A political movement is a social movement in the area of politics. A political movement may be organized around a single issue or set of issues, or around a set of shared concerns of a social group. In contrast with a political party, a political movement is not organized to elect members of the movement to government office; instead, a political movement aims to convince citizens and/or government officers to take action on the issues and concerns which are the focus of the movement.
Political movements are an expression of the struggle of a social group for the political space and benefits. The political movements are presented by non-state groups who are led by their élite. In fact the process of the construction of identities and reinforcing them is also a part of political movements.
A political movement may be local, regional, national, or international in scope. Some have aimed to change government policy, such as the anti-war movement, the Ecology movement, and the Anti-globalization movement. Many have aimed to establish or broaden the rights of subordinate groups, such as abolitionism, the women's suffrage movement, the Civil rights movement, feminism, men's rights movement, gay rights movement, the Disability rights movement, or the inclusive human rights movement. Some have represented class interests, such as the Labour movement, Socialism, and Communism, others have expressed national aspirations, such as anticolonialist movements, Ratana, Zionism, and Sinn Féin. Political movements can also involve struggles to decentralize or centralize state control, as in Anarchism, Fascism, and Nazism.
Some activists and scholars claim that along with globalization a new type of political movement emerges that is not merely international or single-issue focused, but is characterized with global approach. This has been termed a global citizens movement and debate continues over whether it has manifested or is still a latent potential.
Identification of supporters
A difficulty for scholarship of movements is that for most of them, neither insiders to a movement nor outsiders apply consistent labels or even descriptive phrases. Unless there is a single leader who does that, or a formal system of membership agreements, activists will typically use diverse labels and descriptive phrases that require scholars to discern when they are referring to the same or similar ideas, declare similar goals, adopt similar programs of action, and use similar methods. There can be great differences in the way that is done, to recognize who is and who is not a member or an allied group:
- Insiders: Often exaggerate the level of support by considering people supporters whose level of activity or support is weak, but also reject those that outsiders might consider supporters because they discredit the cause, or are even seen as adversaries.
- Outsiders: Those not supporters who may tend to either underestimate or overestimate the level or support or activity of elements of a movement, by including or excluding those that insiders would exclude or include.
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