UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

New social movements, Claus Offe, and environmental groups in British Columbia Benson, Donna


New Social Movement Theory characterizes post 1960's protest movements such as the peace, environment and women's movement as being distinctively different from older movements such as the workers movement. The salient differences are in the social bases from which the movements draw their participants,the types of issues which are addressed, and the methods used in their protest. New Social Movements are heralded as being the vanguard for social change by some and as a bourgeoise distraction from the "real" project of emancipation by others. The objective of this thesis is to examine the congruence of the environmental movement in British Columbia with this concept of New Social Movements. Using the theoretical formulations of Claus Offe as a base, the thesis examines the social makeup of environmental groups in British Columbia, reviews the types of issues on which they are working, and identifies the methods which they employ in their protests. The results indicate that, while the leadership may be drawn from a more highly educated and service oriented new middle class, the general membership represents a broad social base. The issues addressed by the movement are perceived as being for the "benefit of all" rather than for a specific social class, and the methods of protest employed are primarily of a "working for change within the systems" approach as opposed to overthrowing any established political system. The thesis concludes that, while there may be elements of radicalism within the movement, it is primarily characterized as reformist, with many small fragments working on specific issues, loosely networked, and dedicated to working with government and other sectors of the population to find solutions.

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