Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: Revival of Religious Fundamentalism in East and West

By Bronislaw Misztal; Anson Shupe | Go to book overview

13
MOVEMENTIZATION OF SOCIAL CHANGE

Slawomir Jan Magala

Change appeals to us through its sudden, dramatic nature. The breakup of the Soviet state socialist empire, the explosion of Solidarity in Poland, the fall of the Berlin wall, the "velvet" carnival-revolution in Prague: all have caught the eye of the camera and the imagination of millions. However, sociologists maintain that social change is a process, not an event. It is wrong to assume that social history consists of long periods of relative stability very rarely separated by brief outbursts of explosive change. Rather, the roots of an explosion have to be found in the periods of relative stability, and the explanation of change has to be found in the accumulation of individual decisions, group networking, and macromovements.

Likewise, modern social movements are perceived as "bunches" of processes. They are seldom characterized from the point of view of their "stability-enhancing" procedures. For instance, the founding of a political party or a passing of a legal act are considered less crucial from the point of view of an explanatory description of a social movement than the study of the ways and means that are employed to create, sustain, and activate the movement "below" or "beyond" the threshold of institutionalization; that is, "outside" the solid shell of an established, recognized, and hierarchic organization. Sociologists try to describe modern social movements both in terms of agencies for "mobilization of resources" and in terms of expressive instruments, vehicles for "identity formation" and "identity guarding." They try to demonstrate that latent networking can turn out to be an influential and effective open "occupation" of some public space. As Alberto Melucci put it:

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