The study of social movements has evolved over time due to the frame theory. Various social movements have occurred in the past and others are expected to emerge in the future. Similarly, these changes in social movements can be attributed to the shift in theoretical frameworks, which explains the social movement phenomenon. Nevertheless, theoretical frameworks play the role of transmitting social, political, psychological, and economic ideas as integrated into a social movement. The main aim of this paper is to address the mobilization of resources as one of the frameworks that explain social movements.
Resource mobilization entails perceptions concerning people as rational actors, who are responsible for securing and marshaling resources within a social movement. Although the resource mobilization theory has gained popularity over time, the increment in the usage rate in analyzing social movements has not been without challenges. First, resource mobilization framework comprises two parts, thus making it difficult for researchers to cover them comprehensively.1 The framework reveals social movements as organizations resulting from people’s rational decisions and as a marketer of its products through preserving its functions.2
With reference to the rational actor theory, people are motivated by benefits to join a social movement.3 From this analysis, it is evident that corporate aspect of cost-benefit analysis comes in with people joining the movement whose benefits outweigh the costs. Social movements work to achieve collective benefits for an organization and its members. In such a case, members have individual responsibility to bear the cost of achieving the benefits, hence the need for a cost-benefit evaluation. In circumstances that require collective efforts, a person may decide to take advantage of others and relax as they work toward achieving a common goal. According to the doctrines of resource mobilization, members of social movements should focus on the incentives among other benefits that motivated them to join the movement.4
In addition, members must be flexible enough to appreciate additional benefits other than those coming from the movement’s ultimate goal.
Social movements cannot be formed in the absence of sufficient resources. Therefore, people come together in a movement to pull their personal resources together for the group’s use. In the course of aggregating resources, the process requires proper coordination for the movement to succeed.5 Cultural aspects such as cohesion mechanisms or grievances cannot contribute to the rise of social moments. Similar to the corporate set up, the elite who contribute most of the resources assume the role of mobilization to ensure that members incur personal costs, hence effective aggregation of resources for the movement. Success of social movements depends on the flow of the resources within and outside the organization. The distinct factors that can contribute to success or failure of a social movement include cultural, human, moral, material, and socio-organizational resources.6
Material resources comprise the liquid and long-term assets such as the physical and financial capital. Financial capital is used for funding the movement’s initial activities among other financial needs. Similar to the material resources, human resourcefulness falls into three categories, viz. expertise, experience, and skills. Through people’s decisions to participate in a social movement, they get the opportunity to control proprietary labor in the movement.7
Nevertheless, the movement should have a diversified pool of human resources to enhance efficient mobilization of resources. For example, in an environmental movement, climate expert may not be helpful in analyzing the movement’s security details or restoring a website after hacking. Socio-organizational resources include a movement’s social networks, groups, and coalitions that help in strengthening its structure. Differential access to these infrastructures contributes to inequalities amongst members. Cultural resources entail behavioral norms, values, and beliefs by which members of a particular movement can associate with in the process. However, cultural resources differ depending on a group’s ultimate goal and the purpose for which it was formed. For example, human rights groups can be characterized by holding protests and news conferences as they seek to condemn actions or policies that violate people’s rights.8
Additionally, social movements cannot succeed in the absence of moral resources that include legitimacy, solidarity, sympathetic support, and authenticity. Nevertheless, these resources motivate members to acquire moral values and implement ethical practices to influence societies.9
Case study: LGBT Social Movement
The LGBT movement was formed in the 1970s, but it gained momentum in the 1980s and 1990s. Initially, the social movement aimed at challenging social constructs in relation to femininity and masculinity in a bid to eliminate homophobia from society. Additionally, the movement had political motives that included pressuring the government to implement a policy aimed at protecting the rights and benefits of the LGBT persons. Although there has been a conflict concerning composition of this movement, the leaders maintain the spirit of common interests by encouraging members to work together. Unlike in the 1970s and 1990s when there were divisions within the LGBT community as members tried to hide their identity from the public, in the recent times, the group is open to the public. Such openness accounts for strengthening the community’s unity.10
With reference to resource mobilization, the framework emphasizes collectiveness among social movements. Close analysis of the LGBT community indicates the existence of collectiveness within the group as members work in unity toward achieving the set goals. Furthermore, for the collective benefit of the LGBT persons, the movement pursues political goals in a bid to seek government support. In the recent past, the society has depicted high levels of homophobia. In most cases, minority groups face rejection and victimization from the mainstream society due to unfounded stereotypes. Therefore, in a bid for such individuals to be heard, they have to create a forum to air their grievances and this assertion explains the formation and functionality of the LGBT community. With the formation of the LGBT community, the situation has become better as compared to how it was in the 1970s.11
However, the community is yet to eliminate homophobia from society. Nevertheless, the movement through the mobilization of resources has garnered support of the federal government with some states implementing laws in recognition of gay marriages in addition to protecting the benefits, interests, and rights of the LGBT persons.
Furthermore, the LGBT community is a worldwide movement that does not restrict its membership to a particular race. Resource mobilization framework advocates multiplicity of movements through collective identities, thus facilitating diversity within the movement. Such diversity accounts for the movement’s unity especially in enculturation as members from different cultural backgrounds interact.12 By overcoming cultural stereotypes in relation to the LGBT persons, the community can attribute this success to civil collectiveness.
The framework of resource mobilization emphasizes the significance of cultural resources in highlighting identity of a social movement. The LGBT community believes in the innate aspect of gender and sexual identity, which has led to society terming the members as religiously immoral persons, whose perceptions can be changed. Nevertheless, the community has maintained its stance concerning innate perceptions regarding gender and sexual orientation, thus marking their identity. Holding public demonstrations entails a way of highlighting the group’s solidarity. For example, in the 1970s, the gay rights members took to the streets of New York as they sought recognition and respect of their rights and interests.13
Limitations of resource mobilization
Social movements incorporate socio-political aspects of the group. An effective framework aimed at explaining the movement must focus on the movements’ various components. On the contrary, it is evident that resource mobilization focuses on collective behavior and organizational factors, as opposed to the political aspects. Furthermore, the framework ignores social problems that could arise in the course of forming a group. In addition, by focusing on traditional organizational factors in the formation of a movement, the framework could be irrelevant especially in addressing some of the recent social movements formed in the 21st century. Movements change their structure with the changes in society, but they maintain their initial goals.
Resource mobilization framework focuses on organizational factors in addition to psychological aspects in explaining the various aspects of social movements. Nevertheless, the framework emphasizes the importance of collectiveness as demonstrated in the case of the LGBT community. Being a worldwide movement, the LGBT community embraces cultural collectiveness, thus enhancing diversity that accounts for the community’s unity. However, a resource mobilization framework fails to address political aspects of social movements with equal measure as the organizational factors.
Goodwin, Jeff, and James Jasper. The Social Movements Reader: Cases and Concepts. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2014. Web.
Kuumba, Bahati. Gender and Social Movements. London: Altamira Press, 2001. Web.
Larson, Jeff, and Sarah Soule. “Sector-level dynamics and collective action in the United States, 1965-1975.” Mobilization 14, no.3 (2009): 293-314. Web.
Melnds, Kane. “LGBT religious activism: predicting state variations in the number of metropolitan community churches, 1974-2000.” Sociological Forum 28, no.1 (2013): 135-158. Web.
Roggeband, Conny, and Bert Klandermans. Handbook of Social Movement across Disciplines. New York: 2007. Web.
Travaglino, Giovanni. “Social sciences and social movements: The theoretical context.” Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Science 9, no.1 (2014): 1-14. Web.
1 Bahati Kuumba, Gender and Social Movements (London: Altamira Press, 2001), 54.
2 Jeff Goodwin and James Jasper, The Social Movements Reader: Cases and Concepts (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2014), 12.
3 Giovanni Travaglino, “Social sciences and social movements: The theoretical context,” Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Science 9, no.1 (2014): 2.
4 Conny Roggeband and Bert Klandermans, Handbook of Social Movement across Disciplines (New York: 2007), 53.
5 Jeff Larson and Sarah Soule, “Sector-level dynamics and collective action in the United States, 1965-1975,” Mobilization 14, no.3 (2009): 295.
6 Ibid, 296.
7 Roggeband and Klandermans, 75.
8 Travaglino, 6.
9 Goodwin and Jasper, 195.
10 Kane Melnds, “LGBT religious activism: predicting state variations in the number of metropolitan community churches, 1974-2000,” Sociological Forum 28, no.1 (2013): 135.
11 Melds, 139.
12 Larson and Soule, 298.
13 Melds, 140.