COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

Hunter College -- Department of Sociology
SOC 309 Spring 97 M, Th 9:45-11:00 HW706
Kuechler Tel. 772-5588 mkuechle@hunter.cuny.edu
Office hours M 4-5 and by apptmt HW1628

Contents: This class will focus exclusively on social movements which constitute one particular form of 'collective behavior'. Sociologists use the term 'collective behavior' to refer to the behavior of groups of people or 'collectivities'; more specifically, the term refers to the behavior of collectivities that are defined by particular circumstance -- in contrast to members of formal organizations (e.g., members of a church, students in a class, players on a sports team, etc.). Examples include the behavior of crowds in natural or man-made disasters or emergencies (e. g. , blackouts, fires, hurricanes) or the actions of crowds defying public order (e. g. , riots, violent demonstrations). Collective behavior also covers fads and fashion. Some of these forms of collective behavior are relevant for the study of social movements as well and they will be discussed in this specific context. However, following the recent trend in the discipline, I will not cover the full range of what can be construed as 'collective behavior'.

The term social movement describes a situation in which a loosely organized group of people challenges the existent social norms and values often defying established rules of behavior in their actions. To varying degrees, social movements question the established political and/or social order and seek to pursue their interests in direct ways mostly bypassing the institutional channels (e.g., voting, petitioning, lobbying) of interest intermediation. The sociological literature shows many different and sometimes conflicting definitions of the term 'social movement'. In the older literature, scholars placed much emphasis on the rule-breaking behavior associated with the actions (demonstrations, riots, etc. ) of social movements.

More recently, sociologists tend to discuss social movements less value-laden and look more comprehensively at the impact of a social movement on the established social and political order. Thus, the "unconventional" behavior of social movement followers is just one of many other aspects. Also, many social movements develop a formal organizational structure (SMOs or social movement organizations) and a quite a few also make use of the established, conventional channels to pursue their interests. In addition, pre-existing organizations may support or even become part of the movement. The distinction between "social movements", "social movement organizations", and "special interest groups", then, is often rather blurred.

Our textbook, focuses primarily on the ideology underlying a social movement, the set of values and beliefs that provide a bond between the followers of a movement and that sets them apart from the dominant groups and classes in a society. This textbook also employs a broader international perspective.

Objectives: The objectives of this class are to acquaint students with a number a broadly defined ideologies (such as Liberalism, Socialism, Nationalism, Feminism, Environmentalism) and specific examples of social movements based on such ideologies in the United States and around the world and to provide a theoretical framework to study such movements in their relationship to existing societies and in cross-national comparative perspective. The class also aims to overcome the limits of purely passive, receptive learning requiring only the reproduction of textbook material. Rather, students will also be engaged in some hands-on practical research on current social movements or social movement organizations, their present activities, their modes of operation, their accomplishments and failures and their prospects for the future.

Approach: On the one hand, a conventional teaching strategy will be employed: we will discuss and expand on the textbook chapters that students are required to read before class. On the other hand, students will pursue their own practical research projects parallel to the textbook-based discussions in class. To this end, students will learn how to use the Internet (WWW) as a tool to gather information early in the semester, then do research on their own, and finally submit a paper summarizing their findings. Students will be required to submit a "first draft" before the final paper is due so that I can keep track of their progress with the research project and provide feedback and help where needed.

Prerequisites: Since this is an upper level course, students should have taken several substantive sociology or other social science classes. SOC 101 (Introduction to Sociology) or an equivalent course in another social science is an absolute minimum.

Also, since this class has a significant research and writing component, students who have little experience in this area need to be prepared to spend considerable time on this assignment. It is better to start late than never, but students who have avoided classes with a serious writing assignment so far may find this course extremely challenging. If you just need "another three credits" or "the (meeting) time is just right", then you should consider a "schedule adjustment", i.e. drop this class.

Rather than doing conventional library research, students will have to use the Web to gather most of the information they need for their paper. While Web searches do not require much in computer skills, and several sessions will be devoted to teach the few specific skills needed, students must be prepared to spend a good deal of time in front of a computer. So, if you are computer-phobic, this course is not for you. Also, your overall schedule must be compatible with the opening hours of the computer labs on campus -- or you must have access to the Web from a computer elsewhere (home, work, public library).

Requirements and Grading: I expect students to attend all classes, to complete all reading assignments before class, and to meet all deadlines as specified below. I will assign the final course grade based on the following four components:

To obtain a passing grade for the course, passing grades for at least two of the classroom exams are necessary. If you fail to produce a satisfactory paper, your course grade will at best be a "C".

All assignments must be completed by the deadlines. For each day of delay, I will lower the grade by a full credit point (e. g. , a paper late by one day cannot receive a grade higher than a 'B', etc. ). If a student cannot meet a deadline due to illness or other important personal reasons, s/he must contact me before the paper is due. As a matter of principle, I do not assign a grade of 'incomplete' at the end of the semester. If unfortunate circumstance should keep you from completing your work, you need to withdraw from the class in order to avoid a bad grade.

Quizzes/Final Exam: These exams will be based on textbook material. The format of these exams may vary, though the "short answer" format will probably be used most often.

Research project/Paper: As mentioned above, parallel to the discussion of textbook chapters students will do research on specific contemporary social movements. I will assign an equal number of students to each of the following topics:

Students will have an opportunity to express their preferences in terms of topic. I will try to make assignments in line with these preferences as much as possible. Each student will write an individual paper (see general guidelines for more detail on the project/paper assignment). Each student must submit a "first draft" by March 20. At minimum, this first draft should contain an outline for the paper and a detailed list of sources (web sites and specific documents, books, articles, etc. ). The final paper is due April 28.

Textbooks: Unfortunately, there are very few textbooks on social movements, though there is a vast literature of research monographs and edited volumes. The textbooks I have used in the past were not much to my liking and they were not popular with the students either. Now, a new text is out authored by a renowned scholar in the field, also known under her previous name Roberta Ash. This will be the main text for the course. I know, it is expensive (over $40), but it is absolutely necessary that you have this text. This second text is not strictly required, but I highly recommend it. It should sell for under $15 (the bookstore gets it for $11), and it provides valuable help with all your writing assignments in this and other sociology classes -- even if you consider yourself a good (technical) writer.

Roberta Garner Contemporary Movements and Ideologies New York: McGraw Hill 1996
The Sociology Writing Group A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers -- Third Edition New York: St. Martin's Press 1994

Weekly Schedule Reading Assignment
Jan 29 Course Overview ---
Feb 3 Library and Web Searches, part 1 Class meets in computer lab (1000C -- HN) Guide to Writing
Feb 6 Paper assignment and paper writing strategies Guide to Writing
Feb 10 Library and Web Searches, part 2 Class meets in computer lab (1000C -- HN) Guide to Writing
Feb 13 Concepts and Definitions Garner, Ch. 1/2
Feb 20 (M schedule) Library and Web Searches, part 3 Class meets in computer lab (1000C -- HN) Guide to Writing
Feb 24, 27 Social Movement Theories Garner, Ch. 3
Mar 3, 6 Movements, Societies, and States: Past and Present Garner, Ch. 4/5
Mar 10 FIRST QUIZ Garner, Ch. 1-5
Mar 13, 17 Conservative Ideology and the New Right Garner, Ch. 6
Mar 20, 24 Liberalism: Civil Rights, Human Rights, and beyond Garner, Ch. 7
Mar 27 Discussion on project/paper progress ---
Mar 31/ Apr 3 Varieties of Socialism Garner, Ch. 8
Apr 7, 10 Religious Movements with a political agenda Garner, Ch. 9
Apr 14 Nationalism Garner, Ch. 10
Apr 17 SECOND QUIZ Garner, Ch. 6-10
Apr 21, 24 NO CLASS (Spring Recess) ---
Apr 28, May 1 Ethno-Racism: Fascists, Nazis, and neo-Nazis Garner, Ch. 11
May 5, 8 Identity Movements: Sex, Gender, and Reproduction Garner, Ch. 12
May 12 Environmentalism Garner, Ch. 13
May 15 Review session Garner, Ch. 2, 5, 12-14
May 29 (11:30-1:30) FINAL EXAM