Collective Behavior and Social Movements
The term “collective behaviour” was first used by Franklin Henry Giddings in the year 1908, and it was used to denote any spontaneous or unplanned reaction as well as action recorded from a group of people. However, collective behaviours of animals are also studied when kept under certain controlled environments to learn more about the species. Sociologists usually use this term for any behaviour involving more than one person. It is done primarily, to explore mankind and put man under the microscope as a “social animal”.
We are taught, since our childhood, about social norms and values, and that we must always adhere to the rules of the society. It is seldom that we do not practice planned social behaviour, we mostly do what is expected of us. But there is another facet of our social lives which is not very well-structured or planned. This is the part of our social life where we behave rashly, spontaneously and without a clear picture in our minds. Sociologists term this dimension of our social lives “collective behaviour”. There is almost always a social order around us and not often do we step outside this prescribed sphere. Collective behaviour deals with recording the manifestation of this disorder.
Sociologists use this term for any group of people, two or more, which share some similar characteristics. They are quite episodic and irrational, people who engage in these activities would not generally do so under any normal circumstance. They are fairly short-lived and emotional, such episodes strike a chord among the people and they behave emotionally. They are very unstable and unstructured in the sense that they arise out of an impromptu situation. And, they are highly non-traditional, they do not adhere to the conventions of our society, therefore short-lived.
There are a few types of collective behaviour, namely, crowds, mobs, riots, mass hysteria, panic, craze, fad, fashion. It is the opinion of some psychologists that there are three fundamental emotions of human beings, joy, fear, and anger. Similarly, there are three corresponding types of crowds expressing these emotions, ‘craze’ which expresses joy, ‘panic’ which expresses fear, and ‘hostility’ which expresses anger. The crowd can be a casual crowd, like people in a shopping mall, or an organised crowd, as in the people at any function or social gathering. Every time a crowd turns violent, it is called a mob. They are inherently of a violent disposition, rising out of spontaneous, passionate upheavals. Riots are more planned than mobs, they take time to take shape and finally the outburst sets in.
Mass hysteria and panics and the most unprompted of all collective behaviours. They are a shared feeling of unrest over the same matter or subject. They take no time to set in, and are very short-lived. Fads and fashion are another important part of collective behaviour. They take a while to be in motion and die down eventually. It is the kind of behaviour coming from people who pursue things very passionately, so passionately that they start taking it up as a way of living. Ranging widely from food to clothing, jewellery, hair styles, and music. They are a very important facet of collective behaviour as they demonstrate instantly the concept of it. For example, in fashion, there can clearly be seen the demarcation from bell-bottoms to stretchable pencil-pants and finally to faded-ripped jeans. People follow these fashions to feel a sense of belonging, and trendy.
Studies of collective behavior are very significant to truly understand mankind and to some extent, ourselves. They arise each time there is a mutual sense of belonging or unrest to a particular situation. They take place each time the social norms and values stand unclear, and the mass has nothing to abide by.
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