'I Have a Dream': A Typology of Social Change Goals


  • Joseph Sweetman
  • Colin Wayne Leach
  • Russell Spears
  • Felicia Pratto
  • Rim Saab


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.