Social Movement & Human Values

Social Movement & Human Values in the Internet Age

In our society today, we are gaining much more mobility due to the advances our civilizations have made in the 20th and 21st centuries. We “form conscious and unconscious social psychological orientations that represent more or less desirable available options” (Longest, et. al.) and these are often formed from one’s geographic location, language, and human variations such as gender or socioeconomic differences. It’s in these variations and technological advancements that we see a diversification in our global audience and how our cultures adapt to such changes. Let’s start from the basic human values and work our way to how this influences global movements.


Human Variations in Culture and their values

In human’s culture, we have several types of variations that make us different

  • Socioeconomic Status: a combination of wealth, status, and power (Longest, et. al.) that lead people to desire the feeling of being “at home” and push them to reproduce their class position.
    • There are 3 class-typical occupational conditions:
      1. Closeness of supervision
      2. Routinization of work
      3. Substantive complexity of work
    • Those with greater job autonomy: (desire to feel free in your work) value
      1. Intellectual flexibility
      2. Self-direction
        • These values are then transmitted to children from parenting styles.
        • After childhood, individuals “develop role identities, many of which are not explicitly tied to class or occupation” (Longest, et. al.).
  • Gender Values: these influence us by shaping our perceptions of our interests and by limiting our choices.
    • For example, women are generally limited to a different set of expectations than men, which then give them different goals, motivations, and ultimately behavior (Longest, et. al.).
    • Research found that “women will rank values associated with self-transcendence and openness to change higher than me, whereas men will prefer those associated with self-enhancement and conservation” (Longest, et. al.).


  • Religious Values: these institutions have long been thought to change people’s prioritization of ends.
    • Research found values of religious people centered around these 3 values
      1. Conformity
      2. Restraint
      3. Tradition
    • Less religious people are rated openness to change higher in their value system than religious people.


  • Age Cohort: Riley (1973) defines cohort influences as “those due to the specific historical context encountered by a group of people born at a certain time, whereas age effects stem from individual development across the life span”.
    • Generation X: more likely to put more value in achievement and stimulation than Baby Boomers
    • Younger generations put more value in importance of making money.
    • The Two Key Stages in Adult Statuses:
      1. Marriage
      2. Becoming a parent



How people act in times of mass social movement

Globalization is defined as “a deepening international integration that encompasses information exchange, world cultural and policy diffusion and the interdependence of trade and production, as well as how these relationships develop and unfold within nation-states” (Almedia & Chase-Dunn). People take all their values and consumption of media and combine these into action when situations become dire. These social movements have been happening since at least the Stone Age. We can research what makes people more likely to engage in social change by looking at their:

  • Ideological frameworks: framework that holds our ideals, principles, doctrines, myths, or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, or large group that explains how society would work, and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.
  • Organizational structures: defines how activities such as task allocation, coordination and supervision are directed toward the achievement of organizational aims.
  • Power relations on a global scale: Roles, behaviors, and attitudes for people and countries on Earth.

What scholars Almeida and Chase-Dunn find in their journal article is that we tend to act in change on a global scale of north and south (Global North vs. Global South). Their research states that movements in Latin America, Asia, and Africa were primarily triggered by world market expansion but were ultimately shaped by their local contexts. These social movements generally come from lower socioeconomic status individuals (Almedia & Chase-Dunn). Much of a hegemony’s (leadership by one country or group) power comes from their ability to manage resistance from the lower socioeconomic class.

                Countries that managed resistance:

  • Dutch – 17th century
  • British – 19th century
  • S.A. – 20th century

When a world revolution does happen, changes demanded by protestors are usually not realized until a later revolt occurs. The researchers state that interestingly enough “struggles that are only partially successful sometimes change the political discourses, introduce new ways of thinking and organizing on a world stage” (Almedia & Chase-Dunn).

“Social movements provide pathways towards institutional change that address global-level problems by pressuring states, economic elites, and international bodies to consider alternative modes of action” (Bair * Palpacuer 2012, Schurman & Munro 2010).


Social Movements in Today’s Age

The Global North on neo-liberalism issues such as struggles of labor, climate change, economic austerity, the financial crisis, immigrant rights, and fundamentalism. The Global South focuses more on free trade and privatization. The transition to neo-liberalism has affected both the Global North and South though in these topics:

  • Reductions in subsidized public goods such as
    • Health care
    • Education
    • Low-cost food
    • Fuel & Utility prices

Anti-neoliberal globalization campaigns have stemmed from these groups:

  • G8
  • WTO
  • World Economic Forum
  • IMF/ World Bank Meetings

World polity studies emphasize individuals, nation-states, and transnational organizations as the crucial normatively-constructed and empowered identities of actors in world society. Social movements are “more likely to mobilize when domestic collective actors have ties to world society in the form of INGOs, global scientific bodies, and intergovernmental organizations” (Almedia & Chase-Dunn).

Most consistent predictor for national-level rebellion against free-market reforms: resource infrastructures.


Evidence of why humans consume the same media from their own country despite the World Wide Web:

One of the interesting aspects of our world is that even though we are all connected by the world wide web (WWW) we still place value in national standings, and more specifically, our language and country of origin. Scholars Taneja and Webster argue that “both institutional and cultural structures will work in tandem to shape global cultural consumption”. They conclude that language and geography are much more important factors in what people consume online rather than their genre preferences. This is fascinating because as we grow more connected we see through Taneja and Webster’s visualization of the top 1000 websites that our nations are still very much secular in their consumption of media:

visualization of 1000 top websites on internet



Despite our urgency to believe that humans are evolving towards a more technologically advanced age, we are still the same people we have always been. We have many differences that separate us from our segments of gender or country and language. We generally speaking like to talk to and consume media from people who talk like we talk and come from where we are from. With local contexts of cultures and sub-cultures we see that some people are more open to change than others that want more conservative lifestyles. This can change based on whether we have food to eat and whether we feel our economic standing is safe. One can suggest that us humans ultimately just do what we want to do. However, if we can realize our tendencies we can start to buffer our global behaviors and work together towards a common goal. As always, continue to think differently.


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  1. Almeida, P., & Chase-Dunn, C. (2018). Globalization and Social Movements. Annual Review of Sociology, 44(1), 189-211.
  2. Longest, K., Hitlin, S., & Vaisey, S. (2013). Position and Disposition: The Contextual Development of Human Values. Social Forces, 91(4), 1499-1528.
  3. Taneja, H., & Webster, J. (2016). How Do Global Audiences Take Shape? The Role of Institutions and Culture in Patterns of Web Use. Journal of Communication, 66(1), 161-182.

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