Social Movements and Change of Government Policy

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As Martin Luther King Jr. (1964) stated in his book “A social movement that only moves people is merely a revolt. A movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution” (“Why We Can’t Wait,” 1964). Changing people and institutions comes with contentious politics and the political/social movements that allow change in governments, states, and individuals. Contentious politics go to great lengths, especially in today’s environment, in order to create change and create movements and revolutions that are frequently involved.

Many states that eventually have events relating to contentious politics lead to forms of democracies and more equality throughout states. With these movements and revolutions sometimes leading to political violence and security dilemma a different type of change can be implemented although it’s still affecting states. Yet typically social movements can outcome in a change for the good of the people and change that can benefit most. Overall, contentious politics, like social/political movements and social/political revolutions, have created major changes within government policy, social attitudes, and cultural changes in today’s society (Drogus & Orvis, 2018).

Through social and political movements and revolutions there’s been major changes in government policies within states and countries whether in emerging or developing economies. Government policies that affect groups or individuals have been changed through social/political movements and revolutions and can be changed. According to The Free Dictionary, government policies can be defined as “a plan of action adopted or pursued by an individual, government, party,business, etc” (“The Free Dictionary,” n.d.). Typically in most governments, even in governments with some form of a mixed democracy, they depend on the connection between the people and the government. Although when the people feel like they aren’t being heard by their government they will rise up and form into groups based on their beliefs to enact change (“How Do Citizens Connect With Their Government?,” n.d.).

Not only in the United States, but there are movements going on all over the world that are influencing change in the government. According to Eduardo Silva (2015), “Many campaigns seek to either impede threatening policies, demand change in existing inequitable policies, or propose policies that advance their goals for social, economic, and political inclusion” (para. 10). For example, over in Latin America in the past 30 years there have been more protest and social movements breaking out against injustices in class, status group, and power relationships (Silva, 2015, para. 2).

The people of Latin America are targeting government institutions and political leaders in order change policies using their voices and making themselves heard. In addition, they are recruiting political actors that support their cause and beliefs while negotiating with political elites in order to dictate and control their demands for policy change. Through these methods of contentious politics they’re enacted change in more freedoms and overall equalities for individual, ethnic, and cultural identity-based diversity, more exposure for Afro-Latinos, women, and an individual’s sexual orientation, and an overall more consciousness for sustainability and environmental awareness (Silva, 2015).

Indirectly government policy can too be affected by another effect of contentious politics: social attitudes or opinions. Social attitudes can too be changed through social/political movements alike as they themselves can also change government policies and are the reason for why social movements begin. An individual’s social attitude is defined by ‘a behavior pattern, anticipatory set or tendency, predisposition to specific adjustment or more simply, a conditioned response to social stimuli’ (Dockery & Bedeian, 1989, p. 11).

The social stimuli that social attitudes are responding to can come in many shapes of contentious politics and the events that occur due to such political climate, Although the actually reasons for why people’s attitudes are changed can’t be defined, it is for sure that social attitudes are changed through the contentious politics involved in society like social movements and on a bigger scale, revolutions. Social attitudes can also influence aspects of social movements like civil disobedience and civic consciousness in the terms of way people participate in contentious politics. With civil disobedience, aka a peaceful way of protesting by not complying with laws/regulations or not paying taxes, and then with civic consciousness meaning an individual being aware of their place in their community and awareness of the events going on around them (Wang & Weng, 2017).

Now civic consciousness can be complicit with social attitudes as one can have an attitude towards political issues due to their awareness of these issues and where they stand in society. Thus with social attitudes they can start social movements or be changed by social movements, and sometimes government policy and cultural changes can go hand-in-hand within these concepts.

All of these processes can lead to social attitude change in society and in specific groups of individuals through contentious politics and there have been instances of this around the world. In particular there has been a social attitude change since the massacre at Port Arthur in 1996 in Australia over the topic of gun control. This massacre was caused by one individual who had access to a gun and killed 12 people in just 15 seconds, and became the worst massacre to happen in Australian history to this point.

Before the massacre occurred there had been a couple shootings in Sydney that caused individuals to begin to advocate and start a movement for gun reform. Many advocates came together to begin the fight for gun control although the law to restrict guns was denied through senate as it was not seen as a priority. After the massacre these advocates and government officials implemented a law that banned automatic and semi-automatic guns that took only a couple months. During the month the law was being debated, many gun owners protested the reform of guns.

Yet due to the social movement and change of government policy, eventually most Australian citizens became advocates for gun control and now believe it was the right thing to do. Essentially society came together and ended the possibility for more massacres to come by creating an alike social attitude to combat this tragedy too (Calamur, 2017). Thus with the power of social movements and other’s social attitudes, which also implemented government policy, social attitudes were changed for the good of the people.

Finally, when contentious politics goes even farther than social attitudes, even the culture itself can be changed through a social movement. According to Horton and Hunt (1980), cultural change can be defined as changes in the culture of society and can be caused by invention, discovery, and diffusion. Cultural changes are the overall of attitudes and social norms that one group or culture experiences. These cultural changes can even affect future contentious politics, “as social movements evolve or give rise to new ones” (Drogus & Orvis, 2018). Cultural characteristics can identified as a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts which can all be changed within the impact of social movements (Zimmerman, 2017). Although culture is long-term process to change as it is in total a slow process of essentially changing social attitudes until it becomes a social norm in society. Yet there have been many instances of cultures changing towards different degrees due to social movements and the power behind them.

One of the biggest social movements that has ever occurred has cause not only social attitude and government policy change, but nevertheless, a change in culture altogether. The women’s rights movement. This social movement began in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention, where they recruited supporters and included actions to further the movement while also beginning to advocate for women’s suffrage (“Women’s Rights Movement,” 2015). The culture at the time was that women were to be there for men and they weren’t supposed to speak out, they weren’t supposed to have jobs, they weren’t supposed to vote. Essentially women’s place in the culture was to stay silent although the women’s rights movement was here to change this.

Following were more conventions across the nation and protests out of this single convention with more social attitudes changing and more acts of change through social attitudes. Their movements gained more and more momentum with more social attitudes changing every day, but with their main goal in mind: to change the culture of their time. Finally, the movement officially ended in 1920 when women eventually earned the right to vote through their protests and words. The social movement then managed to change the culture even today in the United States as women have gained rights on many different levels. Although women have gained the right to vote, the acceptance to have a job, gain equal pay as their male counterparts, and overall mainly end social norms of woman in general (“The Women’s Rights Movement,” n.d.).

In some cases social movements do not manage to affect change in some states or countries, although for the most part they’ve inflicted change not only politically or institutionally within the government, but also on a level of social and cultural changes. Throughout history and in modern day society there have been terms where social movements have created new government policies through the change of minds.

While there has been a change of minds, aka the social attitude of individuals, through contentious politics and the methods within such as groups have created social norms through attitude. Within these societal norms, as a long-term time passes these social attitudes and even government policies through social movement have created an entire cultural change throughout countries, states, and even across the world. Overall as Martin Luther King Jr. stated these social movements do not just change people or they would be revolts, they manage to change people AND institutions together.

Cite this paper

Social Movements and Change of Government Policy. (2021, Jul 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/social-movements-and-change-of-government-policy/

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