Protest, Agitation, Social movements, Collective action, Revolution | Sociology UPSC Notes

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Protest, Agitation, Social movements, Collective action, Revolution | Sociology UPSC Notes

In every society, there are some people who are unhappy with the way things are. Poverty, social discrimination, exploitation, or a lack of status can all make people unhappy.People may feel very strongly that they want to change the situation if they speak out against the way things are. They might start to question the ways things have always been done. This disagreement is actually a sign that people want things to change.When this happens, social groups start to form. But a change doesn’t happen all at once. It starts with disagreement, then moves on to protests and anger, and ends up as a social movement.This order—dissent, protest, unrest, and social movements—shows how social change happens in stages. But all of these things may happen at the same time in some situations.

Dissent is a term for thoughts and actions that are different from what is popular in a society at a certain time.Dissent happens when people have different ideas and don’t agree on some things. So, disagreement is the start of a movement for change.For example, the fight against the terrible practise of untouchability in India didn’t start until the people who were hurt by it spoke out against it.

Most protests and unrest are about a specific thing. When disagreement is spoken out loud, it becomes a protest or a stir.When a different point of view becomes more clear, protest and anger are likely to happen. So, in order for protest and agitation to be effective, there needs to be disagreement with the way institutions are set up in society at a given time. In fact, it is at this time that people become aware of unfairness and lack.So, we can say that the beginning of protest and unrest is when people talk about being treated unfairly or not having enough.So, we can say that DISSENT shows that someone is unhappy with the way things are and disagrees.Protest and agitation, on the other hand, are official ways to say you don’t agree with something. They show a more definite state of disagreement and conflict.

Sociologist Lorenz von Stein used the word “social movement” for the first time in 1850 in his book “History of the French Social Movement from 1789 to the Present.” A social movement is a group of people working together for a long time on some part of social change.M.S.A. Rao says that a social movement is basically a group of people who keep working together, either through informal or official organisation, with the goal of changing the way things are done.Rao thinks that an important part of a social movement is its philosophy.Sociologists are very interested in social movements because they are one of the main ways that society changes. All societies experience changes. It could be radical, in the sense that some society institutions could be replaced with new ones. There could be big changes in the way society works now. Social movements are a type of group activity that can bring about change or try to stop it.They are big, loose groups of people and/or organisations that work on specific political or social problems, or on making, stopping, or reversing a social change.

Key processes lie behind the history of social movements:

There are a few main things that make up the history of social groups.People with similar goals were able to find each other, meet, and form groups because of urbanisation. This made it easier for a lot of people to meet and talk to each other, and the first social groups started in cities.

In the same way, the process of industrialization brought a lot of workers to the same area, which is why many of the early social groups focused on issues like economic well-being that were important to the worker class.

Universalization of education: Mass education brought a lot of people together at universities, where many social groups were started.

Scientific revolution: As communication technologies improved, it became easier for social movements to start and grow. From printed pamphlets passed around coffeehouses in the 18th century to newspapers and the Internet, all of these tools played a big role in the growth of social movements.

Democratisation: Finally, the spread of democracy and political rights like freedom of speech made it much easier for social groups to start and keep going.

How social movements work:

Turner and Kilian say that a social movement is “a group that acts in a consistent way to push for or stop change in the society or group it is a part of.” Toch says that a social movement is when a lot of people try to work together to solve a problem they feel they all share.

Even though social movements involve people working together. But you can’t call any kind of group activity a social movement, even if it’s meant to change the way people think about things. It should be steady and not come and go.

A social movement is different from a crowd because it is a long-term group, not a quick, unplanned one.

Social movements are also different from movements like the cooperative movement or the trade union movement. These groups have become institutionalised, which means they follow a set of rules. Not everyone can join these groups. Members work together using a set framework and a set order. For a cause to be institutionalised, it needs this kind of hierarchy.On the other hand, none of these things will be true of social groups. Both long-term action and spontaneous actions happen at the same time in social groups.All of these things make a social movement different from other groups.

In the beginning, social groups don’t have a set order of power. So, they can come up with new ways to run a group. The fixed frameworks of institutionalisation would make it impossible to try anything new.

A social movement is a group of people trying to make change happen or stop it from happening. Sati movement.

Different kinds of social movements:

Reform movements are when a group of people try to change some parts of a society without changing it all. It accepts the general structure of that society’s social order and focuses on an ideal. It uses institutions like the press, the government, schools, churches, and so on to back up its plan. These usually happen on behalf of a group that is in trouble or being mistreated. In an authoritarian culture, it’s almost impossible to make changes. Most of the time, such movements can happen in democratic countries where people are open to criticism.

Revolutionary movements try to get rid of the current order and put in place something completely different. Revolutionary groups try to change the way society works as a whole. They question the rules that are already in place and suggest a new set of ideals.

Resistance comes in the form of reactionary groups. These are made up of people who don’t like some parts of change. The goal of the movement is to bring back or bring back old ideals.

Migration is when a lot of people move to a new place because they are unhappy or because they all hope for a better life in a different country.

Revitalization movement:

Functions of social movements:

Touraine says that social groups do three important things:

Mediation: Help the person understand how he or she fits into the bigger society. Give everyone a chance to take part in the process of social change, to say what they think, and to play a role.

Pressure: Social activities lead to the formation of groups that work together to make sure their plans and policies are carried out.

Clarification of collective consciousness: Social forces create and develop ideas that spread throughout society. Because of this, group awareness grows.

Theories about the start of social movements:

Deprivation theory says that the people who start social groups are the ones who feel like they are missing out on some good or resource. This theory says that people who don’t have a good, service, or pleasure they want are more likely to start a social movement to improve (or defend) their situation. There are two major flaws with this idea.

First, most people feel deprived in some way almost all the time, which makes it hard for the theory to explain why groups form social movements when other people also feel deprived.

Second, this theory is based on a circular line of thought. Often, the only proof of hardship is a social movement. If lack is said to be the cause, but the only proof is that the person is moving, the argument is circular.

Marxism is a philosophy and theory of social change that came from Karl Marx. It has had a huge effect on how social movements are put into practise and how they are studied. Marxism grew out of an analysis of groups in the 19th century that were based on fights between industrial workers and their capitalist bosses. In the 20th century, different neo-Marxist theories have been made that allow race, gender, the environment, and other problems to be added to an analysis that is based on changing political and economic conditions. Marxist theory has always been a better way to understand both revolutionary and labor-reformist class-based movements in Europe than in the US. However, important Marxist movements and ideas have also grown in the US. Marxist approaches have been and still are important ways to understand the role of political economy and class differences as key forces in many historical and current social movements. They continue to challenge approaches that are limited because they can’t think of serious alternatives to consumer capitalist social structures.

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Mass society theory says that social movements are made up of people in big societies who feel like they don’t matter or are socially disconnected.This theory says that social movements give their people a sense of power and belonging that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.But very little evidence has been found to back up this idea.In his study of the Idaho Christian Patriotism organisation, AHO (1990) did not find that its members were more likely to be socially isolated. In fact, the only way to join the movement was to know someone who was already a part of it.

Social strain theory, also called “value-added theory,” says that there are six things that make people move around:

  • structure that makes it easy for people to think their country has problems
  • structural strain – people suffer deprivation
  • growth and spread of a solution: A solution to the problems people are having is suggested and spreads.
  • When people are unhappy, it usually takes a spark (often a specific event) to start a social movement.
  • loss of social control: The thing that needs to change must be at least a little bit open to it. If the social movement is put down quickly and forcefully, it may never happen.
  • Mobilisation is the part of a movement where people actually get together and do what needs to be done.
  • This theory also uses circular thinking because it is based at least in part on deprivation theory and social/structural strain to explain why people get involved in social movements. But, like in deprivation theory, social movement activity is often the only sign that there was stress or deprivation.

Resource mobilisation theory shows how important resources are to the success of a social movement. Knowledge, money, the media, labour, unity, legitimacy, and both internal and external backing from the power elite are all seen as resources here. The theory says that social movements happen when people with problems can get together enough means to take action. The focus on finances helps explain why some unhappy or poor people are able to get together while others are not.Some of the ideas behind the theory are:

  • There will always be reasons to protest in modern, politically diverse countries, because people are always unhappy (because they have problems or don’t have enough).
  • Members think about the costs and rewards of joining the movement. New members are found through networks, and commitment is kept by building a shared identity and keeping up personal connections.
  • The way a cause is run depends on how many resources it has.
  • Social action groups need money and a steady flow of leadership.
  • Social movement entrepreneurs and protest organisers are the ones who turn collective dissatisfaction into social movements.
  • The activities of a movement depend on the kinds of tools it has. For example, if it has access to a TV station, it will use TV media a lot.
  • There is no clear pattern for how movements develop, nor are there specific techniques or methods that all movements use. This is because each movement’s response to the opportunity structures depends on the organisation and resources of the movement.
  • People who disagree with this idea say that it puts too much weight on resources, especially financial resources.Some groups, like the civil rights movement in the United States, can work without a lot of money coming in. Instead, they rely on the time and work of the people in the movement.

M.S.A. RAO had done a lot of study on social movements, and he found three things that had to do with how they began Social movement

People feel like they are missing out on something when they are robbed of something else. This would be a reason for the Naxalite movement. Deprivation is not a fixed, universal thing. Social movements don’t have to start with extreme or absolute conditions. They can also start with relative standards.

Structural strain: A society is under stress when the dominant value system and normative structure don’t meet the needs of the people.Trying to find a new set of values to replace the old ones leads to clashes and tensions that make people move around.When people are in this kind of position, they usually break the rules.

Revitalization: Offer a positive option.Movements are being made to improve the current system, which is experiencing internal stress.A movement that encourages loyalty and national pride could be started by a youth movement that encourages young people to help and organise the oppressed, or it could be started by a movement to teach people how to read and write. Movements are started so that people can work together to fix a problem. Not just protest what they think is wrong, but also try to show what they think is right.

Conditions for origin of social movements:

A social movement is when a lot of people try to work together to fix a problem or problems.

People need to understand what’s going on.

The problem has to be clear.

The problem must be real, even if most people don’t know about it.

Consciousness of the problem: When people realise there is a problem, it means that they are aware of it.They now know what is going on from their own point of view.

  • People don’t make problems out of the air. Problems do exist in the real world, but people don’t try to solve them until they know what they are. • Social groups don’t last forever.They have a life cycle that goes like this: they are made, they grow, they succeed or fail, and then they die and stop being.

Social movements are more likely to grow in times and places that are good for them. This is why they went hand in hand with the spread of ideas like individual rights, freedom of speech, and civil disobedience in the 19th century.

In both liberal and authoritarian societies, there are social groups, but they look different. But there will always be differences between groups of people that make them stand out. In the case of “old movements,” these were gaps in poverty and wealth. In the case of the “new movements,” these differences are more likely to be in customs, ethics, and beliefs.

Neil Smelser, a historian, says that for a social movement to start, there needs to be a “initiating event.” This is a single event that starts a chain of events in a society that leads to the start of a social movement. For example, the American Civil Rights movement grew because of how people reacted to a black woman, Rosa Parks, riding in the section of the bus that was only for white people (even though she wasn’t acting alone or on her own; usually, activist leaders lay the groundwork for interventions that are meant to start a movement). Anna Walentynowicz was fired from her job because she was a trade union activist. This led to the start of the Polish Solidarity movement, which finally brought down the communist governments of Eastern Europe. The South African shack dwellers’ movement started with a road blockade because a small piece of land that was supposed to be used for homes was suddenly sold to a developer. A “volcanic model” is another name for this kind of event. A social movement often starts when a lot of people realise that others share their values and want the same kind of social change as they do.

Sources of problems in social movement:

One of the hardest things for the new social force to do is to get the word out that it exists.Second, you have to get people to join instead of thinking, “Why should I do it myself if someone else can do it and I can just get the benefits of their hard work?” This is called the “free rider problem.”

There are a lot of social movements that start with a charismatic leader, or a person with charismatic power.After a social movement is started, it is possible that there will be two phases of recruiting.In the first step, people who care a lot about the “primary goal” and ideal of the movement will get together.The second phase, which normally comes after the movement has done well and become popular. It would look good on a resume. People who join during this second phase are likely to be the first to leave if the movement has problems or fails.

In the end, outside forces like government opposition or other groups can make the social crisis worse. But many groups had made it through a failure crisis, with some hard-core activists bringing them back to life even after many years.

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Leadership and ideology play a big part in social movements:

People form social organisations when they try to work together to fight against inequality, discrimination, and poverty. Widespread group mobilisation has led to organised movements with clear ideas and leaders who have made big changes in the places where they started.

  • Movements need leaders because they help make clear what’s going on and shape the movement as a result.
  • Provide direction to a movement.
  • Don’t let it turn into a group of people who are desperate and out of control.
  • People expect their leaders to reflect what they think.
  • Leaders say what the people in the group think.
  • They give people’s points of view in an organised way.
  • How the participants try to reach the goals will depend a lot on the kind of leadership the movement can produce.


  • People follow the leader because of what he stands for, which are the ideas he puts in front of them.
  • The movement is kept going in part because of its Ideology.
  • It helps you understand what’s going on.
  • It gives people the right to do what they want.
  • Ideology helps people understand and explain the effects of what they do.
  • Ideology shows the goals, ways, and forms of how people and social groups act in the real world.
  • It gives a reason for different social, political, and moral ideas.
  • Ideology is what sets a social movement apart from isolated events.
  • Leaders make decisions based on their beliefs.

Life cycle of social movements:

The first stage shows the social unrest that is going on.Because of this, anxiety grows among everyone.

In the second stage, people feel like they have a problem in common and are excited about it as a whole.Some social problems are seen as the root cause of the unhappiness, and then the fun begins. The movement gets followers and a set of ideas to follow.There is trouble everywhere. This time is usually short and moves quickly to the next step.

The third stage is formalisation, though some movements, like migratory movements, may be able to work without formal organisation. Leaders and followers divide up the work.Fundraising becomes more organised, and ideas become better than they were before.Strategy and methods for protesting and taking action are made, and a moral case is made for why a certain course of action was right.

The fourth step is about putting things in place. The motion solidifies into a clear pattern.The agitators are replaced by efficient workers, and buildings and offices are set up.People in that culture start to agree with the goals of the movement. This time could go on forever.

In the fifth stage, things start to fall apart. Only a few groups make it all the way into the institutions. Some movements stop quickly, while others fall apart after their goals have been met.

All social movements: Change society in a big way. Help speed up the process of change. Influence the moral, political, social, and cultural lives of the people.


A revolution is a large-scale change in society. The word “revolution” comes from the Latin word “revolutio,” which means “to turn around.” A revolution is a major change in political power or organisational structures that happens in a short amount of time when the people rise up against the present leaders.Skocpol (1979) says that a revolution leads to a big process of reform or change.

John Dunn has pointed out that this means that those who take power must really be better at running the society than those who were overthrown. The new leaders must be able to reach at least some of their goals.If a group gets the official trappings of power but can’t run the country well, we can’t call it a revolution. It’s more likely that the society is in chaos or on the verge of falling apart.

People who take part in a revolution either threaten or use violence.Revolutions are political changes that happen because the people in power don’t want to give up their power and can’t be convinced to do so without violence or the fear of violence.

By putting these three things together, we can say that a revolution is when the leaders of a mass movement seize political power, often through violence, and then use that power to start big changes in society.In this way, what happened in Eastern Europe in 1989 was definitely a change. There were large-scale social movements. Threats of violence were made, and sometimes (like in Romania) violence was used, against government officials. And there’s no doubt that the events led to big changes in society.

The revolutions, on the other hand, are just the most recent examples of a long history of political change in modern societies, which goes back to the 1800s. The most important events of the 18th century were the American Revolution in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1789.In the name of freedom, citizenship, and equal rights, these revolutions were fought. These ideas have now become core political beliefs. In fact, it was these values that drove the protests in Eastern Europe in 1989.In fact, the 18th-century movements were a big part of how most countries’ governments work today.

It’s not just the U.S. and France that are Western, but all of them.But until 1989, most of the world’s uprisings in the 20th century happened in developing countries like Russia, China, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, Vietnam, Cuba, and other Third World countries.

Revolution theories:

Since revolutions have been so important in world history over the past two hundred years, it is not surprising that there are many different ideas to explain them. Early on in the history of the social sciences, some ideas were made. Karl Marx’s was the most important. Marx lived a long time before any of the uprisings that were started in his name. He wanted his ideas to be seen not just as a study of how revolutions happen, but also as a way to help revolutions happen. No matter how true Marx’s ideas are, they have had a huge effect on how society has changed in the 20th century.

The theory of Karl Marx:

Marx’s view of revolution comes from how he sees the past of people in general. Marx said that the way societies change over time is marked by class battles that, when they get really bad, tend to lead to revolutionary change. Class battles come from societies’ contradictions, or tensions that can’t be solved.

Changes in the economy, or changes in the means of production, are the main cause of contradictions. In the beginning, society was stable, and the economy, social relationships, and government system were all in balance. This was the primitive capitalist stage. As the forces of production changed, contradictions arose in society because those who had “Means of Production” were different from those who didn’t. During the capitalist stage, the differences between classes got worse, which led to open fights between classes and, in the end, to revolution.

Marx used this model to explain how feudalism changed over time and how he thought industrial capitalism would change in the future.Europe’s old feudal societies were based on the work of peasants, who were called SERFS and were ruled by a class of landed lords and gentry.As the economies of these communities changed, towns and cities grew up, where trade and manufacturing took off. When this new economic system was made in a mediaeval society, it threatened the very foundations of that society. Instead of being based on the traditional relationship of lord and serf, the new economic order pushed industrialists to make goods that could be sold in open markets. Eventually, the differences between the old feudal economy and the new capitalist one became too big to ignore. This led to violent clashes between the growing capitalist class and the feudal landlords. This process led to change, the most important example of which was the French change in 1789.Marx said that the capitalist class was able to gain power because of revolutions and political changes in other European societies.

Marx said that the rise of industrial capitalism, on the other hand, brought about new problems that would eventually lead to more uprisings based on communist ideas. Marx meant by “communism” that the whole society, not just a few people, would own the means of production.Industrial capitalism is an economic system built on private pursuit of profit and competition between firms to sell their products. It creates a gap between a small group of rich people who control the industrial resources and a large group of poor wage workers.Workers and capitalists are getting into more and more fights with each other. Labour groups and political parties that represent most of the working population will eventually challenge the power of the capitalist class and overthrow the current political system. Marx thought that a violent revolution was needed to bring about the needed change when the situation of the dominant class was very secure.

The theory of James Davies:

Sociologist James Davies used history to criticise Marx. He said that there have been many times in history when people lived in terrible poverty but did not rise up in protest.People don’t become revolutionaries because they are poor or don’t have enough. Instead, they usually deal with these problems with resignation or silent sadness.Davies says that social protest and, in the end, revolution are more likely to happen when people’s living situations get better. When people’s living standards start to go up, their demands also go up. If things don’t keep getting better, people are more likely to rebel because they were hoping things would get better faster.

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So, protests aren’t caused by absolute deprivation, but by relative deprivation, which is the difference between how people are forced to live and what they think they could achieve.Davis’s theory helps us understand the links between the American Revolution and the modern growth of society and the economy. Ideals of progress and hopes for economic growth tend to make people have higher hopes, which, when they aren’t met, lead to protests. These protests get even bigger as ideas of equality and fair political participation spread.

Charles Tilly has pointed out, though, that Davies’s theory doesn’t explain how and why different groups come together to try to start a revolution. Protests might happen more often when people’s hopes are rising. To understand how protests turn into revolutionary action, we need to know how groups organise themselves to make effective political challenges.

The theory of Charles Tilly:

In From Mobilisation to Revolution, Charles Tilly looked at the process of revolutionary change in the setting of larger forms of protest and violence. He pointed out the four main parts of collective action, which he defined as any action done by a group to challenge or overthrow an established social order and lead to a revolution.

How the group or groups involved are put together. Protest movements can be put together in many different ways, from spontaneous crowds to well-organized rebel groups.For instance, Lenin led a movement in Russia that started as a small group of organisers.

Mobilisation is the process by which a group gets enough resources to be able to work as a whole. Some examples of such resources are money, political backing, and weapons.For example, Lenin was able to get both material and spiritual support from peasants and many people in towns who liked him.

The shared goals of these people who work together, and what they think the gains and losses will be from their policies. There are always some shared goals behind getting people to work together.For example, Lenin was able to build a large group of supporters because many people wanted to get rid of the current government.

Chance; things can happen that make it possible to work towards revolutionary goals. These kinds of random events have a big effect on many kinds of group activity, including revolution.Lenin’s success was not a sure thing; it depended on a number of things, such as how well he did in battle. Would there have been a revolution if Lenin had been killed?

Collective action is when people work together to pursue interests they both care about. For example, they might get together to hold a rally in support of their cause. Some of these people may be very involved, while others may be less involved or only help occasionally. Effective group action, like the kind that leads to a revolution, generally goes through stages 1 through 4.

Tilly thinks that social movements tend to start when people don’t have any institutional ways to make their views heard or when their needs are directly repressed by the government. Even though working together at some point. involves open conflict with the political authorities, or “taking to the streets.” conflict is most likely to change established patterns of power when it is backed by groups that are well-organized.

Different types of group action and protest have been common in different times and places.In today’s society, for example, most people know about protests like mass marches, big gatherings, and street riots, even if they haven’t taken part in them. Other types of group protest, such as fights between towns, breaking machines, or lynching, have become less common or have gone away in most modern societies. Protesters can also learn from what happened in other countries. For example, guerrilla movements grew in many places after angry groups saw how effective they could be against regular forces.

When and why does activity by a group turn violent?Tilly has studied a large number of violent incidents that have happened in Western Europe since 1800. He has found that the type of activity doesn’t matter as much as other factors, especially how the authorities react. One good example is the street protest. Most of these kinds of protests happen without hurting anyone or damaging anything. A small number of them turn violent and are then called riots. Sometimes the police step in after violence has already happened, but history shows that most of the time they are the ones who start the fights. Tilly wrote in 1978, “In the modern European experience, repressive forces are the ones who start and carry out collective violence most consistently.” Also, when there are violent confrontations, the agents of authority are the ones who cause the most deaths and injuries. This is not strange, since they have special access to weapons and are trained to follow military rules. On the other hand, the groups they are trying to control hurt things or property more.

Tilly says that revolutionary movements are a type of group action that happens when there is what he calls “multiple sovereignty.” This is when a government doesn’t have full control over the areas it is meant to run.Multiple sovereignty can happen when there is an outside war, domestic political fighting, or both. Whether or not a revolution takes over power relies on how well the government controls the armed forces, how much fighting there is within the government, and how well organised the protest movements are that want to take over.

Tilly’s work is one of the most complex attempts to look at violence in groups and political struggles. The ideas he comes up with seem to be useful in many situations, and he uses them in a way that takes into account the different times and places in history. How social movements are organised, the resources they can gather, the shared goals of groups fighting for power, and the chances for change are all important parts of political change.

Tilly doesn’t say much, though, about what causes there to be more than one ruler. This is such a basic part of explaining the change that leaving it out is a big mistake.Theda Skocpol says that Tilly thinks that revolutionary organisations are driven by the conscious and deliberate pursuit of interests, and that successful revolutionary change happens when people are able to get what they want. Skocpol, on the other hand, thinks that the goals of revolutionary groups are less clear and more vague. She says that most revolutions are unintended results of smaller goals. In fact, in past revolutions, different groups with different backgrounds and goals have become involved in a complicated process of multiple conflicts. Conditions in society, the economy, and the rest of the world have had a big impact on and limited these wars. And they have moved forward in different ways, based on how each revolutionary situation started.

Political Socialization

Political socialisation is the process of becoming part of a political system by learning about its symbols, structures, and ways of doing things and by internalising the values and ideas that support the system. It is also a way for people to learn about politics. Through culture transmission, this process works on both an individual and a group level. It is a very important part of how the governing system works. It’s also a part of getting to know people in general, which starts later in life.

The two most important parts are: 1) teaching basic values and rules about how to act in politics and how to deal with political problems; and 2) joining a political party and learning its ideas and plans for action.Mass media play an equally important part in educating the public and clearing up their ideas so they can make well-informed decisions about politics. It is a very important part of the voting process.

Political Modernization:

It is how political culture changes as a result of changes in the social and physical surroundings. Huntington says that political development is a process with many parts that involves change in everything people think and do. Benjamin Schwartz sees political modernization as the systematic, long-term, and powerful use of human energy to control man’s social and physical surroundings. Claude Welch says that political modernization is the process of putting together a modern society based on the smart use of resources.

As the political system tries to keep up with the times and become more modern, some important problems and issues arise. It has to do with how the sources of power change over time.