Collective Behaviour and Social Movements Collective Behavior

Defin. – Smelser: Relatively Spontaneous and unstructured behaviour of a group of people who are 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 it grows however, the original focus is usually lost Ambiguous situation – It is not always clear what the issues are. Issues keep changing. Few or no real facts are on the ground. Characteristics of Collective Behaviour Unusual Social structures and norms collapse. Peoples roles and behaviour changes e.g when there is a riot, people can get into vehicles going in the wrong direction from their usual direction or get into peoples vehicles without asking. High Level of Emotional Arousal Emotions include anger, excitement, sympathy, fear etc. People are usually high charged emotionally Urgency It involves a sense of urgency. People feel that something must be done here and now. E.g. when a thief is caught, people start attacking them immediately before they even confirm the details. Fluid and Unpredictable One cannot tell how the situation will progress. Issues keep changing in the course of the collective action. In a campus riot for instance, it could start with the issue of bad food and end as a complaint on high fees. It could start as a peaceful demonstration and then become violent. 5. Short Lived Episodes last short period but it can be repeated severally. 6. Arises from a specific Social Context Such 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 where there are huge gatherings such as a gospel rally. There are norms that govern such a meeting such as queuing, using ushers to direct people etc. Physical barriers such as guardrails or simple ropes 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 inappropriate behaviour 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 the turn of the 20th 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 capable of in normal situations. Le Bon believed that people developed a collective mind He cited 3 sources of collective behaviour 1. A sense of anonymity gives one a sense of protection and crowd power. – Nobody knows me, we are doing this as a group 2. A contagion moves through the crowd like a virus, from one person to the other. 3. People become suggestible, as if hypnotized, accepting and obeying suggestion of fanatical leaders. The position of a leader in such a crowd therefore becomes very important. Convergence Theory − According to this theory, crowd situations do not produce unusual behaviour inpeople but instead, 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 caught stealing, 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 form of 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 the rich and poor in Kenya. Structural Strain This is the perception that the interests groups are in conflict. There is therefore tension between those 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 student or 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 university authorities. 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 to face interaction Crowd Dynamics 1. The assembling Process e.g. crusades which people are invited to or just join in, or when an accident happens and a crowd just forms. 2. Communication – People as questions like “what’s happening here?” There is continuous communication and rumors play an important part in this process


Mobilization – This happens through the communication function and through leaders where they exist.

b.) Mass Behaviour Mass Behaviour is the action of many people who are not in close proximity. The mass media plays a major role in the communication and information spread. In mass behaviour, crowds could gather in different places or people could react as individuals e.g. when a strike is called and people just choose to stay at home. c.) Disaster Behaviour Behaviour of people in reaction to a disaster e.g. a fire outbreak or accident. Usual norms break down and saving lives becomes the priority, such that people could be carried naked without any feeling of innapropriateness. d.) Fads and Fashion Fads are temporary patterns of behaviour involving large number of people – They usually have no precedents and leave no successors. E.g. the break dance craze that came and went swiftly. Fashion on the other hand referes to pleasurable mass movements that feature a cetain amount of social approval by society and have a line of historical continuity e.g. the emergence of the ‘biker’ as an item of dressing for women. e.) Panics and Crazes Craze – Lasts for some time Panics include fearful reactions, mass hysteria etc. f.) Political Protests and Revolutions g.) Riots, Demonstrations Criteria used to distinguish between types of collective behaviour a.) Degree of Spontaneity or planning in their formation – To what extent is the behaviour premeditated? b.) Internal Organisation – Is there a leader? Is there any form of order e.g. presence of ushers etc. c.) Extent to which interaction among the participants is rational and self conscious or irrational, emotional and out of control d.) Their duration – Some will last for a few minutes, others for days e.) Potential of collective behaviour for producing social-cultural change

Social Movements
This refers to organized collective activities to bring about or resist fundamental change in existing society. Blumer defines it as collective enterprises to establish a new order in life.

They are a form of collective behaviour that is well organized, focused and intended to bring or resist change in society and they survive over long periods e.g The civil rights movement led by Martin Luther, the original FORD in Kenya, Pro-choice/Pro-life movements, Women liberation movements etc. Causes and Conditions of Effective Collective Movements 1.) Relative Deprivation J. Wilson describes relative deprivation as “the conscious feeling of a negative discrepancy between legitimate expectations and present actualities” − It is a matter of perception rather than reality. Some people feel that it is not practically possible to achieve their legitimate expectations e.g. educating their children by depending on legal means of earning. − People may not be necessarily poor or oppressed in the real sense but it is how they perceive their position relative to the position of other classes in the society. − Marx and Engels say that even though workers enjoyment increases, their satisfaction falls in comparison with the increased enjoyment of the capitalists. E.g. compare a boss of who earns 500,000 units and a worker earning 20,000 units. If they both receive 10% pay increase, the boss receives an increase of 50,000 units while the worker receives an increase of 2,000 units. So although the workers enjoyment will go up, their satisfaction will decrease because he compares his increase to that of the boss. − People fell they deserve better and that their goals cannot be satisfied legitimately or through conventional means. 2.) Resource Mobilization − The focus here is on the resources that make social movements successful agents of change. It refers to the ways in which social movements utilize resources available to them in order to succeed in their goals. − The resources include: o Finances o Leadership and Personnel o Ideology o Political Influence o Access to mass media − Leadership and ideology become critical concerns in social movements. According to Karl Max, leaders are necessary to sharpen the awareness of the people. People (proletariat) need to leaders to move them from false consciousness to a proper understanding of their class in relation to the capitalists. − Ideology defines the movements and gives it its agendas. − Ideology also defines the movements friends and enemies and raises the consciousness of its supporters