Sergey Mamay

Part 1. Theories of social movements

Theories of social movements are closely connected with the general problems of society's development. To analyse social movements separately, in abstraction from the social structure, is to limit the problem by superficial analysis, which is not fruitful and does not allow us to understand the nature of social movements. For that reason all the serious theories of social movements are based on general approaches to the principles of society's development.

The question of classification of the theories of social movements is complicated, as there are many points of view on this question. We consider that four main approaches can be distinguished and that these four approaches are:

  1. 1. `collective behaviour' theory,
  2. 2. `resource mobilisation' theory,
  3. 3. `new social movements' interpretations,
  4. 4. `the action-identity' approach.

Let us first consider briefly the characteristic of these four approaches.

`Collective behaviour' accounts are still recognised as an orthodoxy in studies of social movements. Among the followers of this approach we can name such Chicago school sociologists as Ralph Turner and Lewis Killian; Talcott Parsons and his structural functionalism, and Neil Smelser in whose Theory of collective behavior (1962) problems of social movements were clearly distinguished. The supporters of this approach consider social movements as semi-rational responses to abnormal conditions of structural strain between the maior societal institutions; that strain causes malfunctioning of the whole social system. Smelser explained the mechanism of the emergence of social movements. This mechanism includes as the steps of movement articulation:

    general structural conduciveness
  1. 2 generalised belief
  2. 3 structural strain
  3. 4 precipitating factors
  4. 5 mobilisation of participants
  5. 6 mechanisms of social control.

In general, according to the collective behaviour approach, social movements are the symptom and manifestation of a sick society. A healthy society does not have social movements, it has a conditional form of political and social participation.

`Mass society accounts' and `mass deprivation' accounts are close to the approach of `collective behaviour' but there are some differences. In their works Arendt and Kornhauser elaborated the mechanism of the emergence of social movement. According to their position, the normal or healthy society is characterised by strong class and group solidarities, which play the controlling function and prevent the manipulation of the people. But when this class or group solidarity becomes weak under the conditions of industrialisation and urbanisation, the processes of `massification' (`anomie', `atomisation', `rootlessness') begin. These uprooted and atomised masses become vulnerable to direct mobilising appeals by powerful elites and charismatic leaders. Totalitarian movements emerge as a result. The `mass deprivation' accounts (Gurr and others) add to the `collective behaviour' approach that a social movement is a `mild' (aborted, weak, undeveloped) form of revolutionary outbreak or an aspect of revolution.

The second main approach to the problems of social movements is the `resource mobilisation' approach. Among its exponents are Tilly, Zald, Ash, and Kitschelt. The `resource mobilisation' theorists point out that social movements are rational and novel responses to new situations and new opportunities in society. Movements are seen as innovative forms of political participation which create and tap new political resources available in modern democratic societies. They are treated as emerging pressure groups or as embryonic parties. Social movements are no longer seen as symptomatic of social malfunction or pathology. They appear as a part of the political process.

The third main approach is the `new social movements' approach (Habermas, Offe and others), which is similar, to my mind, to the `new values' approach (Cotgrove, Inglehart, and others). The `new social movements' interpretations treat social movements as both symptoms of, and solutions to, the contradictions inherent in the modern super-bureaucratic society. Social movements articulate the tension between the expanding spheres of human autonomy and growing regulation inherent in the logic of postindustrial development. This contradiction is reflected in new conflicts which, according to Habermas, "no longer arise in the areas of material reproduction; they are no longer channeled through parties and organisations...Rather, the new conflicts arise in areas of cultural reproduction, social integration and socialisation." (Habermas 1981: 34)

The main feature of social movements, according to `new social movements' theorists is their anti-state, anti-apparat turn of mind and action. New social movements, in contrast to old social movements, are produced by new contradictions of society, contradictions between individual and state. `New values' theorists also stress that the condition of economic prosperity and political stability experienced by the post-1945 cohorts in the West, allow them to de-emphasise material values and lead them to embrace post-materialist values, reflecting `higher' aesthetic, self-realisation, and creative needs. Inglehart's new values are essentially the anti-state contradictions identified by Habermas. These approaches change class interests (or transform them) into non-class but `universal human' interests.

The fourth and last approach is the `action-identity' paradigm. (The main representatives are Touraine, Castells). Touraine considers that social movements are far from abnormal or pathological. Social movements not only prevent social stagnation, but also promise social emancipation. The established institutional forms and the underlying norms of knowledge (cognitive rules) and investment against which movements erupt are seen as impositions of the ruling classes, that is, of groups that dominate the processes of socio-economic reproduction and shape social norms. All these class-related social forms of domination are challenged by social movements, which are the principal class counter-actors.

The old form of industrial capitalism, according to Touraine, is gradually replaced by a new postindustrial, `programmed' society with a fundamentally different pattern of class relations and class conflicts. In a programmed society the dominant class is the technocracy, and workers cease to be the main challengers of the status quo. The key class conflict is socio-cultural rather then socio-economic; it revolves around the control of knowledge and investment. A social movement is, in Touraine's words, "the organised collective behaviour of a class actor struggling against its class adversary for the social control of its historicity". (Touraine 1981: 77)

The many approaches to the explanation of the phenomenon of social movements suggests that no one of them is able to explain everything. All the approaches may be correct in their local sphere, but they either stress attention to specific types of social movements and consider them as universal or put all the attention on a single aspect of the phenomenon of social movements and ignore others. Different accents give diverse outcomes.

What can we say about the `collective behaviour' approach? It stresses the structural function of society and ignores its developing function. The normal state of society, according to Smelser, is the state where civil society completely correlates to social order. In practice, Smelser considers the situation when civil society does not develop. That is why the proponents of the `collective behaviour' approach assess the situation of society's development as abnormal. That is why the `collective behavior' approach considers social movements irrational and psychopathological. This approach cannot answer the question: `Why do dysfunctions emerge in the society?' But this approach is very successful in describing the mechanism of emergence and functioning of social movements during relatively stable stages of society's development. It is also very successful in describing the different biases in the process of emergence of social movements.

The `resource mobilisation' approach, by contrast, explains the causes of the emergence of a social movement as a reaction of society to new changes. It also explains in a successful way the nature of social movements as an attempt to renew the social order in correspondance with the new changes in society. But the explanation of the causes of the emergence of social movements has only a general character and does not touch the contents of this process. The `resource mobilisation' approach cannot answer the question, why and how do pathological social movements like fascism emerge and why do they lead society to self-destruction. This approach cannot explain the mechanism of emergence of social movements and ignores the principal differences between diverse types of social movements. Lastly, this approach cannot explain the existence of contradictions between social movements and the political system, which can lead to social explosions like revolution, harmful radical social change and the elimination of principal social actors and the old political system.

`New social movements', `new values' and `action-identity' approaches have one mutual foundation: the consideration that types of social movements depend on the stage of society's development. `New social movement' supporters define `old' social movements, which exist in industrial society, and `new' social movements, which exist in post-industrial society. The mechanisms of emergence of social movements according to this approach are:

definite type of society ---> definite type of social contradictions

---> definite type of social movements Industrial society produces contradictions between classes (with material group interests). The social order in this society cannot satisfy all the class interests in an adequate way and this is a base for the emergence of social movements. These movements have a class character; that is why the activity of movements became part of class struggle. The main contradiction of postindustrial society is the contradiction between the broadening autonomy of the individual and increasening regulation by the state. This is not a contradiction between groups of people, between classes; this is a contradiction between the individual as a person and the state as an institution. The contradiction is connected not with the material interests of people, but with non-material interests.

The position of the `new values' approach does not touch class interests and deals with values. Industrial society has `old' values and post-industrial society has `new' values. When describing post-industrial societies and their social movements this is almost the same position as the `new social movements' approach.

The point of view of the `action-identity' approach is different. It also stresses differences between industrial and post-industrial societies, but does not abandon the framework of the class approach. It considers that classes in post-industrial society are different from those in industrial society, but they remain classes with material interests.

In order to explain the differences in these positions and demonstrate what they mean we must take into consideration that the transition from industrial to post-industrial society takes place over a long period of time, and any actually-existing western society has elements from both industrial and post-industrial societies. If the `action-identity' paradigm exaggerates the elements from industrial societiy and underestimate the elements of post-industrial society, then the position of the `new social movements' and `new values' approaches is reversed. So it is senseless to judge any approach to social movements as wrong or right in general. Each of these approaches can be appropriate to a definite social (and political) situation, to definite social and historical circumstances of society.

Let us draw some conclusions.

We can put forward several considerations which can help to clarify some matters. Let us start with the consideration that society cannot exist without definite social structures (social order), which make social connections in civil society. Social order normally corresponds with civil society. Civil society and social order mutually affect each other, but the main role civil society plays is as a foundation to this connection.

If there is full correlation between civil society and social order then society realises its interests through conventional forms and there is no need of social movements. But full correlation between civil society and social order is a rare event. As a rule, there is always a small or large degree of discrepancy between civil society and social order. This discrepancy produces new social interests which are not incorporated by social order. And, on such bases, social movements emerge. Social movements emerge, then, as a reaction of society to the discrepancy between civil society and social order. Social movements are not only a reaction, but are also an attempt to change social order in correspondence with civil society.

Thus the nature of social movements and their main cause - the discrepancy between civil society and social order - produces new, unsatisfied social interests. As the social movements are the consequences of new elements of civil society which are not incorporated into the social order, they are always unconventional. Civil society is normally in a state of change, but social structures are stable by their nature or at least have a tendency to stability. That is why social movements almost always exist. If the discrepancy between civil society and social order is large, then social movements are strong and numerous. If the discrepancy is small, then social movements are weak and more conventional.

What is the content of the notion of `discrepancy between civil society and social order'? We think that correlation expresses in an adequate way positions of different social forces (that is groups of people, who have mutual interests and fight for them). Social interests are not necessarily class interests. They may be also national, religious, racial amongst others. The influence of these interests is not equal, it exists also in a changing relationship with the correlation of changes in civil society. Social forces which cannot find adequate expression of their influence in social order produce social movements with the aim of changing social order in their direction.

Thus, the main notion for understanding social movements is that of social interests which are not adequately incorporated into the social order. Different types of interests produce different types of social movements. In principle, one society can produce several different types of social movements, but usually there is one main type of movements corresponding to each type of society.

What are the main social interests in a particular society? It depends on the characteristics of civil society and on the stage of its development. For example, industrial society produces one type of interests, post-industrial another. The hierarchy of interests at different stages of society's development is also different. So, post-industrial society lowers the importance of class interests (as material interests lose their centrality) and increases the importance of other interests. We think that the contribution of the `new social movements' and `new values' approaches to this question is very valuable.

It is neccessary to make two observations. First of all, social interests which are not incorporated into a social order produce a social movement not directly but indirectly. Unsatisfied interests are a cause, base, or foundation for a social movement, but they do not constitute a sufficient condition. For a movement to emerge, groups of people with definite interests must become a social force, they must have a desire and an opportunity to battle for their interests. So, there are two stages in the process of emergence of social movements.

unsatisfied social interest ---> social force ---> social movement

This is only the principle of emergence of a social movement. The content of the mechanism of emergence was stated in a fruitful way by the `collective behaviour' approach. For different purposes the normal process of emergence of a social movement can be identified in one of two stages (above): interest --> force --> movement. Social force, for example, can become transformed into a movement autonomous from group interests. In this case the social movement will have an unpredictable character and large peculiarities. Such a social movement will be under the great influence of the personal characteristics of its leaders and activists. As a result, it can produce tendencies to extreme forms of activity and so on.

Secondly, strong political regimes, which have resources to repress social forces or to produce for people illusory interests which are profitable to the regime, have the ability to break off the process of emergence of social movements and in such cases there will be no social movements. For example, the totalitarian regime produced by Stalin in the USSR did not take into consideration many social interests (class, nationality and so on) but there were no strong movements in that period (mid 1930s to early 1980s). Why? Because first of all there was repression of any attempts to construct a movement. Secondly (and this is the main reason) the consciousness of people was deformed; they changed their real interests to phantoms, fantasies. A good illustration of this is the novel of Stanislav Lem, Futurological congress.

Earlier I argued that different types of movements emerge in, and are dependent upon, different social conditions. But it is possible to differentiate social movements according to the direction of their activity and the strength of their actions (different kinds of social movements). Smelser, for example, suggests differentiating norm-oriented social movements and value-oriented movements. Social movements of the former kind do not want to change the existing values of society (in other words, the basis of social order); they want to change only norms of society (in other words, to preserve the basic features of the society but to change some social mechanisms). Value-oriented social movements, by contrast, desire to create or to defend new values for mutual belief.

I support this position and suggest that the radicalism of movements depends on the degree of descrepancy between civil society and social order. If the discrepancy is small enough, social movements will try only to reform social structures and will not try to destroy them and to exchange them for others because in this case social structures partly satisfy movements and their interests (according to Smelser this is the case of a norm-oriented movement). If the discrepancy between civil society and social order is large enough, social movements will try to destroy social structurers and to change them for others (value-oriented movement according to Smelser).

But an attempt to destroy social structures can touch the interests of those who are satisfied by the existing social order. And, as an answer to the emergence of value-oriented movements, there emerge other value-oriented movements which try to defend the existing social order. Thus, we can speak about three kinds of social movements which are determined not by general peculiarities of society but by the degree of discrepancy between civil society and social order and by the direction of their activity (to destroy or to defend the existing social order):

That is why to consider all the social movements as anti-system (as, for example, does Jan Pakulski in his book Social movements, 1990: 93) is not quite right, as under definite circumstances there exist movements in defence of social structures, in defence of the system. As examples we can name Edinstvo\fR (Unity) and Objedinenniy front trudjashishsja (United front of workers) movements in the USSR, Escadrons of death in countries with fascist regimes in Latin America.

As a conclusion to the first part we shall put forward a general approach to studying any social movement, which includes the resolution of three tasks:

The resolution of these tasks will give us a methodological basis to analyse concrete social movements.

Part 2. Social movements in the USSR

For the analysis of social movements in the USSR we must answer three questions:

The answer to the first question is both simple and complicated. On one hand, the USSR has not reached the stage of post-industrial society, but it has ceased to be a pre-industrial, peasant society. In this case Soviet society can be characterised as an industrial society. The arguments for this consideration are the following:

On the other hand, in the civil society of the USSR we can find some elements which do not correspond to those of a typical industrial society. Among these elements are:

Nevertheless, by and large it can be considered that Soviet society can be called an industrial society not according to social relations in general but according to the technological level of the USSR.

What conclusion can we draw on the basis of our considerations? The main social interests in Soviet society are class, material interests, and the interests of groups of people in better welfare. The main conflict in Soviet society is the conflict between social groups with different material interests. But Soviet society is not a purely industrial society. That is why in addition to class interests, there are other strong interests - ethnic, religious, etc., which can also produce sharp conflicts and contradictions. All these interests produce conflicts, which become sharper and sharper, because Soviet society has such a social and economic multistructure (elements of pre-industrial, industrial and post-industrial society). All interests are mixed; that is why to resolve social contradictions is a very complicated and unpredictable task.

Let us try to answer the second general question: what social interests are not incorporated in existing Soviet social order? It is easier to answer which interests are incorporated in Soviet social order: all political power in the Soviet Union is in the hands of the state apparat, fused with the ideological apparat, which is not under the control of civil society. The state apparat is actually a semi-closed caste. Almost all legal property in the Soviet Union belongs to this caste, to this group of people, which distributes all the material wealth according to its will. This caste has a very strict hierarchy and the possibilities each member of the state (ideological) apparat has of satisfying his requirements correspond to his place in the hierarchy. So, from all material (class) interests only the interests of the state apparat are completely incorporated into the social order and all the other material (class) interests are, more or less, unincorporated. As the social group of the bureaucracy (state apparat) has the monopoly not only of the distribution of material wealth, so also it has the monopoly of resolving and regulating all social relations. That is why not only material but also other interests (national, etc.) are not incorporated into the existing social order.

Thus, different foundations exist for the emergence of diverse types of social movements on the base of: class, national, religious, subcultural, and other interests. As the Soviet Union exists on the indivisible earth, some interests of post-industrial society are also to be found in Soviet territory and they too are not incorporated into the social order.

It is necessary at this point to make two observations. Firstly, unsatisfied interests in the Soviet Union are very different, but the satisfaction of all of them depends on the existence of the monopoly of the class of state apparat on all the types of social relations. That is why almost all social movements in the USSR have anti-bureaucratic characteristics (except those which defend the existing social order). Secondly, all the interests in society are mixed and are connected very closely with main interests ie. class interests. Resolving them is possible only on the basis of resolving the class (material) interests.

The process of transforming unsatisfied interests into social movements is mediated by the political regime.

The political regime

Until very recently the political regime of the Soviet Union had totalitarian structures and was characterised by two features:

All relations in the Soviet Union became ideological (from jobs to sexual relations). The consciousness of Soviet people became mythological as a result of such ideological repression. People's perceptions of their self-interests were changed. The severe repression of both types made impossible the existence of social movements. Unsatisfied social interests could not be transformed into social forces and social movements until the end of the 1980s. There were only small groups of people who tried to do anything (political dissidents in Russia, Georgian nationalists and so on), but they existed underground and had no influence among the general populace. In the middle of the 1980s the functions of repression and political control became weaker and a lot of social movements emerged. But their real causes were not the political processes of the mid 1980s, but unsatisfied interests which had existed throughout the period of Soviet power. It is necessary to say that the distortions in the process of emergence of social movements had strong affects on their character.

Social movements in the Soviet Union

Frequently, it is very hard to make a clear distinction between socio-political and other social movements. For example, the movement for the defence of human rights advances a clear and close goal - to defend the common democratic rights of individuals, and does not advance the goal of achieving political power. That is why we can consider, conventionally, that socio-political movements are only movements which not only bring pressure on the political institutions but also try to achieve the possibility of participating in the process of political decision-making.

What movements in the Soviet Union might we call socio-political? This question is difficult to answer because many movements which are not socio-political in their essence began to participate in political life in order to fulfil their particular tasks. There are no effective mechanisms which can allow these movements to redress their own grievances. We can name several types of these movements. Historical movements, e.g. `Memorial', `Pamjat ' (Memory), ` Othechestvo' (Motherland) and so on; cultural and ethnic movements, e.g. Baltic-Slav society in Latvia, Zionist movement etc; cultural movements like the writer's group `April', communities of painters, rock-clubs (the most famous being in Leningrad, Sverdlovsk, Moscow); ecological movements, the most famous of them in the disaster region of the USSR: Byelorussia, Urals and so on.

We can divide all the socio-political movements in the USSR into two groups:

We must take into consideration one more factor. The main problem in the Soviet Union today is the political problem. Any movement which pretends to be a social movement must decide political tasks.

Let us examine these movements which fulfil the functions of political parties. They cannot be named as parties because of, firstly, their embryonic organisational state, secondly, their mixed ideological concepts, and thirdly, their continually changing membership.

Socio-political movements in the Soviet Union have great peculiarities under the conditions of the existing political regime. The main features of them are the following:

Let us try to classify social movements in the USSR according, firstly, to their class interests and, secondly, to their ideological interests. In terms of class interests the social movements can be further subdivided into such categories as:

The classification of the movements according to their ideological interests will be the following.

Further research will analyse one specific class of sociopolitical movement - those which aim to advance the democratisation of political life in the Soviet Union.


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