Value Added Theory: Explained with Examples

The value-added theory recommends that for any social movement to emerge, certain determinants are necessary. This theory was developed by Neil Smelser and he proposed six determinants responsible for the development of a social movement. These six conditions, he believed, helped to give rise to collective behaviour.

The first stage is that of structural conduciveness that states that the people must have the opportunity to gather together in a place whenever they face any issue or feel the need to organise a social movement. For example, in a country with dictatorship, it is not possible for people to organise themselves into groups or conduct a meeting in an open space to discuss issues. Therefore, hardly any social movement takes place in such countries. This helps to understand the viewpoints of the people, whether they support the issue or are against it.

The second determinant is structural strain such that people realise how their expectations are not met by the current social structure. Once they realise that the existing political power is unable to address the issues that are threatening the wellbeing of society, it becomes easier for any group to organise or develop the social movement.

The third factor is the generalised beliefs. After the fulfilment of the first two conditions, people need to have generalised beliefs. They should trust the causes responsible for the strain and believe that together they can develop a social movement by joining hands, forming groups in order to meet their demands. For the masses to believe in the causes, the problem should be clearly defined.

The fourth determinant, Smelser views as one of the prominent and most important steps. The precipitating factors include those events that help in igniting the flame of protest action. For example, the Revolt of 1857 took place because new gunpowder cartridges were issued for the Enfield rifle in February 1857. It was rumoured that the cartridges were made from cow and pig fat. Here the precipitating factor is the issue of gunpowder and the rumour about it.

The fifth determinant is the mobilization of the public for action. After the public witnesses the precipitating event, they need to take collective action by forming active social networks and organizing effective communication. The activists of the movement are required to perform some important functions for the protest to become successful. Pamphlets need to be written and distributed, demonstrations have to be organized, awareness should be spread among the general mass, and so on. For these actions to be successfully organized, a higher level of social networking is essential.

The last step is the failure of social control. If the government fails to incorporate high levels of social control, a social movement would start successfully. Many a time it is seen that government with the help of the police or the armed forces tries to curb any buds of a social movement from emerging. However, if the government fails to do so, the social movement develops. Therefore the reaction of the authorities plays a crucial role in either closing down an emerging movement or letting it grow.