Account for the Rise of New Social Movements and Evaluate their Impact on Modern British Politics

Essay by beelyboppersCollege, UndergraduateB, March 2004

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A social movement is simply defined as a non-institutional body or group which takes up a given cause or issue of a political nature. Whilst social movements have been around for a long time, 'new' social movements (or NSMs) have risen (or returned) due to more recent changes in British society and politics. However, there are more discerning features which separate NSMs from OSMs.

While OSMs tend to represent working class alliances such as trade unions, focus more on economic change and tend to be class based organisations; NSMs are more concerned with moral and cultural issues and are "held to pose new challenges to the established cultural, economic and political orders of advanced capitalist societies" (Hallsworth 1994).

A number of variables have been key in provoking the return of new social movements. Firstly, a change in society's attitude has been apparent. People have genuinely started to feel as though they are able to affect a change.

Unlike political parties, it is much easier to get involved in a NSM, and to actually feel like one is getting somewhere. This change in attitude could be due to the nature of post-capitalism. This concept sees a well-off society becoming less interested in material things due to a good quality of life. In a society like this, Habermas (1979) noted that priorities have changed. Indeed, economic issues are of less importance to a NSM than moral or cultural issues for example. Touraine (1982) also noted this change in priorities; he decided it was due to a post-industrial society where production and consumption of knowledge have been of higher importance, causing a 'rain-check' on cultural values, especially in the more educated young and middle class.

In view of this argument, another question needs to be asked. Why haven't the public...