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The Social Movement’s Success or Failure


Social movements refer to organized groups, which are purposeful and determined to achieve common goals. The main objective of social movements is to create social transformation through the generation or resistance of change. Social movements can be local, regional, or international, depending on the issue they are advocating for and the strategies and tactics they employ. The social movement’s success or failure depends on various factors, including leadership, ideologies, the government’s response, community, and others. For example, people for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an international social movement that tried to change how animals are handled and have succeeded. This paper evaluates factors that contribute to the success or failure of social change movements and the role played by their leadership.

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PETA is one of the successful social movements in the world that advocates for animal rights. The movement has been instrumental in changing the definition of what is considered animal cruelty. Initially, PETA based its operations in the United States and campaigns for animals’ rights in other countries like Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, Asia, and France. Stokes and Atkins-Sayre (2018) indicate that PETA influences the conversations regarding animal rights by targeting government industries and private companies. The organization’s campaigns use “full-court press” on a particular organization that they target to shift animal welfare practices. Implementation of new regulations for animal testing for medicine or cosmetics was one notable success of PETA.

Factors That Made Some Movements More Appealing and Successful

The type of frame adopted by social movements to pursue their goals influences their level of success. Three types of frames, including diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational framing, enhance social movements’ success (Little & McGivern, n.d.). Diagnostic framing involves the social movement clearly stating the problem in a way every person can understand. The application of diagnostic frames is based on the belief that what targeted organizations or groups are doing is wrong and the social movement has a way to fix the problem. For instance, PETA believed that using animals in testing for cosmetics and medicine is cruel (Stokes & Atkins-Sayre, 2018). Indeed, painful procedures and toxicity subjected to the animals during testing are morally wrong. Additionally, PETA proposed using alternatives to animal experimentation, such as computer models and tissue culture.

Prognostic not only provides a solution to the problem but also states implementation strategies. Notably, addressing the issue and enactment procedure needs to be feasible for a movement to gain political and social support. The prognostic frames in the case of animal cruelty during testing for cosmetics are the use of tissue culture and other alternatives and the development and enforcement of laws prohibiting the unethical treatment of animals (Frasch, 2017). Motivational framing involves calling for action, focusing on what to be done, acceptance of the problem, and the solution provided.

Factors That Cause the Failure of Social Movements

Some social movements may not have a change impact despite the validity of their concern. The strategies that they use to articulate their issue are the primary cause of failure. Some may use violent demonstrations, leading to the destruction of properties and harming people (Little & McGivern, n.d.). Consequently, the government declares all activities of such movements and uses law enforcement agencies to contain them. Additionally, the way some social movements state their concern can lead to their failure. The problem may not be stated clearly, making it challenging for the community and political class to understand and offer appropriate support. They may also fail to provide solutions to their concern, and if they do, the resolutions are not feasible. Further, social movements can fail if the leaders and other key participants have questionable integrity.

Role of Leadership in the Success of Social Movements

The leadership develops the movements’ ideologies, organizes events, and mobilizes followers. Leaders ensure that their movement’s ideologies bring positive changes in society (Little & McGivern, n.d.). They organize events to increase awareness about issues of concern and seek support from the community as well as political leaders. The leadership also develops the movement’s values and goals to differentiate them from others. Notably, the values determine how the movements operate and whether they will succeed or not. Moreover, a leader addresses the needs and concerns of members and communicates with external stakeholders, such as government agencies and religious institutions (Little & McGivern, n.d.). Members’ long-term commitment to the social movements is influenced by how their concerns and needs are addressed within groups. Equally, government agencies need to understand the issue of concern articulated and possible solutions offered by the movements. As a result, they assess validity issues raised and the feasibility of proposed ways of addressing them.


In conclusion, social movements comprise a group of organized individuals to create awareness about particular issues and provide a solution that would have positive change. Their level of appealing and impacting significant change in society is influenced by diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational framing. Conversely, such aspects as the use of violent demonstrations, questionable leadership integrity, inability to communicate clear information about issues of concern, and lack of community and social support contribute to some social movements’ failure. The leadership of such movements develops goals and values and ensures effective relationships among members and society.

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Frasch, P. (2017). Gaps in US animal welfare law for laboratory animals: Perspectives from an animal law attorney. ILAR Journal, 57(3), 285-292. Web.

Little, W., & McGivern, R. (n.d.). Introduction to sociology – 1st Canadian edition. Rice University.

Stokes, A., & Atkins-Sayre, W. (2018). PETA, rhetorical fracture, and the power of digital activism. Public Relations Inquiry, 7(2), 149-170. Web.

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