Social Movements and Social Change: Social movements do not necessarily bring solutions to the social problems. They may champion the cause of social problems but cannot always promise a lasting solution. Social movements may promise to bring about social change and they do bring it. But it is not a one-way-process. Not only do social movements bring about change, but social change sometimes gives birth to movements. Social change often breeds social movements, and movements, in turn, breed additional change.
In fact, Smelser has defined a social movement “as an organised group effort to generate socio- cultural change.” For nearly every social movement, there is a counter movement. The purpose of these counter movements is to oppose the original movement. Counter movements struggle to maintain the status quo. For example, some parties, organisations and leaders have started the “pro-reservation movement “, while some others, have floated “anti-reservation movement”, in India. Similarly, good number of leaders, organisations and parties supported the Ayodhya movement and insisted on the construction of Sri Ram Temple at the “disputed place” at Ayodhya.
At the same time, a sizeable number of people and parties launched a counter movement against the pro-Ram Temple movement. In the very same manner, trade union movements generate capitalist counter movements that try to preserve the free enterprise system. Youth moments stiffen the resistance of older groups. Society is not a static element. It is a complex system of movements and counter movements pulling it in different directions. When this tussle is finally in favour of the movement, it becomes part of the social structure. A successful movement may become a part of the social order.
Example, a trade union movement or “save environment movement”. The movement may disappear after achieving its goal as it has been in the case of “Indian freedom movement”. Finally, it can be said that the intricate relationship between social movements and social change cannot be completely understood. Smelser’s remarks are worth noting at this stage; “while there is much that we don’t understand about the interplay of social movements and social change, it is clear that the two are linked in an intricate pattern.”