Why are social movements influential for society?

 by Mayu Uehara

Social movements have been worked to change the structure and environment of society. The famous one is the American Civil Rights Movement in1950s to 1960s and ‘ I have a dream’ speech which Martin Luther King spoke have been passed its story down from generation to generation. Social movements are occurred many times in Japan as well; such as demo for stop working nuclear power plant, problem of U.S military staying in Okinawa and so on. A little while ago, huge demo, which were occurred in China and provided economical impacts to Japan, were also huge social movement. From these social movements, I found there are two features of it and they are about activists and situation. These features make social movements having huge power to change society.

First, activists are not wealthy but socially weak. They often don’t have much power to against social structure. For example, demo in China were incredibly intense and violent and most of them were younger who work at factories with low payment. From my point of view, the reason why they exploded their emotion that much were because they haven’t had enough chances to speak out their complaint and also they have lived under stresses. As other example, the activists of the American Civil Rights Movements were mostly black people who had discriminated by society itself. We can observe that people who try to change structures of society are mostly in powerless position.

Secondly, I think that social movements seldom occur suddenly but they are occurred when people’s stress reached the top and they think they can’t stand any more. We can see this from the social movements in Fukushima. When nuclear power plants were working peacefully, there were not any complaints in Fukushima from its citizens. After they exploded and people who lived close to it were prohibited, they showed anger to government and leaders of corporate. At that point, they were not social movement there. Fukushima citizens got together for social movements when government tried to use nuclear power plant again. They claimed, ‘ We can’t stand being quiet any more. We can’t just look on government’s movement without doing anything.’ Their efforts influence political policy and now most of Japanese party state about finish depending on nuclear power plant in the future. I think this is because government truly felt their angers and also pressure from society.

Above all, for rich people, they can have choices to avoid unpleasant situation by using money, but in contrary, the weak people have to remain under the situation without any choices, therefore, they tend to live under stress and hardly with satisfaction. The more local people have stresses, the more social movements are bigger. Also, many times they are certain leads which stimulate them to explode their complaints. Social movement’s features are these two which I mentioned and that’s why they have great impacts to reshape political policy.


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