To me, the wide range of different characteristics that social movements can carry what makes them so unique compared to other development actors. Whether they be attached to trade unions, working alongside governments or choose to have a charismatic leader, every movement has its own unique structure that’s suitable for reaching its goals. It amazes me that social movements with as large base as and as wide spanning as the women’s liberation movement, can come under the same umbrella as a movement as refined and local as the Arpilleras movement in Chile, a women’s group who present their motives through tapestry –opposing the Pinochet regime.
Whether or not a movement can act as a carrier for development can be helped answer by asking if the movement should be in connection with the government, or if it should it oppose the state in order to achieve specific social or political change. When we look further into the first uprisings of social movements in the 19th century, many were centered on the industrial working class, carrying socialistic, communistic and even anarchistic tendencies. Elements of these original characteristics still shine through as a prominent feature of some social movements today. The Argentinazo are a movement based in Latin America, working in opposition to the state with the main goal of seeking structural change to their political system. This group mainly use mass direct action-very similar to how movements were voiced in the 19th century. On the other hand, it could be argued that definitions and values are constantly changing. For the majority of movements, especially for the western world, although social movements haven’t kept to their socialist and anarchic roots, they may find that negotiation is more viable in achieving their goals. Take for instance Greenpeace as part of the environmental movement, due to such an international support and campaigns taking place all across the globe, their lobbying policy states that “Decision makers have both the resources and responsibility to make change happen.” An issue arises with this, keeping in affiliation with the government also means that they can also listen to lobbyists from the other side of the pond. Only this March, lobbyists from some of the largest energy companies in Europe have weakened the EU pollution and air quality rules for the EU, leaving Greenpeace to a struggling fight in Whitehall. –Perhaps the traditional anti-establishment values of social movements are better unchanged.
Despite these criticisms, it could be argued that a new revolution in social movements has been enhanced by the huge surge in social networks in the modern era. By promoting and educating through social media in recent years, it given movement’s huge scope to create even larger networks of support, as well as direct education about their aims and achievements- rather than manipulation from press sources or misinterpretation from word of mouth. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become vital in recent years for organizing mass protests. Last year’s pro-democracy rally in Hong Kong, commonly known as the Occupy Movement, drew in more than 100,000 supporters by using Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter to share photos of the demonstrations in order to inspire and encourage people to join. Social media not only gives movements a more creative way to share their message, but to open up their ideas to the masses of the global online community.
To my mind, social movements are a great carrier for development, due to their flexibility and the idea that they can constantly evolve. However, I believe that a social movement’s success is only possible with the right balance of reinvention in constantly changing times, alongside a withstanding and continuous identity.
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