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The Life of a social Movement

Sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf (1973) offers a three-stage model to capture the life of a social movement. Progression from one stage to the next depends on many things. In the first stage those without power decide to organize against those with power.Often, some event like corruption, electricity or a crime makes seemingly disconnected and powerless people aware that they share an interest in changing the system. After that event people dare to complain openly and loudly to one another. At other times, people organize because they have nothing left to lose. They have reached the point when they do not care anymore about what happens if they speak out.

In the second stage of conflict, those without power organize, provided that they find ways to communicate with one another, they have some freedom to organize, they can garner the necessary resources, and a leader emerges. At the same time, those in power often censor information, restrict resources, and undermineattempts to organize.

In the third stage of conflict, those seeking change enter into direct conflict with those in power. The capacity of the ruling group to stay in power and the amount and kind of pressure exerted from below then affect the speed and depth of change. The intensity of the conflict can range from heated debate to violent civil war.