Social movement identity : an application of theory to the cooperative housing movement in Toronto
Un movement social? is the question posed by French sociologist Alain Touraine in the conclusion of his study of the 1976 student uprisings in France (Touraine, 1978, p. 359). But, as Touraine notes, the answer to this question is more likely to be determined by the analyst's interpretation of a social movement than by the ideology, the events, or the organizations under observation. The crux of the research question is therefore one of interpretation: ask one hundred sociologists, "How do you define a social movement?", you would no doubt receive one hundred and one different responses. In referring to these differences, Patrick Develtere describes the competing paradigms which dominate this theoretical field a "babylonic debate" (Develtere, 1994, p. 21). A social movement is not a monolithic structure and its identity not easily grasped. Social movements can be complex and fragmented, with a variety of factors and actors influencing their direction and shape. It is no doubt this nebulousness that has led to such a disparity of theory and methodology surrounding the study of social movements. For the student of the social movement, the disparity between these approaches seems perplexing at first, and the theories behind them even more contradictory.
- IRECUS – Essais