Social movements have been a big part of history, they have brought about various changes in society. The social movement, Chartism is one we are all aware of, it was the movement for a universal adult franchise or the right for everyone to vote. It took place in England where initially only men owning property were allowed to vote, the people’s charter was signed in 1839 by the people of England, however, it was only posted world war 1, that certain categories of people got the right to vote. These included men above the age of 21, married women, women owning houses and the women who were university graduates and over the age of 30.
The movement was powerful enough to bring about a change in society. One of the important questions to address here is, what leads to the surge of a social movement? Are these psychological factors alone? Is it enough for people to lead successful social movements merely because of frustration? We find that many have held this view in the past and have claimed the social movements to be irrational and merely based on an emotional drive and the feeling of deprivation, however in the 1960’s the resource mobilization approach came into existence, which questioned this way of approaching social movements.
The resource mobilization theory, which stems from the resource mobilization approach, holds that the social movements are successful, not merely because people are intrinsically motivated to carry them out, rather their success depends on the resources available with the group that initiates the movement and their ability to utilize them, these resources include time, monetary resources, skills, connections, leadership, organizational capacity, associations, etc. this theory assumes that the individuals are rational and thus they will act in a rational manner, which is to say that they have calculated the costs and benefits of acting a certain way and will tend to act in a way that will be more beneficial to them, than it would be costly. Thus social movements are rational and driven by a certain motive and goal rather than being irrational.
An important aspect of such movements is the contribution of organizations, there are various social movement organizations (SMOs), this help organize the social movement and work to mobilize resources, they provide support and help coordinate the movement. The resource mobilization theory was given by John McCarthy and Mayer Zald they understood movements from the economic and political perspective. While the former argues that it was the control over the resources, that determine the success of the movement, these include the forces of demand and supply that result in the formation of resources, the latter on the other hand focuses on the political struggle which leads to the success rather than the economic factors.
This theory was criticized based on the fact that it places its assumptions on the fact that the only resources available are the ones which already at hand, however, it has been argued that, resources can be created and so can symbol over the course of the movement.