New Social Movement Theory

New social movement theory (Klandermans, 1986; Johnston, Larana, and Gusfield, 1994; Buechler, 1995; Pichardo, 1997; della Porta and Diani, 1999) was developed in Europe during the 1980s and 1990s to explain the rise of the women’s, peace, and environmental movements. It has somewhat limited relevance to environmental NGOs in developing countries but does help to illuminate how the conditions they face limit their ability to attract mass support. New social movements in developed countries were theorized to result, in part, from the growth of so-called post-material values among a growing “new class” of well-educated, financially secure citizens in occupations such as education, social services, the arts, and journalism. This profile has proven quite useful in predicting who supports environmental groups in developed countries; however, the limited number of persons fitting this profile in developing countries represents a significant obstacle to recruiting mass support for an environmental movement based in the middle class, so the support base for environmental NGOs is likely to be smaller there (Anheier and Salamon, 1998).

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