Analyzing cause in social movements : synthesizing, structuring and focusing social movement theory using Aristotle’s four causes with a final cause heuristic
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Social Movement Theory is a compilation of theories and methods from myriad fields of study. Because social movement theory borrows from so many disciplines, making sense of social movements is driven more by epistemological bias than by a deep understanding of what social movements do for society. I use Aristotle’s “four causes” to give methodological structure to social movement theory, and I use “final cause” as a heuristic to focus and deepen social movement causal analysis. This thesis is dedicated to resolving social movement theory methodologically, but I accomplish several antecedent tasks. First, I engage Aristotelian causation and his ‘final cause’ so structure and focus social movement theory, demarcating different types of teleological cause. Second, I posit three Natural Teleological drivers of community, justice and power that are integral in making social movements emerge when societies find an imbalance in these three social forces. Lastly, I propose a social movement causation model synthesizes social movement and related research across five causation levels: Natural phenomena, institutional constraining and enabling structures, lifeworld causation and meaning interpretations and understandings, agent-initiated and often goal directed actions, and resultant observable events. Following my exploration of the Egyptian and Syrian ‘Arab Spring’ movements, I find that nonviolent social movements emerge for the sake of sociopolitical reform and evolution and violent social movements are for the sake of destroying something that is offensive and seems unalterable to society so that the people can rebuild that aspect of society anew.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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