Social Movements and Entrenched Ideas: The Societal Institution Hypothesis for Social Change

John Dunham
Steven Chase, PhD, Core Faculty, Director of Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability Concentration Department of Environmental Studies
Department of Environmental Studies
Using Bill Moyer’s eight stages of social movements as a starting point, I propose the societal institution as one of the units of social change in complex societies. I describe the societal institution as having qualities of legitimacy, pervasiveness, inertia, organizational manifestations, and broad unconscious acceptance. I then examine how these qualities work together to generate the entrenched ideas of a society. Once I have examined the societal institution as a unit, I test the hypothesis against the histories of three major social movements in the United States. Specifically, I include case studies of the LGBTQ Movement, the Anti-Rape Sub-Movement within the Feminist Movement, and the Economic Equality Movement. I find that the implications of the Societal Institution Hypothesis are born out in the movements’ histories and that the hypothesis makes predictions about where these movements might focus in the future.