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Collective Behaviour and Social Movements

Collective Behaviour and Social Movements



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Published by killywes

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Published by: killywes on Mar 01, 2010
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Collective Behaviour and Social MovementsCollective Behavior
Defin. – Smelser: Relatively Spontaneous and unstructured behaviour of a group of people whoare reacting to a common influence in an ambiguous situation.Key words from the definition
Spontaneity – 
It is usually unplanned for. It’s a reaction to a situation
Unstructured – 
It is unpredictable. You cannot tell which direction it will take once it begins.
 Reaction to a common influence
– Initially people have something they are reacting to. As itgrows however, the original focus is usually lost
 Ambiguous situation
– It is not always clear what the issues are. Issues keep changing. Few or noreal facts are on the ground.
Characteristics of Collective Behaviour 
UnusualSocial structures and norms collapse. Peoples roles and behaviour changes e.g when there is ariot, people can get into vehicles going in the wrong direction from their usual direction or getinto peoples vehicles without asking.High Level of Emotional ArousalEmotions include anger, excitement, sympathy, fear etc. People are usually high chargedemotionallyUrgencyIt involves a sense of urgency. People feel that something must be done here and now. E.g. whena thief is caught, people start attacking them immediately before they even confirm the details.Fluid and UnpredictableOne cannot tell how the situation will progress. Issues keep changing in the course of thecollective action. In a campus riot for instance, it could start with the issue of bad food and endas a complaint on high fees. It could start as a peaceful demonstration and then become violent.5.Short LivedEpisodes last short period but it can be repeated severally.6.Arises from a specific Social ContextSuch context could include economic hardship, social injustice etc.
Theories of Collective Behavior
 Emergent Norm Theory
 Normal life is governed by norms which guide behavior. This makes life possible even wherethere are huge gatherings such as a gospel rally. There are norms that govern such a meetingsuch as queuing, using ushers to direct people etc. Physical barriers such as guardrails or simpleropes are respected.When these norms fail to operate for any reason, a new set of norms emerge that govern the behaviour of the crowd. Emergent norm theory emphasizes that although episodes of collective behaviour may appear chaotic, they tend to follow certain norms.The norms are spontaneous but may also reflect both the general norms of society and the prevailing social context. E.g. people may loot from shops but not attack each other.Emergent Norm Theory states that :
 A collective definition of appropriate and inappropriatebehaviour emerges during episodes of collective behaviour.
Its key proponents are sociologists Ralph Turner and Lewis Killian.
Contagion Theory
The key proponent was a French thinker named Gustav Le Bon. He proposed the theory at theturn of the 20
century when Europe was going through changes especially in labour relations.These changes threatened the upper class to which Le Bon belonged.The basic proposition of this theory is that
 people undergo dramatic change when they become part of a crowd.
Rational people become capable of actions they would otherwise not be capableof in normal situations.Le Bon believed that people developed a collective mind
 He cited 3 sources of collective behaviour 
1.A sense o
gives one a sense of protection and crowd power. – Nobodyknows me, we are doing this as a group2.
 A contagion
moves through the crowd like a virus, from one person to the other.3.People become
as if hypnotized, accepting and obeying suggestion of fanatical leaders. The position of a leader in such a crowd therefore becomes veryimportant.
Convergence Theory
According to this theory, crowd situations do not produce unusual behaviour inpeople butinstead, it attracts certain types of people who are predisposed to that kind of behavior 
The emphasis is on individual traits of the participants e.g when a street kid is caughtstealing, not all people join in the beating. According to this theory, only those predisposed to that kind of behavior will join in the ‘mob justice’.
It is therefore the individuals who decide how to behave based on their individual traits.
Value Added Approach
The concern of this approach is to explain how social conditions are transformed into some formof collective behaviour. It is a process of adding value, just like raw materials progress to become finished products. Its key proponent is Neil Smelser.It identifies six determinants of collective behaviour.
Structural Conduciveness
A society’s structure can facilitate emergence of different interests e.g. the big gap between therich and poor in Kenya.
Structural Strain
This is the perception that the interests groups are in conflict. There is therefore tension betweenthose groups e.g. between police and university students.
 Existence of a generalized belief 
A belief such as ‘ all wealthy people are corrupt or have stolen wealth’
 Precipitating Factor 
This is the event that triggers the collective behaviour e.g. when police arrest a university studentor a political activist.
Mobilization for action
People react to the precipitating factor e.g when someone is hit by a car, people quickly gather.There is readiness for action and people urge each other on to action e.g. stoning the driver or  burning the car.
Social Control 
This refers to the reaction of the formal agents of social control such as the police or universityauthorities. This could determine the direction that the collective will take.Each step builds on the previous step for progression of collective behaviour.
Types of Collective Behaviour 
a.) Crowds
A crowd is a temporary grouping of people in close proximity. They are characterized by face toface interactionCrowd Dynamics1.The assembling Process e.g. crusades which people are invited to or just join in, or whenan accident happens and a crowd just forms.2.Communication – People as questions like “what’s happening here?” There is continuouscommunication and rumors play an important part in this process

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