toward general goals like blocking nuclear power plants or preventing drunk driving or obtaining services for the mentally ill. Or, we may want to focus on waves of collective violence. We can still use the same basic vocabulary to describe these different sorts of movements and, thus, be encouraged to ask questions we might not have asked: Are crowd events really absent from certain kinds of movements? Why? Do organizations play a role in crowd violence? How? How are events and consciousness affecting each other? We know to look for indirect influences among different kinds of events, not concerted strategies controlled from the top.
Hopefully, viewing social movements as sets of interrelated actions will permit us to draw on the rich scholarship of the past as we pursue new questions in our research.
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Figure 1. A Simple Model for the Relations Among Actions*


* Action 1 By Collectivity 1 *







* Consequences of Action 1 *





* * *

* 644444444444444444444444447 *

* 5 Communication Processes 5 * T

* 944444444444L44444444444448 * H

* * * E

* * *

* +)))))))))))))))))))))))))))), * B

* * Information About Action 1 * * L

* * Received by Collectivity 2 * * A

* .))))))))))))0)))))))))))))))- * C

* * * K

* * *

* 6444444444444444444444444444444444444444444444447 * B

* 5 Internal Process of Interpreting and Deciding 5 * O

* 5 Within Collectivity 2 5 * X

* 944444444444444444444L444444444444444444444444448 *

* * *






* Action 2 by Collectivity 2 *


* NOTE: "Collectivity" refers to any collective entity, including organizations, informal groups, crowds, or local or diffuse collectivities.


11. My sources for this synopsis are Killian (1975, 1984); McAdam (1982); Morris (1981, 1984); and Oberschall (1973, pp. 204-241).

22. Bobo (1985) presents survey data on white and black attitudes toward the black movement across time. The proportions of whites who thought that recent black actions had been violent or hurtful, or that blacks were pushing too fast, were about the same in 1964 during the Civil Rights phase as in 1968 after the riots. Black attitudes on these variables were also about the same at these two points in time, except that blacks were more likely to think recent actions had been violent in 1968 than in 1964, although this was a minority opinion among blacks in both surveys.

33. Survey data indicate that in the 1960s, blacks viewed riots as a way of calling white attention to their plight (Bobo, 1985; Marx, 1967). Riots occurred in waves: the bulk of the riots in 1967 occurred within two weeks of the widely-publicized Newark riot; another wave occurred following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in 1968 (Spilerman 1976; Kerner 1968).

44. The distinction between a social movement and a collective campaign is rather similar to Blumer's and Smelser's distinctions between general and specific movements (Smelser, 1962, pp. 273-4). However, Smelser views general social movements as vague cultural trends which do not really do anything. Specific movements are seen as very specific, and are usually equated with particular organizations by most scholars, or occasionally as waves of a particular type of collective action. These terms really do not leave room for the complex sets of actions which make up widespread social movements. At the same time, they include in the term "social movement" any sustained action in pursuit of any collective goal, no matter how trivial or how limited and restrained the actions. It seems much more in line with the general conceptions of social scientists to use the term "social movement" for big, complex movements, and reserve the neologism "collective campaign" for the small single-issue events.

55. The third edition of Turner and Killian's text (1987) had not been published at the time this article was written. The discussions in the revised edition are often closer to the position taken in this paper than those of the second edition.

66. The term local collectivity is defined below as a set of people in loose interaction with one another. My summary of how groups decide is pulled together from my reading of the organizations literature, especially James Q. Wilson (1973), and collective behavior accounts of crowds and publics, especially Turner and Killian (1972, pp. 112-243) and Shibutani (1966, pp. 37-46). Collins (1981) stresses the fact that the basic interactions between people are of the same form across different macrosocial arrangements.

77. McAdam's discussion of cognitive liberation (1982, pp. 48-51) distinguishes these two components.

88. Couch (1968) argues that crowd behavior is always at least partially planned, although this may be hidden from the authorities. Prison riots were also influenced by the Black Movement and showed the seem pattern of developing consciousness and a build up of precipitating incidents over the preceding weeks (Perry and Pugh 1978, pp. 158-206)

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