What is an Alternative Social Movement?

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has an Masters of Science in Mathematics and a Masters in Education

What is an alternative social movement? This lesson covers the definition of an alternative social movement and provides examples to help clarify concepts related to this term. A brief quiz follows the lesson.

Social Movement Classification

Aline is an accelerated high school student who is taking classes at a nearby university. This semester she's taking a sociology class and learning about the many different ways to classify social movements. She's been assigned to write a short paper on one particular classification: the alternative social movement.

From her notes in class, Aline knows that social movements are defined as a loosely organized group of people who are either trying to implement a positive change in society's structure or values, or are trying to prevent a change that they believe will negatively affect society. She also knows from class that social movements can be classified based on just about anything, such as:

  • the use of violence
  • the type of institutions used to enact change (political and religious institutions tend to be the most common)
  • the type of change being advocated
  • the strategies employed
  • membership characteristics

There are numerous ways to classify social movements, but Aline doesn't need to know all of that for her paper. She just needs to know what classification method is used to determine if a movement is alternative or not. Let's take a look at what she finds.

Definition of Alternative Social Movement

Aline finds an article at the school library about the anthropologist David F. Aberle. Aberle came up with a system of classifying social movements in the 1960s that is still widely used today. Dr. Aberle's system asks the following questions about a social movement:

  1. Who is being targeted: everyone, or just a select group of people?
  2. How much change does the social movement desire?

Using the answers to these questions and looking them up in the chart below, Aline can now determine which of Dr. Aberle's four classifications a social movement falls under. To use the chart, choose the column based on who is being targeted by the social movement and choose the row based on the type of changes sought.

Select Individuals Affected All Society Affected
Select Changes Alternative Reformative
Sweeping Changes Redemptive Revolutionary

After reading the article on Dr. Aberle, Aline learns that alternative social movements seek a modest amount of change for a select group of people. Since alternative social movements seek the smallest amount of change to the fewest number of society members, they are generally the least threatening of the four forms of social change to society as a whole.

Examples of Alternative Social Movements

In class Aline is also required to come up with some examples of alternative social movements. She starts thinking about the kinds of groups that advocate for relatively small changes affecting a select group. She can't think of any at first, but when she gets home it smacks her in the head - literally.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account