1) Clarify The Ways That Sports Can Be
a potential vehicle for social change rather than just a game.
his initial integration of baseball, he
Indians in 1975, 3 years after
THINK IT THROUGH
nearly refused to participate in a
commemorative event because of his
Sports has been a driver of social
What makes sports a potential
disappointment in the fact that Major
change in the United States and across
vehicle for social change rather than
League Baseball had yet to appoint a
the globe. The progress it has wrought
quot;just a gamequot;? Can you think of other
Black team manager. The first Black
is, as Robinson saw, incomplete and
instances in which sports or particular
manager of a Major League Baseball
imperfect but nonetheless of great
athletes have had a powerful social
team was hired by the Cleveland
. . . . .
theories, which combine elements of personal, organizational,
Collective behavior is voluntary, goal-oriented action that
and social conditions in order to explain collective behavior.
occurs in relatively disorganized situations in which society’s
predominant social norms and values cease to govern indi-
CONTAGION THEORIES Contagion theories assume that
vidual behavior (Oberschall, 1973; Turner amp; Killian, 1987).
human beings can revert to herdlike behavior when they come
Although collective behavior is usually associated with disor-
together in large crowds. Herbert Blumer (1951), drawing on
ganized aggregates of people, it may also occur in highly regi-
symbolic interactionism, emphasized the role of raw imita-
mented social contexts when order and discipline break down.
tion, which leads people in crowds to quot;mill aboutquot; much like
Beginning with the writings of the 19th-century French
a group of animals, stimulating and goading one another into
sociologist Gustave Le Bon (1896/1960), the sociological study
movement actions, whether peaceful or violent. Individual acts,
of collective behavior has been particularly concerned with the
therefore, become contagious; they are unconsciously copied
behavior of people in crowds-that is, temporary gatherings
until they eventually explode into collective action. A skilled
of closely interacting people with a common focus. People in
leader can effectively manipulate such behavior, quot;working the
crowds were traditionally seen as prone to being swept up in
crowdquot; until it reaches a fever pitch.
group emotions, losing their ability to make rational decisions
Sociologists have used the contagion theory perspective to
as individuals. The quot;group mindquot; of the crowd has long been
study the panic flights of crowds, quot;epidemicsquot; of bizarre collect
viewed as an irrational and dangerous aspect of modern soci-
tive behaviors such as uncontrollable dancing or fainting, and
eties, with crowds believed to consist of rootless, isolated indi-
reports of satanic child abuse. In 1983, a local quot;panicquot; erupted in
viduals prone to herdlike behavior (Arendt, 1951; Fromm, 1941;
a small California city after a parent of a preschool child accused
Gaskell amp; Smith, 1981; Kornhauser, 1959).
teachers at her child’s school of raping and sodomizing doz-
More recently, however, it has become clear that there can
ens of students. The trial in the case stretched on for years, but
be a fair degree of social organization in crowds. For example,
no wrongdoing was ever proven and no defendant convicted.
the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011-2012 and the Arab
Accusations in the case, which drew on allegations from chil-
Spring revolutions, which began in late 2010, although repre-
dren and parents, included stories about teachers chopping up
senting spontaneous beginnings, quickly developed a degree
animals at the school, clubbing to death a horse, and sacrificing
of predictability and organization, and in turn became social
a baby. Public accounts of the trial unleashed a national panic
movements. It is important to note that crowds alone do not
about abuse and satanism in child-care facilities, though there
constitute social movements, but they are a critical ingredient
was no serious documentation of such activities (Haberman,
in most cases. In a social media age, however, sociologists may
2014). Some sociologists believe that a few well-publicized cases
need to rethink the very notion of quot;spontaneity,quot; as collective
of deviant behavior-including wild accusations like those
action today is often rooted in activist social media that contrib
described above-can trigger imitative behavior until a virtual
utes to informing and organizing collective behavior.
quot;epidemicquot; emerges that then feeds on itself (Goode, 2009).
Sociologists seek to explain the conditions that may lead a
group of people to engage in collective behavior, whether vio-
lent or peaceful. Below we examine three principal sociological
. . . . . . . ..
approaches: contagion theories, which emphasize nonsocial fac-
Collective behavior: Voluntary, goal-oriented action that occurs
tors such as instincts; emergent norm theories, which seek out
in relatively disorganized situations in which society’s predominant
social norms and values cease to govern individual behavior.
some kind of underlying social organization that leads a group
to generate norms governing collective action; and value-added
Crowds: Temporary gatherings of closely interacting people with a
Chapter 18: Social Movements and Social ChangeSociology