Collective Action and Citizenship: Between the Social Democratic Order and Social Change

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Ruben DIEZ GARCIA, Spanish Federation of Socidology, Spain, University Carlos III & Complutense of Madrid, Spain
Academic literature on social movements has traditionally emphasized their agency capacity, as collective actors urging social transformations and changes. However, the outcomes of these processes are difficult to observe. In contemporary societies, these changes also take place in a context in which social movements tend to achieve limited and particular objectives and institutional reforms destined to expand systems of representation in the defense of collective interests and reinforce civil society; instead of radical changes in the social order.

An alternative (and complementary) view emphasizes that sociology of action shouldn’t conform as a different field of the sociology of social organization. From this point of view, citizen’s collective action takes place in the framework of civil societies, in which social movements’ organizations work as collective persuasion agencies inspiring and sustaining in time collective definitions on different public issues, guided to the generation of reforms on these issues, but also sometimes in resistance to them. Social movements, and organizations participating in public life, have the capacity to produce public controversies and debates that have an impact on citizenship collective definition and social institutions, both in symbolic and organizational terms, and in the selection of new political elites; playing an important role in democratization and cultural change.

An active, open and plural civil society is a pillar in shaping democratic life. Hence, citizen’s collective action and social movements are also linked to the democratic social order, given that they enable society’s adaptation and (always) complex cohesion. Approaching these dynamics offers a valuable perspective to understand social change since those encouraged by citizens’ collective action usually should be understood as the result of progressive processes of transformation from subsequent reforms. Likewise, this perspective allows approaching the counterbalances that civil society groups and organizations with different values and interests mean in plural and open societies.