Social Change

  1. Choose ONE historical or contemporary ‘social movement’ of interest to you – your choice will fit the definition of a social movement, please check with your lecturer if you are not sure. Possibilities include but are not limited to: the environmental/climate justice movement, women’s movement, Black Power movement, labour movement, LGBTI / gay rights movement(s), disability rights movement, indigenous rights movement, animal rights movement, etc. Any social movement is fine, provided it fits the formal definition. Examples will be discussed in lectures.
  2. Conduct researchabout the social movement: you will need 5 sources of scholarly literature and a minimum of 1 piece of media. At least 1 of the literary sources will be readings that have been set for this topic. There will also be others available to you in Resources in the Interact site AND you will need to use the library to research the topic. There are specific journals that deal with social movements i.e. ‘Social Movement Studies’ – you can go directly to these and also look in sociology journals, those focused on your issue – i.e. The Journal of Gender Studies. Please also choose at least 1 piece of media.
  3. Write an essay- Structure your work in a typical essay format i.e. introduction, body and conclusion.
  4. Introduction (300 words) introduce your social movement broadly – This needs to cover what, why, who, where and when very briefly. What the SM is and what the problem it is addressing is; what it sought/seeks to achieve; who it represents and who the members are; where it operates and when. The why is about the social issue the movement sought/seeks to address. State what sociological theory you will use in the essay to explain/analyse the social issues and/or group the SM is addressing. State your argument. Your argument is about the effectiveness of the social movement based on its goals and ability to address the social issue/s.
  5. Body(1,000 words) – think about doing this in three parts:
    1. Define social movements and what they do and also discuss your social movement i.e. why it is a social movement and not simply a random social action? Make sure you provide a synopsis about your social movement – period of activity, local or global? its focus – i.e. what does it strive to achieve? What are the goals of the social movement? And what are the strategies it uses to go about achieving those goals? What type of social movement is it – radical, reform?
    2. Define the problem – this will relate to who is part of the movement? Does it represent a particular social group? What is the nature of the social power relations and/or cause of the social conflict that the movement is trying to address? Here you need to apply concepts that you have been learning about in terms of culture and identity. For example if the movement concerns gender inequality then you will need to discuss the identity of the group in terms of gender, explain the inequality and how it manifests in society. If it is the Suffragettes movement then you will need to discuss gender inequality in the time period. If it is an environmental movement then discuss the issue, who it affects, how and why. This is where you will bring in some theory – theory can be used to discuss/explain/analyse social categories such as ethnicity, gender, disability and it can also be used to discuss/explain/analyse social movements.
    3. How effective was/is the movement – this is your argument. Here you need to prove what you are saying in terms of what the movement achieved, how effective it has been. What has been government, economy/corporate, media, community responses and discourse around the social movement? These may be different. Why was this the response? Has opinion changed? What has come from the social movement? Have there been positive outcomes? Some outcomes will have been mainstreamed in that the goals sought by the social movement were achieved, there might be new laws as a result, new community perceptions – think about the gay rights and pride social movements that began in the 1970s, they wanted community acceptance, legalisation, an end to police brutality – much has been achieved – you might also discuss what has not been achieved. Think carefully about the role of media because the news media is a conduit between the social movement and wider society. They have the power to frame the issues and represent them in a certain way. They are often the voice of the people. They can contribute to the goals of the movement by putting pressure on government and business and changing hearts and minds of individuals – similarly, they can undermine the movement by framing it negatively.
  6. Conclusion: Revisit the main points, say what you did – presented an argument that the social movement was effective or ineffective and why. Proved the argument based on what essential points? End on a profound sentence.
  • References: Use APA 7 referencing style for your 5 sources of scholarly literature and a minimum of 1 piece of media.

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