Portal:Social movements

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Social movements

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Social movements are a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals and/or organizations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out, resisting or undoing a social change.

Modern Western social movements became possible through education (the wider dissemination of literature), and increased mobility of labor due to the industrialization and urbanization of 19th century societies. It is sometimes argued that the freedom of expression, education and relative economic independence prevalent in the modern Western culture is responsible for the unprecedented number and scope of various contemporary social movements. However others point out that many of the social movements of the last hundred years grew up, like the Mau Mau in Kenya, to oppose Western colonialism. Either way, social movements have been and continued to be closely connected with democratic political systems. Occasionally social movements have been involved in democratizing nations, but more often they have flourished after democratization. Over the past 200 years, they have become part of a popular and global expression of dissent.

Modern movements often utilize technology and the internet to mobilize people globally. Adapting to communication trends is a common theme among successful movements.

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Feminist suffrage parade in New York City, May 6, 1912.

The feminist movement (also known as Women's Liberation) refers to a series of campaigns for reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, voting rights, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.

The movement's history has gone through three waves, beginning in the 18th century. The first wave was oriented around the station of middle or upper-class white women, and involved suffrage and political equality. Second-wave feminism attempted to further combat social and cultural inequalities. Third-wave feminism was a reaction to and continuation of the second wave, taking a post-structuralist analysis of femininity to argue that there is in fact no all-encompassing single feminist idea. It set itself against essentialist definitions of femininity, which assume a universal female identity, instead emphasizing discursive power and the ambiguity of gender. Third-wave theory incorporates elements of queer theory, anti-racism, and other hallmarks of modern progressivism.

The feminist movement has brought a sweeping variety of social and cultural change, its impact touching familial relations, religion, the place of women in society, gendered language, and relationships between men and women.

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Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) was a German historian, sociologist, and revolutionary, whose ideas played a significant role in the development of modern communism and socialism. Marx summarized his approach in the first line of chapter one of The Communist Manifesto, published in 1848: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."

Marx argued that capitalism, like previous socioeconomic systems, would inevitably produce internal tensions which would lead to its destruction. Just as capitalism replaced feudalism, he believed socialism would, in its turn, replace capitalism, and lead to a stateless, classless society called pure communism. He argued that capitalism will end through the organized actions of an international working class.

While Marx remained a relatively obscure figure in his own lifetime, his ideas and the ideology of Marxism began to exert a major influence on workers' movements shortly after his death. This influence gained added impetus with the victory of the Bolsheviks in the Russian October Revolution in 1917, and few parts of the world remained significantly untouched by Marxian ideas in the course of the twentieth century. Marx is typically cited, with Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, as one of the three principal architects of modern social science.

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Frances Crowe, speaking in 2006 at a peace rally in Brattleboro, Vermont (photo ©2006 by Charles Jenks).

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Activist Wisdom: Practical knowledge and Creative Tension in Social Movements is an Australian book by Sarah Maddison and Sean Scalmer.

Peace marches, protest demonstrations and campaigns have often been part of the Australian social and political landscape. This book includes interviews with some of Australia's best-known activists and provides a bigger picture that analyses successes and failures, communication of ideas, and political impacts.

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