Controversy and Coalition: The New Feminist Movement across Three Decades of Change

By Myra Marx Ferree; Beth B. Hess | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

Ideas, Ideals, and Ideology

If there is anything on which students of social movements agree, it is that a series of social, economic, and even cultural changes, no matter how dramatic, does not by itself give rise to a social movement. The considerable changes in the status and opportunities of American women described in the previous chapter were nonetheless important. They produced the conditions that made it difficult, if not impossible, to sustain a women’s movement after suffrage, but at the same time created conditions that by the 1960s made it impossible to ignore women’s second-class status. But social movements, which are organized efforts to change social arrangements, are different from broad currents of social change that take place without the intention of producing a specific outcome.

In this chapter we discuss the general problem of bringing a social movement into existence, the ideas people use to define the kind of change worth striving for, and the strategies adopted for accomplishing their goals. These ideological elements, in conjunction with available resources, generate the organizational forms that permit people to act collectively.


The Basis of Social Movements

Social movements do not emerge only because there is a problem in society. Problems always exist, but only certain conditions are protested and not even these at all times. It is obvious, for example, that American women faced a great many barriers in the 1930s and

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