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The New Social Movements as New Means of People Participation

Understanding social movements is to understand human attributes, which could be key in the species long term survival or its destruction. What could it be that moved early people to paint images of they see in wall of caves as in the case of the the cave of Lascaux (www. culture. gouv. fr/culture/arcnat/lascaux/en/)? Was this a sign of a social movement definitive of development in that part of the world 30,000 years ago. Were these paintings signs of rudimentary planning and instruction on hunting for example?

Even 30,000 years ago, they were human beings with keen senses, intelligence, skills and values forming a group or community in a natural environment which could be harsh and dangerous. On a bigger scale, why build pyramids or grand monuments which seem to characterize ancient civilizations? What drive these social movements? How are individuals enmeshed in such a collective system effort and how changes occurred leading to now, the continuing history in the making of human beings could help identify and confirm the presence of indicators of NSMs.

Perhaps by reviewing different time zones of pre-historic to post-industrial to emerging economies we may gain some insights into what makes a movement. What could be said is that in looking for NSM and finding an example, we have to have standards through which we view humans and what they do and their way of knowing the world. Derrida as cited by Chandler (1997) contends that “perception depends on coding the world into iconic signs that can represent it within our minds.

” In this sense the paintings on the walls in the cave of pre-historic man to them are icons or symbols of what meaning may be lost to us. But it may be possible that use of symbols and how its meaning are shared to others could be an indicator of an organization or collective consensus. The peace sign, for example was first used in April 4, 1958 in an early protest rally in London with 5000 people calling for banning nuclear arms (http://peacetour. org). Compatibility of causes is another issue here as it may determine the long term viability of a movement.

The peace symbol, which was intended for nuclear disarmament, became an icon of the call to end the Vietnam War in the 1960s. It can also be argued that the anti-nuclear movement had branched out to other environmental issues and radioactivity or nuclear contamination was not the only environmental hazards produced by industrial societies. Air and water pollution were some of the early issues associated with the environmental movement (Walls, 2007). Away from the mechanistic NSM according to Canel (2008) is redefining social movements away from “mechanistic” concepts of social being.

Marx et al based their criticisms of dominant social system that time on economic progression from communalism to feudalism to capitalism, the distinct changes could be seen in the progression of technology or the means of production. Marx argued that society inevitably progresses and socialism as the logical continuation once capitalism collapses. This has been the dominant theme in for example the founding of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), People’s Democratic Republic of China and Cuba.

The USSR collapsed while China has been transformed into a corporate country of sort. Cuba some analyst contends with the Obama administration promises an improvement of relationships and less on the ideological rhetoric. NSM according to Canel (2008) debunks two premises of Marx, one the primacy of economy and the role of labor which reduces the issue of social development like cogs in a machine, minus the attributes which can be seen for example in life systems.

Environmentalism including recycling, ecological consciousness or concerns for safety health and good food are all intertwined in rebuking a view of life and living – of being part of a bigger society. Lifestyle and outlook on life becomes a factor in determining the causes. The role of labor in society is perhaps the harder to evaluate as there is need to differentiate between relations and attributes of a human being as a producer or worker. Labor is defined by relationship of wage while work is more general which is effort to accomplish something but free from wage relations.

In such a thinking one’s economic role got nothing to do with a person’s role in the affairs of society which should not on economic terms alone but reflective of the full human potential (Canel 2008). The NSMs may be different in another aspect, as the revolutionary movement espoused by for example, Marx is described in superlatives and dramatic images. Marx described movements in labor and capital – capitalism into socialism as a “spectre haunting Europe” Mao Ze Dung described the nationalist movement sweeping China in the 1930’s-40’s as “spark to start a prairie fire.

” In earlier period of history, Thomas Paine, declared “Give me liberty or give me death. ” The American Declaration of Independence is a statement about a movement, much earlier than socialism in 1776, a time when the western world was being swept into a period of change which toppled monarchies and reduced the power of the church – giving birth to democracies along European and North American lines. There are movements, which appeared not so spectacular as the revolutionary movements but not necessarily less important or less profound in terms of impact to society.

Einstein’s pronouncement that e is equal to mc1/2, may not have resulted to 10,000 people marching into the streets when he first announced it and was known to his colleagues but it was acknowledged as in some sense opening up a new cosmology of being. The amiable gentle looking image of Einstein with an image of an atom in the background remains an icon of a scientist. Early works on global warming at its inception was known only to almost select people from the academe, media, government and advocacy organizations as shown in the Al Gore documentary “Inconvenient Truth. “

How to understand a movement could be the key to identify an example of an emerging one – recognize the indicators or signs of changes which generally characterizes movements which may be said to have a potential to spinroll into a full blown open social collective or common action. More important how are the outline and causes of the movement expressed and shared. How do people have the chance to voice their opinion, thinking and feeling about important issues and concerns and how they are engaged in a movement may be the critical entry point to recognize signs of presence of a new movement.

Touraine as cited by Canel (2008) argues that change is a process along a given property or attributes of society, in its ability to “act upon itself” influencing the set of cultural models and icons along with the meanings associated with it and in such a manner guide social actions and in bigger scale, produce movements such as nuclear disarmament in the late 50’s and the peace and anti Vietnam War movement in the 1960’s to 70’s. In other words societies, especially democratic societies have built-in system of change to adapt to changing circumstances.

Types of new social movements There are different types of NSMs which can be categorized according to cause or concern or impact e. g. scientific, political, economic, religious, environmental, race, gender, etc. The element of newness could come from change in how we do things through social learning or change in different levels of relationships e. g. sex based relationships such woman/man relationship or woman in relation to certain institutions and certain social beliefs (Smith, 2005).

Studies in human development vis-a-vis human achievements are pointing to exciting discoveries and many debates, some of which are reported in various online publications such as National Geographic Online, include the hydron collider (origin of the universe, enormous energy, creation), space probes (man’s relationship with the universe, possible other prescient beings), smart bombs (war, peace), Internet (access, instant information, privacy, democracy, scams, virus, etc. ), global warming (environment, survival, man and nature).

Inevitably movements are born because of a reaction to certain events and developments. In post industrial societies, mainly in the developed countries in Europe and North America, the stable democratic institutions make it far easier for its citizens to voice over their concerns and generally less restriction as far as political activities are concerned. A perfect example of an NSM What had changed and how did we change may be the key in finding an example of new movements. There are two current themes which we may examine.

One is the new politics, which seemed to appear in the Obama campaign and ecologically oriented movements. According to Norris (2001), how people organize and act for political reasons have changed. The types of organizations which were formed during the period of industrialization which could be said be traditional were organized along formal lines of membership -with membership fees and dues, and identification card with a formal set of officials organized into a form of a bureaucracy. Norris cited trade unions and other advocacy groups with formal organization and protocol.

Here, participation in traditional organizations is along formal lines which is marked difference on how NSMs functions with loose organization though united by common sentiments. A movement though has its representative voice through which members or supporters of such movements could identify with such as Martin Luther King with respect to the civil rights movement in the USA. In NSM, volunteerism appeared to be the motive force and not economic gain but an improvement in the quality of life. Though movements appear to diverge and each exhibit a unique pattern but how movement forms appear to be universal.

As observed by Jacobs (1999) of the International Center for Peace and Development (ICPD) an advocacy and research organization proponent of sustainable development; that outward manifestations e. g. tangible results of production or human actions is but one aspect of human acts, values are more difficult to ascertain but underlies such acts. Skills, knowledge, attitudes, opinions represent a mental or psychological organization of principles. This supports the contention that formation of culture or shared belief is important in the development of a movement.

The Internet and leaps and bounds of communication technology may be one factor in formation and sustaining NSMs. It afforded a new avenue or channel of organizing. The role of the Internet The Barack Obama campaign which effectively tapped the Internet offered people to be in the action scene – as participant in what pundits considered an historic milestone in American politics. Miller (2008) quoted Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post as saying that Obama would not have won the presidency if not for the Internet.

Miller added, that then it was television for John F. Kennedy which magnified his attractive qualities and now it was the Internet that did it for Obama. The change here is access to and technology development and it is a big factor in setting the condition of participation. The change in human potential e. g. capability did not really changed relative to the changes in technology and creation of such technologies making instant messaging possible. The speed of communication is such that people could be in the action as an event unfolds.

Perhaps it is to early to tell whether the aspects of the explosive movement to bring Obama to the White House is not more on personality but based on fundamental covenant for change as the Obama presidency is based on this. But is this “new” or simply part of the American democratic system and how people’s participation in political affairs is rooted in the country’s political traditions and culture? Even Obama traces his political roots to for example Abraham Lincoln in many of his speeches including a quote from the Lincoln invoking unity and hope, quoted at his speech on election night in Chicago with the whole world monitoring the event.

This was an apparent effort to heal the nation of partisanship and division (Thomas, 2008). There is really no change in spirit or democratic theme, in referring to the spectrum of American political history from the American Revolution in 1776, to the Civil War at the time of Lincoln up to the present; the values and relationships between people and state have not changed and movements such as women suffrage in the early 20th century or civil rights in the 1960’s would not have happened if not allowable in the country’s constitution, laws and political culture of free expression.

Could there be something “new” in store for us as far as movements are concerned or what we have is complete but our grasp of a movement maybe is the issue? That we are all part of a social movement which is “now” and current, a dynamic situation and we are yet to adjust to its challenges and recognize where it is headed. But then again, the signs of new politics emerging from the 2008 elections are present. The role of NSM as powerful lobby groups bringing into the political scene its organizing expertise may increase its influence given the use of the Internet which facilitated information sharing.

A volunteer for example of an ecology oriented group might have gotten involved as a reaction to mining or energy policy of the Bush administration believing perhaps that Obama administration may be more ecologically enlightened than Bush or McCain. The newness perhaps could be in the speed and how different organizations representing different causes and movements could coalesce with traditional political parties such the Democrats and Republicans on particular issues and concerns. This is a different type of participation, limited alliances on specific issues. The ecologically oriented movements

The ecological or environmental movement on the other hand showed diversity with different organizations exhibiting different grades of environmentalism. The Green Peace Movement members make use of the media by using activist techniques such as barricading path of whalers with little boats. The World Wild Fund focused on saving endangered animals and their habitats. There are other smaller organizations with varying degrees and types of involvement (Walls, 2007). Ecology touches on the question not at the level of totality of life o earth but also at the level of being what we are, humans defined by what we are capable of doing and knowing.

Not that instinct and intuition are not signs of intelligence and cognition but we humans have certainly moved away o doing things by instinct alone but by intelligence, wit, resourcefulness, will, creativity and by other means unique to a prescient being and physical potential to for example play a guitar or weave complex tapestries. While movements of all sort premised on varieties of causes and thinking are seemingly emerging, there are not new in a sense that we can look at society as in a movement of its own at this point in time, as I am writing this paper.

While Obama’s ascension to the presidency may have been unprecedented but nonetheless, the political system is not new. The American system could be considered as mature or stable and what was seen in the 2008 presidential selection process is one of an invigoration of an American political institution. On the other hand, techno based movements – the world wide web for example have attributes of a movement and not purely economic or business in nature but nonetheless it lacks a coherence except that access to information in the Internet is free in a sense that there’s no singular entity controlling the traffic of information.

The movement is not really outward but inward looking. Youtube and other such file sharing sites could be seen more as social voyeurism – spectators in an unfolding event. The participation is more on vicarious than the real satisfaction of being “in the action. ” Movements inevitably start with the exercise of free expression or will for self-expression even in most harsh situations. In stable democracies, free expression is more or less a given.

The rise of the Internet only facilitates movements but it would still within the realms of experience that people voice and express themselves albeit within the confines of their culture and political system. There is always the option of an spectator or participant in the unfolding events associated with life on earth. Works cited Canel, Eduardo. “New Social Movement Theory and Resource Mobilization Theory: The Need for Integration. ” 2004. International Development Research Centre. 1 May 2009 <http://www. idrc. ca/en/ev-54446-201-1- DO_TOPIC. html> Chandler, D. (Ed.

). “Semiotics for Beginners. ” Marist College: Anthony Pennings School of Communications and the Arts, 1998 Jacobs, Garry and Harlan Cleveland. “Social Development Theory. ” ICPD. 1 November 1999. International Center for Peace and Development. 1 May 2009 <http://www. icpd. org/development_theory/SocialDevTheory. htm> Justin. “The peace sign turns 50 years old. ” 21 February 2008. World Peace through Technology. 1 May 2009 <http://peacetour. org/the-peace-sign-turns-50-years-old> Miller, Claire. “How Obama’s Internet Campaign Changed Politics. ” New York Times.

7 November 2008: Accessed at http://bits. blogs. nytimes. com/2008/11/07/how-obamas internet-campaign-changed-politics/ Norris, Pippa. “Political Activism Worldwide. ” 2 November 2001. Democratic Phoenix. 1 May 2009 <http://ksghome. harvard. edu/~pnorris/ACROBAT/everyvoice/Chapter10. pdf> Smith, M. K. “David A. Kolb on Experiential Learning. ” 30 January 2005. Infed. 1 May 2009 <http://www. infed. org/biblio/b-explrn. htm#learning%20style> “The Cave of Lascaux. ” (n. d. ). Ministry of Culture and Communication. 2 May 2009 <http://www. culture. gouv. fr/culture/arcnat/lascaux/en/>

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