Culture and Social Movements

Originally published in New Social Movements: From Ideology to Identity, 1994
  • Doug McAdam


McAdam presents a good example of focusing on the questions discussed in the introduction to this section, explaining: why groups form, why they adopt the characteristics they do, what factors shape their success and failure, and how cultures broadly influential in their societies shape their identity and opportunities. Key among the points in his analysis is the concept of “frames.” McAdam uses this term to refer to packets of shared assumptions through which particular social movements can be categorized. Frames also highlight common elements through which movements’ purposes can be understood. A core belief of the civil rights movement, for example, was that American society was denying African Americans the equality in which the broader society professed to believe. Subsequent movements, such as women’s and gay rights movements, have largely adopted the same approach as their members pursue their goals. Social movements, in McAdam’s analysis, are embedded in the cultures within which they act and should be understood in relation to both the broader culture and each other across time.


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Copyright information

© Lane Crothers and Charles Lockhart 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Doug McAdam

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