Special Thematic Section on "Societal Change"

“I Have a Dream”: A Typology of Social Change Goals

Joseph Sweetman*a, Colin Wayne Leachb, Russell Spearsc, Felicia Prattob, Rim Saabd

Abstract

To date, there is little in the way of theorizing or empirical work on the imagined endpoint of political action aimed at social change – the type of “dream” those engaged in action are attempting to bring into fruition. We suggest that previous approaches have focused narrowly on one type of social change – amelioration of collective grievances. In contrast, we argue that social change is much richer and imaginative than this narrow focus suggests. In the present article we draw on key constructs in social psychology (e.g., goals, efficacy, legitimacy, identity, social system, and social value) in order to develop a typology of social change goals. In doing so, we explain why people might support one type of social change (e.g., revolution) versus others (e.g., separatism or amelioration). The typology is used to discuss future directions for research and to highlight the implications for psychological (and broader) approaches to social change.

Keywords: social change, goals, collective action, efficacy, legitimacy, identity, system

Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 2013, Vol. 1(1), doi:10.5964/jspp.v1i1.85

Received: 2013-05-10. Accepted: 2013-08-27. Published (VoR): 2013-12-16.

Handling Editor: Andrew Livingstone, University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom

*Corresponding author at: Psychology, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Washington Singer Building, Perry Road, Exeter EX4 4QG, United Kingdom. E-mail: j.p.sweetman@exeter.ac.uk

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal…" I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. (Martin Luther King, Jr. March on Washington, 1963, as cited in Carson & Shepard, 2001, p. 85)

Social action must be animated by a vision of a future society, and by explicit judgements of value concerning the character of this future society... We have, perhaps, reached a point in history when it is possible to think seriously about a society in which freely constituted social bonds replace the fetters of autocratic institutions… (Noam Chomsky, 1970. For Reasons of State, p. 403)

Now that I look back with hindsight, my writing and the kind of politics to which I’ve been drawn have more to do with imagining a different future than being pissed off about the present. Not that I haven’t been angry, frustrated, and critical of the misery created by race, gender, and class oppression – past and present. That goes without saying. My point is that the dream of a new world, my mother’s dream, was the catalyst for my own political engagement. (Robin D. G. Kelley, 2002. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, p. 3)

A decade into the new century we have already witnessed surprising social change in the Arab Spring and throughout Latin America. Such changes, and others (e.g., the U.S. civil rights movement, anti-colonialism, and the Russian revolution), vary in the degree and means of social change, however, they all involved serious alterations to existing systems of intergroup relations. As such, intergroup relations theories should be able to elucidate some of the underlying social-psychological factors that guided these collective political actions. Indeed, some theories of intergroup relations were developed, in part, to account for the psychology of such change (e.g., Tajfel & Turner, 1979), and social psychologists have made some progress in accounting for the factors that engender political action for social change (for a review, see van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2008). The key point we make here is that the social psychology of social change has focused on support for change in general, rather than for specific types of social change. However, history shows us that political action itself can be aimed at a broad range of disparate goals – from reform to revolution. Recognition of this fact raises questions about the adequacy of our social-psychological theories to account for actions aimed at different types of social change. Are actions aimed at policy changes underpinned by fundamentally the same psychology as those aimed at radical replacement of a social system (e.g., revolution)? To date there is little in the way of psychological theorizing or empirical work on the endpoint of political action. Thus, we know little about the dreams and visions that form the specific goals of political action.

The opening quotes suggest the importance of such dreams in inspiring social change attempts. However, it is not clear whether there is a systematic relation between any social-psychological processes and what types of vision people endorse for a future society. In the present paper, we draw on previous theory and research on intergroup relations, collective political action, motivational science, and social theory in order to develop a typology of social change goals. More specifically, we develop the concepts of legitimacy, efficacy, and identity (three leading perspectives on political action, see van Zomeren et al., 2008) in order to offer an account of the psychological basis of support for particular types of social change. Our approach can be distinguished from the previous literature in four important ways. First, we offer a detailed conceptualization of social change in intergroup relations, one that allows us to reflect the rich diversity of dreams or visions for a possible future. Second, we distinguish between goals and other motivational constructs in order to provide some conceptual clarity to the psychological basis of such dreams. Third, we propose seven different types of social change goals and specify their psychological basis. Finally, we discuss the implications for psychological, and broader, approaches to social change.

Conceptualizing Social Change [TOP]

Good science starts with clear conceptualization and construct definition (Machado & Silva, 2007). However, like many social science concepts social change is hard to define. While social change can essentially include any cultural, technological, economic, political, kinship, or other change in the “social system” (Parsons, 1951), ranging from changes in fashion trends to a replacement of economic, political and other societal institutions and systems, social-psychological approaches have employed a narrower scope. Specifically, social psychology has tended to focus on changes in intergroup relations. Accordingly, social change has been studied as war (Haslam, Turner, Oakes, McGarty, & Hayes, 1992), overturning incidental group disadvantage (van Zomeren, Spears, Fischer, & Leach, 2004), or the redistribution of resources (Wakslak, Jost, Tyler, & Chen, 2007). Perhaps the most popular (implicit or explicit) conceptualization of social change refers to redressing inequality in intergroup relations (Dovidio, Gaertner, & Saguy, 2009; Thomas, McGarty, & Mavor, 2009; Wright & Lubensky, 2008). Obviously, this conceptualization has normative (in the philosophic sense) assumptions – social change is about reducing inequality, not increasing it. However, we suggest that periods where groups suffer setbacks in recently won rights and freedoms, for example African Americans under Jim Crow laws and disfranchisement after the Reconstruction era, also represent a form of social change in intergroup relations. While such intergroup relations are rightfully seen as forms of discrimination and intergroup conflict, hatred, or oppression, they are also examples of social change. The notion that such setbacks for subordinate groups count as social change follows directly from our definition of social change.

To be clear, we define social change as a change in the absolute or relative social value possessed by a group within a social system. Social value refers to the symbolic and material things for which people strive (positive social value) or attempt to avoid (negative social value; for details of social value in intergroup relations, see Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). On the one hand, social change could involve an increase in positive and/or a decrease in negative social value attached to those in subordinate groups – what is called “progressive” social change (e.g., changes brought about by the US civil rights movement). On the other hand, change could involve an increase in positive and/or a decrease in negative social value attached to those in dominant groups; that is, “regressive” social change (e.g., Jim Crow and disfranchisement). It is important to note that the approach outlined here focuses on progressive social change, although we will return to the implications of our view of social change later in our treatment of “regressive revolution” and in the discussion of the applicability of our typology to dominant groups.

While an effort to define and conceptualize social change could fill the rest of this article, we will compare it to two recent notions of social change in the literature in order to make some key distinctions clear. First, Kessler and Harth (2009) define social change as “the change in the relative position of individuals and groups within a common society” (p. 244). The important distinction between this treatment of social change and our own is in its exclusive emphasis on the relative position of a group. Although it is often the relative position of groups on a dimension of social value that is psychologically important (e.g., Tajfel & Turner, 1979), absolute amounts of social value are also important to understanding social change. To make this clear, take case (a) where on average members of group X earn $100 a month as opposed to $1,000 for their counterparts in group Y. This can be compared to case (b) where group X earns $1,000 a month while group Y earns $10,000. While the relative difference in income (ten times poorer/richer) across the cases remains the same, what this means in absolute terms for the lives of members of group X (e.g., probable malnutrition/starvation in case A, if we assume no intervention) and Y is physically, socially, and psychologically significant. Put simply, an adequate definition of social change must be able to distinguish case A from B, and this is not possible with an exclusive reliance on a relative conceptualization of social change. Therefore, our definition includes both absolute and relative differences in social value (for the importance of both absolute and relative approaches to poverty, see Lister, 2004; for power, see Pratto, Lee, Tan, & Pitpitan, 2011).

Second, Louis (2009) defines social change as “both formal policy change to benefit a group, and informal changes in their social value, status or power” (p. 727). Our treatment shares some important properties with this definition. Changes in social value are found in both definitions, although our notion of social value includes both positive (things people strive for – e.g., power and status) and negative (things they try to avoid – e.g., humiliation and starvation) social value (Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). However, the most important distinction is in the types of social change that are (implicitly) precluded. For example, it is not clear how social change such as revolution would be encompassed by Louis’ definition. The replacement of a political and/or economic system would seem to be a case of formal social change, but not one that is reducible to policy change. To describe the Russian revolution as a change in policy seems to downplay the role of societal systems, and the institutions that make them up, in intergroup relations (Merton, 1957; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999). Indeed, if we assume that it is these societal systems (e.g., economic, political, kinship and cultural) that create and maintain intergroup inequality (Albert et al., 1986), it seems problematic to exclude such systems from our conceptualization of social change. However, Louis’ definition leaves policy change benefiting a group as the only means of formal social change, with all other forms being informal.

By defining social change as a relative or absolute change in a group’s social value (which in our use includes status, power, and everything else people might strive for, or attempt to avoid in the case of negative social value) we are able to give a simple, but more inclusive, treatment of social change in intergroup relations. Our treatment reflects the different types of historic social change, the importance of societal systems (and their institutions), and the potential range of possible dreams and visions for a future society.

Social Change Goals and Other Motivational Constructs [TOP]

Now that we have conceptualized social change, we turn to the key question of how social change is represented psychologically. In other words, how do disadvantaged group members think about relative or absolute changes in a group’s social value? The social psychologist’s conceptual toolkit is packed (perhaps to bursting point) with different concepts (e.g., motives, attitudes, appraisals, values, ideology, identity, goals, etc.) that might help us to tackle this question. Below we examine various motivational accounts of intergroup relations and argue that the goal construct (Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007; Gollwitzer & Moskowitz, 1996; Moskowitz & Grant, 2009) offers us the best conceptualization of the way in which high-order endpoints of political action are represented psychologically.

We start with the observation that intergroup relations are characterized by motivation (for reviews, see Hogg & Abrams, 1993; Otten, Sassenberg, & Kessler, 2009), and as such one can see social change as being engendered by a range of different motives. For instance, social identity theory (SIT: Tajfel & Turner, 1979) proposes that a motive for a positive social identity should, under the right circumstances, engender action for social change. More specifically, group members who consider their group’s position as illegitimate and/or unstable (changeable), and are unable to improve their conditions by moving into a group with relatively greater social value (status), will engage in social change efforts (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). In addition, system justification theory (SJT: Jost & Banaji, 1994) suggests that system justification motives should hamper support for social change, particularly among subordinate group members who, through dissonance processes, are more likely to support the status quo (Jost, Banaji, & Nosek, 2004; but see Brandt, 2013, for details of how this aspect of SJT has been challenged empirically). In addition, social dominance theory (SDT: Sidanius & Pratto, 1999) would imply that ideological values (e.g., social dominance orientation: SDO) and general needs for social value should act as motives for, or against, social change. There is evidence to suggest that this role of SDO is more pronounced in dominants than in subordinates (for a review of this “ideological asymmetry”, see Pratto, Sidanius, & Levin, 2006).

Recent work on group-based self-regulation has attempted to show how group members pursue group motives (for a review, see Sassenberg & Woltin, 2009a). This work has shown that many motivational processes that apply to the individual self (e.g., Higgins, 1987) also apply to the collective self (Sassenberg & Woltin, 2009a). While this work certainly advances our understanding of motivation in intergroup relations, such group-based regulation accounts and the broader intergroup perspectives mentioned above do not distinguish group-based motives from group-based goals. In seeking to clarify such motivational constructs, Elliot and Niesta (2009) define a goal as “a cognitive representation of a future object that an organism is committed to approach or avoid” (p. 58), whereas a motive is a “dispositional tendency to desire or be fearful of a particular type of positive or negative experience in a particular life domain” (p. 61). As such, motives represent relatively stable dispositions, whereas goals are relatively flexible situation-specific aims (Elliot & Niesta, 2009).

Based on this theorizing, we expect any of the group-based motives mentioned above (and others besides) to play a consistent role in social change. However, we argue that the type of social change that group members desire should show more flexible situation-specific properties. That is, we conceptualize dreams and visions of the future of intergroup relations as high-order end states reflecting desired changes in a group’s social value: what we call social change goals. In some respects our conceptualization is not without precedent. The SIT notion of “cognitive alternatives” also goes beyond motives by implying the importance of whether other outcomes (of social comparison) are imaginable in the future. Appraisals of the stability and/or legitimacy of the social comparison (secure vs. insecure) have been theorized as the crucial factors determining whether cognitive alternatives are conceivable (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Similarly, referent cognitions theory (RCT: Folger, 1986, 1987) suggests that the more a person can imagine a superior or “higher referent outcome” the greater the level of relative deprivation. In other words, if you can imagine your group as having more positive (or less negative) social value than it does presently, you are more likely to feel resentment. However, this depends on whether you perceive the means or “instrumentalities” of allocating that outcome (i.e., system) as justified. RCT proposes that it is under conditions of high referent outcome and low justification that the greatest levels of resentment and relative deprivation are felt (Folger, 1986, 1987).

Given these similarities, one might wonder why we have not titled the article a “typology of cognitive alternatives” or a “typology of referent outcomes.” We have decided to conceptualize the dreams and visions of future intergroup relations as social change goals for two key reasons. First, unlike cognitive alternatives, it seems that many visions of social change are not exclusively about relative improvements in social value – reflecting the same problems regarding relative and absolute social value that we encountered earlier on in our conceptualization of social change. To illustrate further, a community group may organize in order to get a series of traffic control measures implemented in their neighborhood. It is not obvious that this goal has to be about some gain relative to another. Indeed, campaigning to make your children relatively more safe than children from a nearby neighborhood seems like a morally questionable goal.

Although social change goals may be relative, the above example highlights that they need not be. This is not to deny that social comparison is, as SIT posits, central in efforts for social change. Rather, we simply suggest that some social change goals are not about relative gain. Second, although dreams and visions always include changes in social value, they are, unlike cognitive alternatives and referent outcomes, not only outcomes-focused. Rather, it is the means, institutions, or systems that manifest those outcomes that also make up the content of dreams and visions for the future. In RCT terms this means that our notion of social change goals can include both referent “instrumentalities” (i.e., institutions and systems) and outcomes. In sum, the adoption of social change goals enables us to avoid purely relative conceptualizations of the end states of political action (as in the manner of cognitive alternatives), and to incorporate both improvements in social value and differences in the means and institutions (i.e., systems) that manifest those improvements. Because of these reasons, we argue that the adoption of the goal construct better reflects the dreams and visions of those who have struggled for social change (Kelley, 2002). Moreover, the adoption of the goal construct ties our theorizing to a substantial and productive body of psychological literature on the goal construct (see Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007); we return to the significance of these links later in our discussion of the implications of and future directions stemming from our approach.

A Typology of Social Change Goals [TOP]

Now that we have established our definition of social change and how it may be represented psychologically, we turn to the task of identifying different types of social change goals, and whether there are factors that help distinguish between them. We put forward a typology that distinguishes high-order social change goals along three dimensions: system perception, social value efficacy, and desired inclusiveness. These are combined in the typology depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Typology of social change goals.

As can be seen, we propose that these dimensions guide psychological endorsement of seven different social change goals: Collective mobility, Amelioration, Social justice, Creativity, Separatism, Regressive revolution, and Progressive revolution. Before we go on to delineate the dimensions and social change goals that make up our typology, we would like to acknowledge our debt to Merton’s (1957) work on social structure and anomie. Although Merton was concerned with explaining the structural sources of “deviant” individual behaviour, we have drawn on aspects of his work and there are interesting parallels between the two approaches. In addition, the development of the three dimensions that order our typology builds upon work that has attempted to integrate legitimacy, efficacy, and identity perspectives (van Zomeren et al., 2008).

System Perception [TOP]

Social change is implicitly understood to concern a social system. Although the concept of system appears in intergroup relations theorizing (e.g., Jost & Banaji, 1994; Tajfel & Turner, 1979) it is, like social change, rarely defined. Here we refer to a system as a plurality of individuals and groups interacting in some social sphere that has a set of institutions and procedures regulating it. In this sense we may speak of the economic, political, kinship, and cultural systems each made up of concrete (corporations, government, marriage, organized religion) and more abstract (economic, political, family, and ethic/religious norms and values) institutions and relations (Albert et al., 1986; Merton, 1957; Parsons, 1951). Our typology suggests that perceptions of the social system as legitimate or illegitimate, and perceiving that alternative systems are possible, are likely to influence which social change goal is endorsed.

The perceived legitimacy of the system relates closely to notions of “procedural fairness” (Lind & Tyler, 1988) or legitimate instrumentalities or means in which social value is obtained (Folger, 1987). This is similar to SIT’s notion of legitimacy where group members consider how legitimate their position in the status hierarchy is. However, the SIT notion of legitimacy may entail both procedural and distributive (outcome-based) fairness, which are worth distinguishing. For instance, work on perceptions of (market-based) capitalist economic systems has shown how Americans can accept individual and group-based inequities (i.e., outcomes) because they find the use of markets to make economic allocations a legitimate procedure (institution) for determining who receives what in society (Tyler, 2006). Therefore, a group may find its position at the bottom of the social hierarchy unfair but may still perceive the means by which it got there as legitimate (see also Folger, 1987). We suggest that it is the perceived legitimacy of the system (rather than the outcomes manifested by the system) that is likely to distinguish the type of social change goal that group members endorse.

When group members perceive the system as legitimate they are likely to pursue social change goals that emphasize only the ingroup’s responsibility in determining the status quo, as opposed to blaming unfair procedures extrinsic to the ingroup, or the actions of outgroups. Here, social change is seen as dependent on the group’s collective efforts within the current system. However, when the system is seen as illegitimate, group members may challenge the application of institutional power and its rules. They may petition authority or outgroups to live up to common rules, norms, and values or demand the addition of new rules, procedures, and institutions to increase the group’s potential for social value (Simon & Klandermans, 2001).

Our conceptualization of the system is important when considering the perception of an alternative system – something necessary in our treatment of revolution as a social change goal. Our definition requires that alternative institutions or means (of acquiring social value) be imagined (Merton, 1957), as opposed to a focus on only alternative outcomes (Reicher & Haslam, 2006; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). When an alternative system is imagined, group members are likely to endorse social change goals that involve implementing a fundamentally new set of institutions and rules (i.e., a new system). One might conceive calling for new rules (e.g., anti-discrimination legislation) as similar to implementing an alternative system. How fundamentally different changes in institutions have to be in order to constitute an alternative system, as opposed to a reformed system, is difficult to pinpoint (Pettee, 1938); the difference between reform and revolution is, in practice, not always clear-cut. Indeed, real-life social change is not as discrete as our typology might suggest. However, our aim here is to account for the psychological endorsement of different social change goals, not to explain how processes of objective social change occur – a much more ambitious task.

Social Value Efficacy [TOP]

A second important determinant of the social change goal endorsed by group members is the degree to which they believe that the group’s social value can be improved by collective efforts within the current social system. This notion of perceived collective or group efficacy is arguably the primary instrumental explanation of collective political action, the idea being that people will tend to engage more in action when they perceive that action as likely to bring about change (Klandermans, 1997; van Zomeren et al., 2004, 2008). What is important to note in our treatment of efficacy is that it refers to the perceived capacity for achieving social value within the current system. This parallels Merton’s notion of an individual’s ability to reach “cultural goals” (i.e., things worth striving for) by means of the existing “institutional norms” (i.e., permissible procedures for pursuing these goals). From our perspective, group members may either feel that they are able to increase their social value through collective efforts within the current social system – high social value efficacy – or they may perceive that such efforts will not, or are unlikely to, work – low social value efficacy. As such, this dimension usefully distinguishes those social change goals that involve better enactment of the system (see the top row in Figure 1) and those that involve change to that which is of social value itself or the procedures (i.e., system) through which social value is actualized (see bottom row in Figure 1).

Inclusiveness [TOP]

The third dimension along which social change goals can be defined is the desired inclusiveness of social change. This determines whose needs, desires, and well-being count as well as whose do not. Put simply, inclusiveness reflects the intended beneficiary of the social change. That is, it answers the question of whose (i.e., which group’s) social value is to be increased. In this way, inclusiveness specifies a social identity or “scope of justice” (Opotow, 2001). In most of our cases social change is aimed at improving the social value of some objectively subordinate group. Here the scope of social change is restricted or what we term exclusive. This is the case with five out of seven of our social change goals. However, the scope of social change can be more inclusive, that is, aimed at improving the situation of all or most groups within the social system. Although inclusiveness has a moral aspect to it, it can also be strategic or instrumental. With limited resources or other contextual factors it may be the case that social change, in the first instance, needs to be exclusive (Opotow, 2001). However, strategic considerations (e.g., who you need to mobilise to affect social change) may mean that inclusiveness is increased. Here, more inclusive social categorizations (Subasic, Reynolds, & Turner, 2008; Turner, Oakes, Haslam, & McGarty, 1994) will be utilized in order to influence the way people appraise the status quo and their interests. This inclusiveness in terms of salient social identities is a central part of action for social change and reflects the dynamic nature of social identity processes (Reicher, 2004; Turner, 2005). This process of defining who constitutes the “we” is of course at the same time exclusive; we simply use the distinction to describe the inclusiveness of social change relative to a common societal ingroup (e.g., American identity).

In sum, our typology answers three basic questions facing disadvantaged group members: the what, how, and who of social change. Firstly, what can be done to increase social value in the present system? Here the answer is either something (high social value efficacy) or nothing (low social value efficacy). Secondly, how is social value to be distributed, and how should it be distributed? Our answer is that it is either distributed fairly (legitimate system perception) or unfairly (illegitimate system perception), and that it should in the latter case be distributed differently (alternative system perception). Finally, who is the intended beneficiary of social change? Here the answer could range from a relatively narrowly-defined definition of ‘us’ (exclusive) to a broader definition of ‘us’ (inclusive). Below, we describe each of the social change goals according to our typology, using quotes from social change agents and leaders to help illustrate each goal. One issue worth noting is that we do not think of our typology as being static. Rather, in keeping with the properties of goals (Elliot & Niesta, 2009), group members may change their goals over time as appraisals of circumstances change. This is also exemplified, where possible, in our choice of quotes.

Collective Mobility [TOP]

Through group unity determination and creative endeavor, they have gained it… This is exactly what we must do… We must use every constructive means to amass economic and political power... Through the pooling of such resources and the development of habits of thrift and techniques of wise investment, the Negro will be doing his share to grapple with his problem of economic deprivation. If Black Power means the development of this kind of strength within the Negro community, then it is a quest for basic, necessary, legitimate power. (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community, pp. 30-38)

Collective mobility refers to a picture of the future in which groups are able to advance through ingroup cooperation, hard work and participation within the current system. As such, it is characterized by perceiving the system as legitimate, although this does not necessarily involve any endorsement of the group’s current position in the social hierarchy. Collective mobility in some way resembles group meritocracy whereby group members perceive the efficacy or opportunity to progress as a group in the current system (Derks, Van Laar, & Ellemers, 2009). This is similar to, although distinct from, SIT’s notion of individual mobility (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Collective mobility is a social change goal for the group as a whole as opposed to individual mobility, which is based on exit from the group (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). As the quote above from Martin Luther King suggests, collective mobility is often associated with the belief that outgroups can increase their social value through skill, cooperation, and hard work. As in the case of “Black economics,” group members may compete (with outgroups) within the social system to try to advance their group’s position (Karenga, 1993). This type of imagined social change is characterized by a lack of an alternative system: the goal in the Black economics context would be an increase in Black capitalism and a Black middle class as opposed to the implementation of some alternative economic system.

As implied in the term “Black economics,” collective mobility as a social change goal is relatively exclusive in relation to the society as a whole. That is, it is aimed at the advancement of a particular subgroup as opposed to other subgroups (e.g., poor and working class Whites) or the wider common ingroup. This competitive sense of collective mobility develops the notion of “social competition” (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) – directly competing with an outgroup in order to gain a positive social identity. Whereas social identity theory suggests social competition should occur when outcomes of social comparison (status) are seem as illegitimate and/or unstable. We suggest collective mobility is based on the assumption that the institutional means of competition (system) are legitimate (Merton, 1957). We suggest that group mobility helps to account for the fact that members of low-status groups do not necessarily devalue domains on which they compare badly (Schmader, Major, Eccleston, & McCoy, 2001). Rather, perceiving the means of acquiring social value as legitimate and the group’s ability to increase their social value can lead to the emulation of other successful groups through ingroup cooperation (Derks et al., 2009; Sweetman, Spears, Livingstone, & Manstead, 2013).

Collective mobility makes clear the possibility that social competition can occur when there is no systematic disadvantage to those in subordinate groups. This is broadly consistent with SIT which suggests that perceived illegitimacy and/or instability can lead to social competition, although this is seen as most likely when circumstances are viewed as both illegitimate and unstable (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). However, what we suggest here is that social competition within a legitimate system is different from that within an illegitimate system. Within a legitimate system group members are focused on the goal of “group/self-improvement,” whereas within an illegitimate system group members may be more focused on the goal of changing the system and institutions that disadvantage them (Simon & Klandermans, 2001).

It could be argued that group mobility is unlikely to result in social change and as such is of less theoretical interest to those interested in social equality. Indeed, when we consider intergroup relations in terms of a dominant and a subordinate group it is obvious that power differences will make it unlikely that any subordinate group will out-compete the dominant group, at least by collective mobility. However, when we consider a multi-group setting of say five different groups, it seems likely that 5th position could rise, at least, to 4th place in the social hierarchy through collective mobility. This does not hold for all types of hierarchy, but seems likely to have played some significant role in explaining historic changes in different groups’ relative position in the social hierarchy. For example, Asian, Jewish, Irish, and Italian Americans have seen great fluctuation in their relative social positions in the United States. Indeed, Martin Luther King’s remarks suggest that collective mobility might account for some of this historic changeii. In sum, we argue that collective mobility is a distinct social change goal that helps to extend and add conceptual clarity to social change and the SIT notion of social competition.

Amelioration [TOP]

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note... This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned... We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check. (Martin Luther King, Jr. March on Washington, 1963, as cited in Carson & Shepard, 2001, p. 82)

Unlike collective mobility, amelioration is characterized by the perception of the system as illegitimate and in need of repair or reform. Amelioration refers to the goal of enabling a subordinate group to participate on equal terms with dominant groups. As such, amelioration is another case of social competition in the SIT sense, one that is linked to a desire to address the inequalities and injustices suffered by the subordinate group. Should amelioration be achieved, one might expect collective mobility to be the subsequent social change goal. It should be noted that the perceived illegitimacy of the system refers specifically to its failure to provide all groups with an equal opportunity to progress, as opposed to anything inherently wrong with the system. For example, one might perceive capitalism as a legitimate form of economic organization but still see its present instantiation as illegitimate.

As with collective mobility, the scope of category inclusion associated with amelioration tends to be relatively exclusive. In other words, amelioration is aimed at getting procedural justice (Lind & Tyler, 1988), and possible reparations, for the subordinate group, as opposed to wider groups. This characterization of amelioration is illustrated in Martin Luther King’s quote at the beginning of this section. Here, “people of color” (exclusive) were simply not being allowed to “cash their check” (illegitimate system) although there were “sufficient funds” (ability to attain social value within a properly working system). Therefore, amelioration is typically associated with the perception that group members can improve their social value by collective efforts within the current system once that system is operating properly (i.e., providing equal opportunities for the disadvantaged group).

Perceptions of the system as illegitimate, a focus on a particular disadvantaged group, and the belief that one’s group can gain social value within the current system – if it were functioning properly – is probably at the heart of much social-psychological research on collective action and social change. Indeed, amelioration has been the de facto type of social change with which collective action researchers have concerned themselves. Typically, researchers aim to test models of political actions that are implicitly, or sometimes explicitly, aimed at appealing to or pressuring existing authorities or a more powerful outgroup to ameliorate the situation of a disadvantaged group (Klandermans, 2003; Stürmer & Simon, 2004; van Stekelenburg & Klandermans, 2010; van Zomeren et al., 2008). In contrast, the psychological predictors of actions that are aimed at some of the other social change goals that we detail (e.g., leaving or replacing systems) are not examined; rather, only the causes of action aimed at improving or correcting the way the system functions are investigated.

The prevalence of this type of social change goal in the collective political action and social change literature is perhaps best exemplified by the presence of models of social change that are explicitly based entirely on amelioration (e.g., Simon & Klandermans, 2001; Subasic et al., 2008). For example, Simon and Klandermans’ model describes how a subordinate group’s grievance and power struggle against a dominant group is “triangulated” by appeals to the relevant institutions or authority and broader societal (i.e., superordinate) identities. We do not doubt, as reflected in the social psychological literature, that much political action in so-called liberal democracies is aimed precisely at this type of social change. However, our point is that there are other goals of social change and that our social-psychological models should better reflect the diversity of dreams and visions for social change. It is not clear how such models account for actions that might result when one fundamentally rejects societal and broader (e.g., international) authorities and institutions as plausible ways of improving (i.e., increasing positive and/or decreasing negative) social value, and when one can imagine alternatives to these very societal institutions and systems that one is meant to appeal to for amelioration.

Social Justice [TOP]

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states… Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963/n.d. -b Letter from Birmingham Jail)

Social justice is when the goal of social change is to bring about equality of opportunity among all groups within the social system. This involves equality in the assignment of basic rights and duties, along with fair principles governing the distribution of social value (Rawls, 1971). As with amelioration, social justice stems from the perception that the system is illegitimate and there is sufficient collective efficacy to increase social value within the current system. However, unlike amelioration, the endorsement of social justice as a social change goal is based on intergroup solidarity. Here the scope of social change is inclusive. That is, the system is seen as illegitimate because it does not provide equal opportunities to all groups, not just one’s own ingroup. Moreover, one perceives that all groups within the system can, together, collectively increase their social value. This characterization of social justice is implied in Martin Luther King’s famous statement that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In these words, and the full quote above, he alludes to the interdependence of groups within the United States (and beyond), and how such interdependence requires an inclusive social change goal. That is, one must recognize how the acceptance of a system that is illegitimate (to anybody) places all groups in danger of oppression, including one’s own group. Here the scope of justice is very much inclusive (Opotow, 2001).

Because of its inclusive nature, social justice as a social change goal is likely to reflect the use of inclusive social categorizations or higher levels (superordinate) of self-categorization (Subasic et al., 2008). However, the extent to which it is solely identification with some superordinate (e.g., societal) identity that engenders support for social justice is questionable. If one believes that Martin Luther King is correct then it would be logically possible to support social justice solely as a means of advancing or protecting one’s own group’s interests without identification with some superordinate identity – given that injustice to an outgroup is a potential threat to a person’s ingroup. There are various ways in which some version of this notion seems plausible. For example, as many feminist theorists have argued, a tolerance of gender injustice results in a tolerance towards other forms of class, race, etc. based oppression (Okin, 1991). Therefore, if you are solely concerned about the oppression of your class-based group you might endorse social justice for all (including gender) groups in order to improve the situation of your own class-based group.

That said, we suggest that in most cases the salience of and identification with both superordinate and subgroup identities are likely to characterize support for the social justice social change goal. Here, “dual identities” that affirm the distinctiveness of subgroup identities within a common (e.g., societal) ingroup will act both to broaden the scope of justice and to facilitate cooperation across groups for social justice (Dovidio et al., 2009). This prediction is in line with work showing that such circumstances help to reduce intergroup bias (Brown & Hewstone, 2005). Indeed, when dual identities are salient, subgroup-based injustices are more likely to be recognized by majority group members (Dovidio et al., 2004). We argue that social justice is a distinct social change goal that speaks to the broad range of coalitions among groups (e.g., anti-racism, feminist, ecological, trade unions) engaged in contemporary social justice movements, and which has, until now, been largely neglected in intergroup approaches to social change.

Creativity [TOP]

We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. ... And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity. (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968/n.d. -a The Drum Major Instinct)

Instead of pursuing social value via collective mobility, amelioration, or social justice goals, subordinate groups can create or affirm a new dimension of social value in order to increase their absolute or relative level of social value. In other words, this goal aims to change the symbolic and material things for which people strive (positive social value) or attempt to avoid (negative social value). As with amelioration and collective mobility, creativity is a relatively exclusive social change goal, with change being aimed at improving only “our” group’s position in the social hierarchy. Like collective mobility, the creativity social change goal is characterized by a perception of the system as legitimate. In other words, the procedures that distribute social value in society are seen as fair. However, unlike collective mobility, creativity is associated with perceiving the ingroup as having low efficacy when it comes to increasing its position on existing social value dimensions.

Creativity can be thought of a special case of SIT’s first two social creativity strategies: comparing the ingroup to the outgroup on some new dimension and changing the value assigned to group attributes (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). What is different about our conceptualization of creativity is that the new or existing dimension or attribute that the subordinate group possesses must become something that the dominant groups strive for – that is, it must become of social value. This key requirement of creativity helps to distinguish it from SIT notions of social creativity that may, or may not, be associated with the legitimization of new or existing dimensions (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). This is key as without legitimization or consensus in the value of the new or existing dimension across groups, one cannot conceive of creativity as social change, at least not according to our definition. For example, if the rest of society does not agree that “black is beautiful”, such creativity would not qualify as social change.

This is an important, but tricky, point that is worth elaborating. Take a situation in which a subordinate group – group A – develops and produces shiny new widgets and, successfully in their eyes, outstrip another group, group B, in the possession of, and ability to produce, these widgets. They attempt, unsuccessfully, to persuade group B of the value of these widgets. From an SIT perspective this is a case of social creativity, one that can lead to status – positive outcomes on this dimension of social comparison. We suspect that you, like us, find this hard to conceive of as social change, let alone progressive social change. Now take a second case where group A is successful in persuading group B that widgets are worth striving for, and widget fever spreads throughout society. We argue that this second case is a type of social change. That is, it has involved a relative or absolute increase in group A’s social value by changing what is of social value.

On the surface, creativity may be seen as the least conflictual social change goal in our typology. However, given that the new type (dimension) of social value must be something that is consensually striven for (positive social value) or avoided (negative social value), social influence and power are a necessary part of creativity. Indeed, shaping what is of value in a society is ultimately an exercise of power (Lukes, 1974). For example, getting a powerful dominant group to consensually value an attribute that the subordinate group possesses is no easy task. As Tajfel & Turner (1979) point out in their treatment of this subtype of social creativity, it is likely that groups will positively evaluate their own traits as opposed to those possessed by an outgroup. Because of the social identity threat associated with such influence attempts (with the subordinate group’s advantage in respect to the new social value item) one would expect an increase in intergroup tension as a result of subordinate groups attempting to actualize this social change goal (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). This might suggest that creativity is not a viable social change goal. Although its viability, or that of any of the other social change goals, is not the focus of the present article, this process of making some qualities of the subordinate group desirable or “cool” to dominant groups is certainly present in the history of African American popular culture and social movements. The latter, with regard to benevolent attributes, is exemplified in the quote from Martin Luther King at the beginning of this section. It seems likely that the extent to which this type of social change occurs depends partly on minority influence processes (Moscovici, Mucchi-Faina, & Maass, 1994).

Separatism [TOP]

Without some of this earth that we can call our own, we cannot hope to even become a free nation out of the nation of the slave master. IT IS FAR MORE IMPORTANT TO TEACH SEPARATION OF THE BLACKS AND WHITES IN AMERICA THAN PRAYER. Teach and train the blacks to do something for self in the way of uniting and seeking a home on this earth that they can call their own! There is no such thing as living in peace with white Americans. You and I have tried without success. (Elijah Muhammad, 1997. Message to the Blackman in America, p. 204)

Group members may both perceive the system as illegitimate and the ingroup as lacking the efficacy to bring about improvements in social value (including through reform) within the current system. These perceptions are likely to lead to the endorsement of separatism as a social change goal. Separatist social change is aimed at separating a subgroup (often subordinate) from the wider group and system. For example, Black Nationalism in the US and other separatist national movements (e.g., Basque, Zapatista) exemplify the separatist social change goal. Here the lack of efficacy to bring about change in social value translates to the notion that “we will never be free here in this society.” This social change goal is probably the most exclusive in nature, in that it is both aimed solely at the subordinate group and explicitly intends to exclude other groups. The quote from the Nation of Islam’s Elijah Muhammad makes clear the perceived necessity of having one’s own home separate from those who would inevitably oppress youiv.

Intergroup research on multicultural theory has dealt with separatism in intergroup relations, and such approaches suggest that separatism involves identification with subgroup identity and a lack of desire for positive relations with the majority or dominant groups within society (e.g., Berry, 1997). We suggest that it may not necessarily be a lack of desire for positive relations with other dominant groups that characterizes separatism. Rather, as Elijah Muhammad’s sentiments suggest, such positive relations are just not imaginable within the present system. Indeed, such relations may only be possible through independence.

Separatism is somewhat akin to Tajfel’s (1975) notion of “group exit,” in which he distinguishes between psychological exit (e.g., communes) and “boycott” – the threat of physical exit with some other goal in mind. Our treatment goes one step further and suggests that group exit may not only be a threat, but may also be the goal of social change. As we have seen recently in the Sudan, separatism as a social change goal may lead to a long drawn-out conflict with those in the societal system who do not wish to see others exit (Mamdani, 2009). The degree to which conflict will characterize separatist social change is determined by the degree to which dominant groups rely on the subordinate group for the functioning of the system. Thus, if they are perceived as a valuable part of the system subordinate groups are likely to have to fight for group exit and independence from the system, whereas if they are of little value to the dominant groups (e.g., the homeless, traveler peoples, or members of a commune), their psychological or physical exit should be less conflictual.

Regressive Revolution [TOP]

We say that all the land, without exception, must become the property of the whole nation… A party is the vanguard of a class, and its duty is to lead the masses and not merely to reflect the average political level of the masses. (Vladimir Lenin, 1917/n.d. Speech on the Agrarian Question)

Intergroup relations theories have not explicitly dealt with revolution. A search of PsychINFO (1806 to November 2011) reveals only 4 hits for the search “intergroup relations” (key word) AND “revolution/Political revolution” (keyword). Perhaps this is because what counts as a revolution is a tricky judgment to make, akin to the noted conceptual problems inherent in social change. There are various definitions of revolution with some endorsing the distinction between the “great” (e.g., French and Russian) as opposed to “lesser” (e.g., German and Japanese) revolutions (Pettee, 1938). We conceptualize revolution as a fundamental change in one or more (sub)systems (e.g., economic, political, kinship, or cultural/religious) in a society. Fundamental means that alternative institutions, procedures, and ways of doing things (Merton, 1957) are enacted in the social system that significantly alter its functioning and the amount of social value that is distributed across groups. Recently we have seen “Arab revolutions” in the Middle East and North Africa, and a “Bolivarian Revolution” in Latin America. There are extensive differences between all these episodes of revolutionary social change that we have mentioned. However, what is common to all these examples is that they are aimed at increasing social value for disadvantaged groups, who sometimes make up the majority in a particular social system.

At the same time, as history shows us, the results of revolution may not always be so progressive (Albert & Hahnel, 1981). For this reason, our typology attempts to distinguish between the endorsement of more utopian forms of revolution (progressive) and of examples of totalitarian revolution (which are not progressive, but regressive). One might argue that only utopian images of revolution are endorsed, regardless of what actually plays out in reality. This is a reasonable view, but in the process of applying our dimensions to real revolutionary pronouncements we were struck by how our dimensions were able to account for the difference between progressive and regressive revolutions. Specifically, we suggest these dreams of alternative systems differ fundamentally in their desired inclusiveness, something that we hope is clear in the Lenin quote above.

The main difference between regressive revolution and the previously mentioned social change goals is that endorsement is associated with imagining an alternative system. This imaginative act has been theorized as a central part of revolutionary social change (Merton, 1957; Pettee, 1938; Selbin, 1997), although it is largely absent from work on the psychology of social change. In addition, endorsing regressive revolution as a social change goal should be associated with perceiving that it is difficult or even impossible to increase social value within the current system. Therefore, perceiving an alternative system that would enable the group to increase its social value is what sets this apart from previously mentioned social change goals. Although we would expect that perceiving existing systems as illegitimate should also increase endorsement of an alternative system, it is possible that concerns other than legitimacy (e.g., efficiency) may also prove important (Rawls, 1971). Regressive revolution is characterized by an exclusive scope. In other words, regressive revolution is aimed at employing the alternative system to increase the social value of distinct subgroups, as opposed to all groups in the system or the societal group as a whole.

Due to its exclusive nature regressive revolution is often, as we alluded to earlier, described by group leaders as more inclusive (progressive) in nature. This could reflect the need to legitimize power relations (Jackman, 1994; Nadler, 2002) and the strategic nature of mobilizing enough support for social change (Reicher, 2004; Reicher & Hopkins, 2001; Turner, 2005). Moreover, even if a revolution starts out with an inclusive scope (progressive) it may change over time. As status differences between leaders (and their subgroups) and followers develop, an intergroup dynamic may emerge between leaders and followers such that authority is no longer prototypical (representative) of the wider (inclusive) group. This idea is in line with social identity approaches to leadership, which predict that under such circumstances leadership will resort to coercion in order to influence the wider group (Hogg, 2001). The potential for regressive social change from this point is clear. Although theorists have suggested that the Russian revolution is an example of progressive revolution (Davies, 1962), it could be argued that the October (Bolshevik) Russian revolution is a good example of this regressive/inclusive dynamic, with Lenin distancing the Communist party from the wider group (Albert & Hahnel, 1981). As the Lenin quote above illustrates, group leaders may appeal to the inclusivity of the revolution, here “land for the whole nation,” but at the same time they may also express the exclusive nature inherent in regressive revolution. Here Lenin talks of the superiority of the party or “vanguard.” Indeed, he makes explicit that this exclusive subgroup should not be prototypical of the whole group.

Progressive Revolution [TOP]

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring… These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born… This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world. (Martin Luther King, Jr. Beyond Vietnam, 1967, as cited in Carson & Shepard, 2001, p. 158-162)

Like regressive revolution, endorsement of progressive revolution is associated with perceiving an alternative system and the inability of the group to increase its social value in the present system. Progressive revolution differs from regressive revolution in terms of its inclusivity. Like social justice, endorsement of progressive revolution is characterized by an inclusive scope. That is, the alternative system is aimed at increasing the social value of a broad range of groups within the society. However, unlike social justice, endorsement of progressive revolution is associated with the view that it is impossible to increase the social value of all groups within the prevailing system. Therefore, one must perceive and endorse an alternative system as a means of accomplishing this. This is in contrast to separatism where it is an inability to perceive an alternative system that leads to an endorsement of group exit.

These dimensions are illustrated in the Martin Luther King quote at the beginning of this section that describes “new systems of justice and equality” (i.e., an alternative system) that call for “concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class” (i.e., inclusive in nature). This concern is borne out by the fact that King sees “an edifice which produces beggars” (low social value efficacy for the whole societal group) in need of changing. The inclusivity of this dream stands in stark contrast to Lenin’s. Indeed, King goes so far as to describe a “world-wide fellowship,” something that goes beyond the scope of the present paper with its focus on societal change.

Clarifications, Implications, Limitations and Future Directions [TOP]

In this section we aim to clarify some points regarding our proposed typology and address some of the questions and implications that such an approach raises. In addition, we point towards new avenues for research that our proposed typology engenders.

Social Change Goals and Contemporary Models of Political Action [TOP]

By putting forward a typology of social change goals we are not saying that all political collective action for social change is undertaken with the conscious formation of one of these social change goals. Rather, we are proposing a treatment of social change that places an emphasis on the kind of dreams and visions that disadvantaged group members and others have so elegantly espoused during the history of struggle and social change. What we are suggesting here is that people’s appraisals based on key dimensions of system perception, social value efficacy, and desired inclusiveness will lead to differing levels of endorsement for each of our social change goals.

We have advanced the notion that there are different types of social change towards which political action may be aimed, and regardless of whether or not specific aspects of our typology receive empirical support, this differentiation between types of social changes poses some important questions for the social psychology of political action and social change. For instance, do contemporary models of political action adequately account for action aimed at different types of social change, or are our models of political action only applicable to the particular types of social change that characterize western liberal democracies (e.g., amelioration)? To be clear, the latter option does not mean that injustice, identity, and efficacy (van Zomeren et al., 2008) play no role in engendering political collective action for many different types of social change. Rather, it is important not to presume that all collective action is psychologically the same, regardless of the goal. Indeed, we have some preliminary evidence in our own programme of research that established political action predictors do not predict, to the same degree, actions aimed at different types of social change (Sweetman, Leach, Spears, & Pratto, in preparation). Future work needs to both test the ability of our typology to explain support for different types of social change, and test the adequacy of current models of political action (Klandermans, 1997; Stürmer & Simon, 2004; van Zomeren et al., 2004; van Zomeren et al., 2008) to account for action aimed at these, and other, types of social change.

The Role of Social Change Goals [TOP]

As mentioned earlier, we do not see endorsement of different social change goals as being necessary for political action. Rather, each of the social change goals outlined above represents a high-order goal (i.e., dream or vision for a future society). Therefore, we would expect many lower-level goals (i.e., tactics and strategies) to be enacted in order to reach these high-level goals (Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007). As such, political action could be undertaken in pursuit of a massive array of goals (e.g., increasing housing benefit, reducing CO2, etc.). That said, it is possible that the social change goals that we have covered are held implicitly and that these lower-level social change goals are embedded within them (Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007; Moskowitz & Grant, 2009). Future work could test this contention by examining the accessibility of our high-order goals, once lower-order goals are made salient (Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007).

One may question how relevant more radical goals like progressive revolution are to an intergroup understanding of social change. After all, we do not have a revolution every week. Do people really ever have such utopian dreams? A careful look at the history of social change suggests that these more radical dreams and visions for the future are more frequent than one might think (see Kelley, 2002). Just because there might not be many examples of the successful implementation of radical goals like progressive revolution (but see Hahnel, 2005) does not mean that such social change goals have been absent in engendering everyday political action. Importantly, dreams may motivate social change efforts even if that particular form of social change is not ultimately achieved. Radical dreams may produce action and perhaps dramatic change, if not always radical (systemic) change.

By adopting the goal construct in our treatment of social change we are able to make some (theoretically) informed speculations as to the role of more radical and high-order social change goals. For example, we think revolution and more radical, difficult, and challenging social change goals may be particularly adaptive for social change. In their classic work on goals, Locke and Latham (1990) have shown how more challenging and specific goals increase behavioral efforts. As such, high-order and radical goals may increase the level of political action. This may lead to progressive social change without going so far as revolution. However, Bandura (1989) has suggested that more distal (vs. proximal goals) may be less able to engender performance. It remains an empirical question whether more distal or radical social change goals have a positive effect on political action. One aspect that differs in our approach from that of Bandura is that we do not suggest that group members only have these high-order social change goals as mental representations. Rather, in line with recent work on the goal construct (Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007), we suspect that there will be lower-order goals (means) that will form the more proximal goals leading to action. Therefore, one would expect the more proximal goal to predict actions that are similar to those lower-order goals. The question of interest is whether high-order social change goals add something to the prediction of political collective action.

The extent to which social change goals (as mental representations) include lower-order goals or means is another important empirical question. We would suggest that this might not be that conceivable with such complex high-order goals. Indeed, we would expect lower-order goals or means to the high-order social change goals to be massively context dependent, at least in order to be practically realized. However, it may be the case that social change goals like revolution do indeed have low-order goals (means) like armed conflict as part of these goal constructs. Future work would do well to explore this. Opposition to radical social change goals may not be based on the goal (high-order end state) itself, but rather on the low-order means associated with it (e.g., armed conflict). This has important implications for those concerned with social change. For instance, social movements and other agents of social change may disagree on the means, despite agreement on the high-order goal. Moreover, there may be disagreement over the high-order end state precisely because of differences in the lower-order means that people associate with the high-order goal. For example, one part might see armed conflict as a necessary low-order goal nested in the social change goal of revolution.

This picture can be complicated further when one considers that much of the recent work on the psychology of goals has focused on the automaticity of the goal construct (Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007). We have not concerned ourselves here with automatic goals. In general, we take social change goals to be high-order goals that are the result of conscious mental simulation. In this sense they share the properties of traditional accounts of the goal construct (Gollwitzer & Moskowitz, 1996). However, once formed there is the possibility that goals for social change may become automatic or unconscious (Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007; Moskowitz & Grant, 2009). This has potentially interesting implications for social change agents. For example, one critique of those engaged in progressive social change is that “the left” is fragmented, and prone to infighting (Albert, 2002b). It may be the case that disagreement with those who all share a desire for change or a set of progressive values may result from having different social change goals either explicitly or even at an automatic or unconscious level. If implicit social change goals underlie such disagreement between activists, it may be worth making social change goals clear to avoid such potential for undermining solidarity. Focusing on these may help to build unification amongst those concerned with social change. This suggests that social change agents need to clarify strategy or means (lower-order goals) when promoting high-order social change goals. This is often easier said than done, due to the massive context-dependency of means, at least if they are to be strategically viable (Albert, 2002b). For instance, armed struggle may be the only way to bring about revolution in one society but not in other societies.

Relations Between Social Change Goals [TOP]

Our quotes describing each social change goal make clear that we conceptualize our typology as reflecting a dynamic appraisal approach (for a similar account of emotion, see Lazarus, 1991). In other words, the same individual may move from endorsing amelioration to revolution, as their relevant appraisals change. Indeed, as our Martin Luther King quotes and historical analyses demonstrate, one’s social change goals may change radically over time as a function of situational appraisals (in the case of Martin Luther King, see Jackson, 2006). This raises the question of whether there is some temporal relationship between the social change goals. It is possible to order them in terms of how radical they are, and one could speculate as to whether group members may start off with more radical goals and then become less radical as they age. Alternatively, it is possible that group members start off with more moderate social change goals and then, as these goals are frustrated, turn to more radical goals. This kind of stage model could be tested in future research.

Based on the goal literature we suggest that any goal could become actively endorsed if other goals are either frustrated or unimaginable. However, it may be the case that activation of a particular social change goal facilitates or inhibits others (Fishbach & Ferguson, 2007). For instance, priming collective mobility as a social change goal could lead to the inhibition of other goals like amelioration. This notion could help to shed new light on findings that have shown how goals like prejudice reduction can actually lead to the inhibition of amelioration aimed action (Saguy, Tausch, Dovidio, & Pratto, 2009). In this case, anything that leads the dominant group to be perceived in more positive terms (e.g., through positive contact) may increase collective mobility goals while inhibiting amelioration, separatist, or revolution goals. Alternatively, it is possible that endorsement of different goals is independent. In other words, one may endorse all the goals in the typology with our dimensions simply determining, in part, which are endorsed most strongly. Future work could explore the relationship between different types of social change goals. The idea that social change agents may see social change goals such as revolution and amelioration as mutually exclusive has been suggested to be an important barrier to social change (Albert, 2002b).

Regulation and Other Influences of Social Change Goals [TOP]

With the likelihood that high-order distal (vs. proximal) goals are less likely to lead to action, future work also needs to focus on self-regulation and the processes through which distal goals like some of our social change goals can be successfully implemented. One potential avenue would be to build on work examining how people productively elaborate on their visions of the future (e.g., Oettingen, Pak, & Schnetter, 2001; Oettingen & Stephens, 2009). This work has shown that different strategies of self-regulation lead to more or less goal-relevant behaviour. For example, mentally contrasting visions of the future with aspects of the present emphasizes the necessity of changing the existing reality in order to achieve the future goal. Assuming some feasibility of the future goal, this mental contrasting leads to stronger commitment to a goal than merely indulging in fantasies of the future or dwelling on aspects of the negative reality (Oettingen et al., 2001; Oettingen & Stephens, 2009). This suggests that mental contrasting may play a particularly important role in engendering political action for a particular social change goal.

At the same time, work on mental contrasting also speaks to those who see the development of dreams and visions of the future as “utopian” (in a pejorative sense of the word). Rather than being a simple case of fantasizing, with mental contrasting vision and dreams of social change may lead to real meaningful action. Likewise, a lack of vision for the future and a sole fixation on the social ills of the present may also be an important reason for a lack of political action aimed at social change. Indeed, some radical thinkers have gone as far as suggesting that an exclusive emphasis on the horrors of social inequality and oppression, without an outline of a vision for the future, is the major reason for political apathy (Albert, 2002a, b; Albert et al., 1986). Furthermore, a focus on self-regulation may shed light on the problem of drop-out and sustained participation in social movements (Klandermans, 2003). Indeed, some of the work mentioned above has been successfully applied to areas as diverse as time management, self-discipline, health behaviour, task effectiveness, and increased physical mobility (Oettingen & Stephens, 2009). The self-regulation literature may also shed some light onto factors other than appraisals that influence endorsement of particular social change goals. For instance, low-power groups may prefer prevention-focused change goals (amelioration), but high-power individuals within low-power groups might prefer promotion (collective efficacy, revolution) focused goals (Sassenberg & Woltin, 2009b).

We know that goals can have important effects on information processing (Gollwitzer & Moskowitz, 1996). For instance, goals affect attention, recall, trait inferences, stereotyping, and decision-making (Gollwitzer & Moskowitz, 1996). As such, it seems that the particular social change goal of a group member should have many implications for political action and social change. Goals could influence the aspects of the problem that one attends to and may shape one’s attitudes and decisions accordingly. For example, a goal of revolution may orient one to the systemic and institutional aspects of a particular social problem (e.g., the role of capitalism in class-based oppression or climate change). Again, this may lead to disagreements among social change agents in their interpretations of social problems and the strategies that they advocate to address these problems.

Limitations and Future Directions [TOP]

As our quotes suggest, the development of our typology is primarily grounded in the social change of the African Diaspora and, to a lesser extent, class-based relations. This reflects both the first author’s experiences and idiosyncrasies, but also the wealth of literature on these topics. One might justifiably ask whether our approach applies to every type of group-based hierarchy. We suggest that most of our social change goals are applicable to many sets of intergroup relations. However, it seems that the revolution goals are only applicable to intergroup relations where institutions and systems play a fundamental role in the creation and maintenance of that specific intergroup hierarchy. Arguably, this may be the case for intergroup hierarchies based on the way we organize economic relations (i.e., production, allocation, consumption), kinship relations (i.e., sexual relations, early socialization/family), polity (i.e., dispute resolution, legislation etc.) and cultural or religious relations (i.e., the way in which a society provides its members with a sense of collective ethnic and/or religious identity) (Albert et al., 1986; Merton, 1957).

If we return to our example of a neighborhood group whose children are at risk from speeding traffic, revolution as a social change goal seems less plausible. In this sense, revolution seems more applicable to deeply structural rather than incidental disadvantage (van Zomeren et al., 2008). That said, it is possible that those affected by incidental disadvantage may go on to identify the possible structural causes of their disadvantage. However, this does not necessarily mean that group members are able to adopt a revolution social change goal. This will only be the case if changing these structural features entails a fundamental change to societal systems and the institutions that make them up. For example, our neighborhood group may conclude that an absence of legislation making speed bumps mandatory in residential areas is the root of their problem. Winning a campaign for a nation-wide law would constitute a structural change. However, this is clearly not a revolution goal. In contrast, the group may decide that their disadvantage is due to the limits of representative democracy and conclude that a participatory democracy would address their disadvantage. This second goal would entail a revolution social change goal stemming from an initially incidental disadvantage. In sum, we believe that our typology has good applicability to many forms of intergroup relations. However, this applicability is complex when one considers the system aspect of our revolution goals.

A further limitation of our approach is that while our conceptualisation of social change included both progressive and regressive social change, our typology, with the exception of regressive revolution and collective mobility when adopted by the dominant, has focused only on progressive social change. What about the pursuit of regressive social change by dominant groups? Future work could examine hate group materials in order to get an idea of such social change goals. In this vein, Douglas, McGarty, Bliuc, & Lala (2005) suggest that “social creativity” (e.g., affirming genetic superiority of Whites) is more representative of online White supremacist groups than “social conflict” (e.g., calling for militarization of national boarders). This is in keeping with our conflictual conceptualization of creativity. Their data also hints at the importance of separatism among these groups. While these authors have treated this as a form of social creativity, we see it as a distinct social change goal.

As with the disadvantaged, it may be the case that the link between traditional predictors (e.g., stereotypes, emotion, and ideology) and harmful intergroup behaviour (e.g., discrimination, hate crimes, conflict, oppression) varies depending on the regressive social change goal of dominants. As for organizing regressive social change goals, it seems that dimensions of inclusivity would not apply as social change is aimed at the increase of social value for the dominant group. However, social value efficacy and perceptions of the system might play some role in distinguishing between dominants’ creativity and separatism goals. Another avenue for addressing regressive social change goals might be to build upon work that has proposed a typology of the (emotional) experience of dominants and its relationship to support for equality (see Leach, Snider, & Iyer, 2002).

More generally, emotion is another potentially important area that is not addressed in our typology. We know from Tausch et al. (2011) that anger predicts “normative” political action (e.g., petitions, protests etc.), while contempt predicts more “nonnormative” actions (e.g., arson attacks, violence against civilians, etc.). While the actions examined by these authors were all aimed at the goal of amelioration, it is possible that endorsement of social change goals may be related to different emotions (as ‘e-motivations’ towards the goal). One might think that, like more radical actions, more radical social change goals (e.g., revolution) might be predicted by contempt rather than anger. In addition, a separatist goal might be associated with frustration, pessimism, and cynicism. These “disappointment emotions” are characterized by the disconfirmation of the prospect of a desirable event (Ortony, Clore, & Collins, 1988). As such, it may be the case that the failed attainment of other social change goals (e.g., collective mobility and amelioration) encourages the endorsement of separatist goals through these emotions.

Collective mobility might be associated with feelings of aspiration, inspiration and envy towards dominant groups. Such emotions can motivate attempts at self-improvement and intergroup emulation (Algoe & Haidt, 2009; Sweetman et al., 2013). That said, we think it is likely that the mapping between emotions and social change goals will not be simple. Rather, this relation will depend upon the target of the emotion (Iyer & Leach, 2009). For example, we would suggest that anger aimed at a system should predict support for our revolution goals, while anger aimed at dominant groups, authorities, or inequality in outcomes may be more likely to engender support for amelioration (van Zomeren et al., 2004). Overall, emotions form part of the psychological explanation and they also fit the flexible and situation-specific agenda of goals better than (more dispositional) motivations.

Logically, our dimensions generate 12 different social change goals. However, our typology only describes seven different types of social change goal. For example, we have no description of a goal where one perceives an alternative system aimed at increasing the social value of a broad range of groups within the society, while also perceiving the ability of the group to increase its social value within the present system. Here it seems unlikely that group members would endorse an alternative system, as there is simply no need to. Put simply, even though one can imagine an alternative system there is no need or advantage in pursuing one. Rather, once the procedures and institutions are functioning correctly one should be able to increase social value within the present societal system. As such, there does not seem to be a coherent social change goal associated with this cell. Future work could look at what type of social change people might imagine and endorse when making such appraisals.

Conclusion [TOP]

The present article has attempted to bring some conceptual clarity to the dreams and visions of a future society. We have shown how social-psychological conceptualizations of social change have been narrowly focused on amelioration, and how this has limited both theorizing and empirical work on the dreams and visions towards which political action is aimed. We then proposed that such dreams and visions can be conceptualized as social change goals, and that these goals can be ordered along three dimensions. This conceptualization, and subsequent typology, poses important questions as to the adequacy of social psychological models in accounting for action aimed at different types of social change. Furthermore, the adoption of the goal construct generates a large number of avenues for future research. Fifty years after Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, we hope that our typology inspires those concerned with social change to, once again, “think seriously” about possible visions for a future society.

Notes [TOP]

i) It is logically possible (although seemingly unlikely) that one may change an economic system and not impact on the absolute or relative social value of any groups. In this case the social change would not be intergroup and as such would not come under our treatment of social change. However, we would argue that the very intergroup relations that are of the most importance to us in terms of group-based inequalities are those that are formed and maintained through the kinship (e.g., sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, child cruelty), economic (classism), cultural (racism, religious oppression, ethnocentrism), and political (forms of totalitarianism, non-functioning democracies) systems. Social dominance theory places some emphasis on the relationship between group-based oppression and institutions. However, a developed account of the link between these systems and group-based oppression is an area that social psychology would do well to address. Particularly when one considers that alternatives to these current systems offer us perhaps the most realistic way of ending group-based oppression (Albert, 2002a).

ii) It is important that collective mobility should be distinguished from assimilation. To “compete by the rules” does not mean to assimilate one’s social identity into the dominant group. Assimilation can be a group social change goal, which is conceptually distinct from SIT’s notion of individual mobility. For example, names and language characteristics of the group may be changed or deemphasized in the next generation of the subordinate group. As noted elsewhere, social change in intergroup relations is characterized by the assimilation and emergence of new social identities (Reicher, 2004). We would expect that commitment to the ingroup would play an important role in distinguishing whether collective mobility or assimilation goals are endorsed, with the former goal involving greater commitment than the latter (Derks et al., 2009). However, since assimilation does not meet our social change definition we do not pursue this here.

iii) Again, our typology reflects an idealized way of looking at social change. There are many other ways of conceptualizing the social system and there are multiple ways in which to understand the dimensions on which social hierarchy is based. We suggest that in order to get any conceptual grip on the psychology of social change it is necessary to choose one. For work looking at how different (sub)systems of social hierarchy may reinforce one another see Albert et al. (1986). For a more social identity-based approach to the complexity of multiple social identities or categorizations see (Crisp & Hewstone, 2007).

iv) As mentioned above, separatism could be more psychological than physical as may be the case with groups that form communes as a means of psychological exit (Kelley, 2002). The extent to which these cases count as a social change goal depends on the degree to which they increase social value.

Funding [TOP]

This work was made possible by an ESRC overseas visitors award.

Competing Interests [TOP]

The second author acted as a co-editor for the special thematic section in which this article is included, but played no editorial role for this particular article.

Acknowledgments [TOP]

The authors have no support to report.

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Citations:

  • Andrew L. Stewart, Joseph Sweetman (2018)
    Scholarship and Activism Diverge: Responding to MLK's Call with Theory and Research on Diversity, Political Action, and Resistance to Oppression
    Journal of Social Issues, 74(2), p. 204(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12264
  • Emma F. Thomas, Simon M. Bury, Winnifred R. Louis, Catherine E. Amiot, Pascal Molenberghs, Monique F. Crane, Jean Decety (2019)
    Vegetarian, vegan, activist, radical: Using latent profile analysis to examine different forms of support for animal welfare
    Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 22(6), p. 836(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430218824407
  • Joseph Sweetman (2018)
    When Similarities are More Important than Differences: “Politically Black” Union Members’ Experiences of Racism and Participation in Union Leadership
    Journal of Social Issues, 74(2), p. 244(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12267
  • Giovanni A. Travaglino, Dominic Abrams, Giuseppina Russo (2017)
    Dual routes from social identity to collective opposition to criminal organisations: Intracultural appropriation theory and the roles of honour codes and social change beliefs
    Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 20(3), p. 317(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430216682351
  • Vicki C. Baard, John Dumay (2018)
    Interventionist research in accounting: reflections on the good, the bad and the ugly
    Accounting & Finance
    https://doi.org/10.1111/acfi.12409
  • Karl-Andrew Woltin, Kai Sassenberg (2015)
    Showing engagement or not: The influence of social identification and group deadlines on individual control strategies
    Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 18(1), p. 24(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430214542254
  • Colin Wayne Leach, Andrew G. Livingstone (2015)
    Contesting the Meaning of Intergroup Disadvantage: Towards a Psychology of Resistance
    Journal of Social Issues, 71(3), p. 614(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12131
  • Siwar Hasan-Aslih, Liat Netzer, Martijn van Zomeren, Tamar Saguy, Maya Tamir, Eran Halperin (2019)
    When we want them to fear us: The motivation to influence outgroup emotions in collective action
    Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 22(5), p. 724(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430218769744
  • Leda Blackwood, Andrew G. Livingstone, Colin Wayne Leach (2013)
    Regarding Societal Change
    Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 1(1), p. 105(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.v1i1.282
  • Emma F. Thomas, Craig McGarty, Avelie Stuart, Laura G. E. Smith, Luc Bourgeois (2019)
    Reaching consensus promotes the internalization of commitment to social change
    Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 22(5), p. 615(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1177/1368430218780320
  • Stephen T. La Macchia, Winnifred R. Louis (2016)
    Understanding Peace and Conflict Through Social Identity Theory, Chapter 6, p. 89(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29869-6_6
  • Stephen T. La Macchia, Winnifred R. Louis (2016)
    Peace Psychology Book Series, p. 89(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29869-6_6
  • Peter R. Grant, Mark Bennett, Dominic Abrams (2017)
    Using the SIRDE model of social change to examine the vote of Scottish teenagers in the 2014 independence referendum
    British Journal of Social Psychology, 56(3), p. 455(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12186
  • Katherine Stroebe, Katie Wang, Stephen C. Wright (2015)
    Broadening Perspectives on Achieving Social Change
    Journal of Social Issues, 71(3), p. 633(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12132
  • Soledad de Lemus, Katherine Stroebe (2015)
    Achieving Social Change: A Matter of All for One?
    Journal of Social Issues, 71(3), p. 441(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12122
  • Winnifred R. Louis, Emma Thomas, Cassandra M. Chapman, Tulsi Achia, Susilo Wibisono, Zahra Mirnajafi, Lisa Droogendyk (2019)
    Emerging research on intergroup prosociality: Group members' charitable giving, positive contact, allyship, and solidarity with others
    Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 13(3), p. e12436(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/spc3.12436
  • Emma F. Thomas, Craig McGarty (2017)
    Intergroup Helping, Chapter 18, p. 369(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53026-0_18
  • Heather J. Smith, Stephanie McKee (2015)
    Reality and Perception: Power and Paranoia Within the Political Sphere
    Social Justice Research, 28(2), p. 247(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1007/s11211-015-0238-6
  • Winnifred R. Louis, Catherine E. Amiot, Emma F. Thomas, Leda Blackwood (2016)
    The “Activist Identity” and Activism across Domains: A Multiple Identities Analysis
    Journal of Social Issues, 72(2), p. 242(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/josi.12165
  • Leda Blackwood, Winnifred Louis (2017)
    Choosing between conciliatory and oppositional leaders: The role of out-group signals and in-group leader candidates' collective action tactics
    European Journal of Social Psychology, 47(3), p. 320(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.2249
  • Emma F. Thomas, Craig McGarty (2018)
    Giving versus acting: Using latent profile analysis to distinguish between benevolent and activist support for global poverty reduction
    British Journal of Social Psychology, 57(1), p. 189(ff.)
    https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12228



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