International Journal of Futures Studies Volume 5, 2003 (fonte)

Social Movement Theories and the Future: An Examination of the Works of Alvin Toffler

Nelson A. Pichardo Almanzar

Dept. of Sociology / Central Washington University / Ellensburg, WA 98926 /

The Paper

Social movement scholars have always been deeply involved in understanding the nature of social change. From Marx’s work on dialectic materialism to the advent of New Social Movement theory, SM researchers have sought to map the future of society and foresee the role of social movements in either advancing or reacting to that change. Despite this intimate involvement with issues of social change and the future, SM researchers have not taken advantage of the burgeoning literature produced by the field of Future Studies. This paper seeks to introduce the work of the noted futurist Alvin Toffler to the study of SMs. I will present his model of future social change and the implications of this model for visions of SMs in the future.

Social Movements Theories and the Future: A Literature Review

Prognostications of what the future will bring have been a staple of social movement research since its infancy. Beginning with the work of Karl Marx and continuing on through the NSM theses, social movement researchers have presented arguments that either offer specific expectations about the future or that can be projected into the future.

This in part arises because of the intimate connection between modernization and social movements. Social movements have often been seen as reactions to the forces of modernization whether it is the growth of capitalism and the advent of the nation-state (Tilly 1986), the rise of industrialization (Tilly, Tilly and Tilly 1975), the global spread of capitalism (Barber 1995), or the advent of the post-industrial society (Pichardo1997).

Marx’s theory of dialectic materialism is easily the best example since he offered specific predictions of the future. But Marx’s model was based on the belief that industrial capitalism was the final stage of capitalist development before the rise of socialism. Hence, Marx has nothing to say about the post-industrial future.

The New Social Movement theses are post-Marxist conceptions of SMs that were formulated as a direct response to the perceived failures of Marxism. A number of these can be classified as sharing a number of general characteristics known as the State Intrusion (SI) hypotheses (see Pichardo 1997). The State Intrusion hypothesis argues that because of the rise of the post-industrial economy, contemporary SMs operate in a different economic environment (post-industrial age) than previous movements where the conditions necessary for capital accumulation have changed thus altering the actions of capitalists and consequently the orientation, actions, structure, and participants of NSMs.

Contemporary movements are said to differ in several ways from those of the industrial era. First, the ideology and goals of the movements emphasize direct participation in the political process and concern for quality of life issues. They advocate direct democracy and question the materialistic orientation of society as well as the negative externalities of economic growth (pollution, suburban sprawl). Their ideology also emphasizes identity issues and believes that politics should be imbued with identity concerns. It is in this vein that the notion of the "personal as political" is espoused. It is believed that every act we engage in has political ramifications and that politics pervades all areas of social life. This results in NSMs having a self-reflexive character or an ability to critically reflect back on themselves. This, in turn, leads activists to make a conscious choice of structure and tactics that reflect the movement’s identity rather than being solely guided by instrumental rationality, an example being the use of consciousness raising groups.

Second, the different tactical posture of contemporary movements is said to mirror their ideological orientation. They tend to use non-institutional tactics relying heavily on mobilizing public opinion and are thereby dependent on mass media. In order to attract media coverage, they tend to employ highly dramatic events in order to mobilize media coverage.

Fourth, and relatedly, the structure of NSMs are believed to employ anti-bureaucratic organizational structures that are decentralized, and non-hierarchical. They promote full direct participation by rotating leadership and operating by consensus. Again, this stems from their ideological orientation.

Lastly, the participants of NSMs emanate primarily from the middle class. No longer is the working class seen as the basis of social upheaval.

State Intrusion Hypothesis

The "State Intrusion" hypothesis is a neo-Marxist view that links the rise of NSMs to the changing requirements of capital accumulation in the post-modern age. With the advent of a service/technical economy with its emphasis on growth and information management, capital accumulation necessitates a social as well as economic domination. Social domination involves controlling dissent (ensuring conformity) and knowledge and therefore requires an expansion of the state's coercive mechanisms into the civic sphere (Habermas 1987; Melucci 1984; Sassoon 1984; Touraine 1971). NSMs are concerned with the "self-defense of "society" against the state ... and the market economy..." (Cohen 1985:664). Habermas (1981) refers to the process of the state and market economy to substitute strategic action for the symbolic processes of communication as "inner colonization".

Mouffe (1984) offers a different version. She sees a similar process except she links it to the commodification of social life (where social needs depend on the market for satisfaction), bureaucratization (resulting from the intervention of the state into all areas of social reproduction), and cultural massification (resulting from the pervasive influence of the mass media that destroys or modifies existing collective identities). These new forms of subordination are responsible for the rise of NSMs that represent novel forms of resistance.

According to Mouffe (1984), the unique nature of conflict in modern societies is said to be partly a function of three characteristics of domination and deprivation. First, the impact of the state and economy on society is said to no longer be class specific but "dispersed in time, space, and kind so as to affect virtually every member of society in a broad variety of ways" (Offe 1985:844). Second, there has been a deepening of domination and social control making its effects more comprehensive and inescapable. Third, the political and economic institutions have lost the ability to correct their own defects (irreversibility) requiring action from outside the official political institutions to correct its flaws (Offe 1985).

The intrusion of the state into the cultural realm requires counter-hegemonic actions by NSMs. This explains the cultural basis of conflict in the modern era. NSMs are reactions to the state's attempts to control the civic sphere. SMs are, therefore, now concerned with cultural questions like sexual identity, roles, and community. They also react to the growth policies of post-industrial economy. These policies have two consequences, one is the creation of a mass consumer society, and the other is negative environmental effects.

Lastly, the SI hypothesis argues that rather than being engineered by the working class, NSMs are a product of the new middle class employed in the non-productive sector of the economy such as social workers, academics, and cultural producers (artists, media). They engage in SMs partly because of their independence from corporate sector and conflict centers around the control of work and identity. They focus on the rules and regulations that exist in corporate world as well as the types of individuals (identities) corporation seek to fashion. Thus, the seat of revolutionary upheaval has shifted from the working to the new middle class.

However, as a general theory of social movements in the modern age, the NSM theses have been found to be lacking (see Pichardo 1997). Among the criticisms are whether contemporary movements are indeed any different from previous movements, the inability to empirically establish a link between the actions of the state and the incidence of NSMs, that the theses draw too heavily on left-wing movements, and its untenability as a theory. Thus, our quest to understand movements of the modern era continues. It is in service of this quest that Toffler’s model of future change is offered.


At its heart, Toffler’s theory is a model of social change that argues that the transformation of the economy from the Second Wave technologies of the industrial era to the Third Wave technologies of the information age has brought with it a rapid pace of social change. This pace of change is so rapid, Toffler argues, that it is beyond the means of the individual to cope with. He calls the consequence of the rapid change upon the individual "Future Shock." Future Shock is defined "as the distress, both physical and psychological, that arises from the overload of the human organism’s physical adaptive systems and its decision-making process" (Toffler 1970:326).

He argues that the our lives are now characterized by such high levels of transience, novelty, and diversity that human beings can no longer adequately deal with these constant changes. There are three consequences of these rapid social changes. First, the traditional anchors of self in society have been undermined. The traditional worlds of the family, church, and work no longer function to provide any stability to life. Second, the pace of life has increased tremendously. The increased pace of life is not only a function of the "acceleration" of time itself in the modern age but also that the very permanency of things and relationships has diminished. Third, there has been a startling increase in the amount of information that is available for people to consume that is beyond the pale of the individual to cognitively deal with. This overchoice and overstimulation is not only informational but decisional and sensory as well.

The root of these social changes has been the economic changes brought about by the arrival of the Third Wave. The progression of society from the agricultural economy of the First Wave, to the industrial economy of the Second Wave, and to the post-industrial economy of the Third Wave has brought with it a radical alteration of everyday life. With the advent of the Third Wave information has become the central force in society. The creation and dissemination of information has increasingly accelerated to levels unimagined in the past.

The engine of this change is technology. Rather than envisioning a monolithic future dominated by powerful bureaucratized and centralized institutions or corporations, Toffler foresees the opposite: a future where the emerging information age technologies create an unstandardized, de-massified society. Where power is decentralized and bureaucracies are obsolete. In this vision, the post-industrial technology is moving away from the mass production of the industrial age toward an economy where custom-made goods are possible, where the market can satisfy individual desires. In short, to a future that is fragmented.

This fragmentation occurs on several levels. Not only is there a lack of standardization on a product level but also on a social level. The unity that once characterized village society in the agricultural age has given way to the dis-unity of the modern age where values are inconsistent, identities fleeting, and social institutions (like the family) are unstable. The fragmentation of modern life has dramatically increased the choices and options individuals are confronted with while at the same time eroding the foundations on which social life was once grounded. This fragmentation results in the diversification of identity: in a surfeit of subcults. With the pace of life increasing to dramatic levels and the fragmentation of our social structures, we no longer have anywhere to anchor our identities.

Not only has social life been radically altered, but so too has the power bases of society. Toffler argues that this is the dawn of the "Powershift" era; that "we live at a moment when the entire structure of power that held the world together is now disintegrating" (Toffler 1990:3). Toffler posits that there are three bases of power: violence, wealth, and knowledge. Not only has knowledge become the primary source of power in the modern age, but force and wealth themselves have become dependent on knowledge (see Toffler 1990:16-17).


In the 19th and 20th centuries, nations went to war to seize control of the raw materials they needed to feed their smokestack economies. In the 21st century, the most basic of all materials will be knowledge (Toffler 1990:323).

This shift in the basis of power to knowledge means that the control of information will not only be critical for the new economy but for political institutions as well.

The shift in power also has a global dimension. "Looming on the horizon … is a dangerous decoupling of the fast economies from the slow, an event that could spark enormous power shifts throughout the so-called South – with impacts on the planet as a whole" (Toffler 1990:398). "As the disparities [between different regions] widen, they may well trigger an explosion of extremist movements demanding regional or local autonomy or actual secession" (Toffler 1990:240). Thus, the control of information will become the new mechanism of oppression and differentiation. As noted by Toffler (1990), "everywhere, as the super-symbolic economy develops, information issues became more significantly political" (p. 316).

The shift in power is also foreseen as potentially moving from the nation-state to what Toffler refers to as Global Gladiators. The Global Gladiators are non-national organizations that include religious groups, drug cartels, and transnational corporations that now possess significant power.

Religion has become an important vehicle for popular discontent in the modern age because it provides an alternate medium of communication outside the direct control of the state. In this way "organized religion [in Iran and South Korea] took the place of, or merged with, a political opposition" (Toffler 1990:347). But Toffler further argues that we may be experiencing a reawakening of religion, "that we may be circling back to the kind of world system that existed before industrialism, before political power was packaged into clearly defined national entities" (Toffler 1990:451). Toffler forewarns, for example, that


in the United States, it is not hard to imagine some new political party running Billy Graham (or some facsimile) on a crude "law-and-order" or "anti-porn" program with a strong authoritarian streak. Or some as yet unknown Anita Bryant demanding imprisonment for gays or "gay-symps." Such examples provide only a faint, glimmering intimation of the religio-politics that may well lie ahead, even in the most secular of societies. One can imagine all sorts of cult-based political movements headed by Ayatollahs named Smith, Schulz or Santini (1980:399).

Corporations are another organization that have been undergoing dramatic changes brought on by the Third Wave. According to Toffler, the corporation is struggling to operate in a


Volatile, confusing environment … The managers who run them have no wish to relinquish corporate power. They will battle for profits, production, and personal advancement. But faced with soaring levels of unpredictability, with mounting public criticisms, and hostile political pressures, our most intelligent managers are questioning the goals, structure, responsibility, the very raison de etre of their organizations. Many of our biggest corporations are experiencing something analogous to an identity crisis as they watch the once stable Second Wave framework disintegrate around them (1980:229).

The Third Wave economy has altered the basic characteristics of the environment in which corporations function.

Corporations are being forced to redefine themselves in this environment. "The redefinition is not a matter of choice but a necessary response to five revolutionary changes in the actual conditions of production. Changes in the physical environment, in the lineup of social forces, in the role of information, in government organization, and in morality are all pounding the corporation into a new multi-faceted, multi-purposeful shape (Toffler 1980:235). Many of these changes have direct implications for SMs of the future.

The first of the new pressures is related to the biosphere. "The demands on the planet are escalating wildly" (Toffler 1980:235) manifested in terms of pollution, desertification, the poisoning of the oceans and changes in climate. Clearly, these may generate significant protests. The second pressure comes from the social environment that is now more densely organized than ever. Thus, actions taken by corporations now impact professionally organized groups with political resources. Among these are SM organizations. Third are the pressures from the de-massified info-sphere. This leads corporations to consume large amounts of information and to conflicts over the control of data. Thus, privacy issues become important. Finally, there is heightened moral pressure that forces corporations to alter their behavior. Toffler notes that a "citizen’s movement of a type never before seen … is gradually gathering momentum, one that criticizes the way corporations disrupt everyday life" (1980:234).


Today’s corporate critics start from a totally different premise. They attack the artificial divorce of economics from politics, morality, and the other dimensions of social life. They hold the corporation increasingly responsible, not merely for its economic performance but for its side effects on everything from air pollution to executive stress. Corporations are thus assailed for asbestos poisoning, for using poor populations as guinea pigs in drug testing, for distorting the development of the non-industrial world, for racism and sexism, for secrecy and deception. They are pilloried for supporting unsavory regimes or political parties, from the fascist generals in Chile and the racists in South Africa to the Communist Party in Italy (Toffler 1980:234).

The corporation is not only beset by a host a new pressures, but its largest representatives, transnational corporations, are also gathering significant power rivaling and surpassing those of nation-states. They are rooted in many different nations, control resources that dwarf those of many nations, engage in massive currency exchanges, and control significant amounts of trade. Clearly, the growing power of transnational corporations can change the locus and direction of social protest in the future.

In sum, Toffler’s Future Shock thesis presents a consensus based theory of social change where technological change has created a dysfunctional society, a structural and cultural lag that has created an imbalance in society between technological change and social institutions. This results in psychological and physical distress as people are asked to constantly adapt to change and are confronted with overwhelming choice.


To survive, to avert what we have termed future shock, the individual must become infinitely more adaptable and capable then ever before. He must search out totally new ways to anchor himself, for all the old roots- religion, nation, community, family, or profession- are now shaking under the hurricane impact of the accelerative thrust [of rapid social change] (Toffler 1970:35).

Toffler calls for the reform of social institutions as well as the creation of new ones to aid in this adjustment.

Additionally, technological change has resulted in a shift in the bases of power toward knowledge. Thus, information has become the key politicized issued of the modern age and the fountainhead of all modern problems and conflicts. This shift to knowledge has resulted in the transformation of large-scale social organizations including nation-states and corporations. Toffler foresees the decay of the nation-state and the growing power of corporations and transnationals. He also sees a more densely organized social sphere and growing levels of criticism from future citizens.


To be fair, Toffler’s Future Shock thesis is not a model of social movements. Nonetheless, the thesis says and infers a great deal about social movements of the future. Essentially, from Toffler’s writings four overarching types of movements can be inferred. These can be described as a two-fold table with one dimension being the level of effect of social change and the other being the type of response.

Type of Response

  Reactionary Adaptive
Individual level Mvmts that seek refuge from modern age Mvmts that seek to embrace modern age
Societal level Mvmts that react to demise of social institutions Mvmts that seek to accommodate to changing society

The aspects of the modern age that are being reacted or accommodated to, each rooted in the growing importance and centrality of information in the modern age, are either the quickened pace of life, the fragmentation of life, the introduction of new technologies, or shifts in power. This reaction can be manifested at either an individual or societal level.

As noted by Toffler "some people thrive on the new, rapid pace, others are fiercely repelled by it and go to extreme lengths to "get off the merry-go-round"" (1970:39), that is they either seek to escape or accommodate to the pace of change. Individual-reactionary movements, therefore, tend to take the shape of subcults. Some of these subcults seek to return to a bygone era, where life was simpler and slower. Other movements are more in tune with the dictates of the modern age as they desire to be in sync with the quickened pace of life as when they "wish to accelerate friendships" which helps explain the


fascination with such psychological techniques as "sensitivity training," "T-grouping," "micro-labs," so-called "touchie-feelie" or non-verbal games and the whole group dynamics phenomenon in general. The enthusiasm for communal living, too, expresses the underlying sense of loneliness and inability to "open up" with others (Toffler 1970:415).

Movements concerned with identity issues (feminist, gay and lesbian) are characterized as individual-adaptive movements. This may seem an odd classification as many would consider these movements as counter-hegemonic. But Toffler would see these movements as a product of the forces of social change in the modern era. As noted by Toffler, new identities are proliferating as a consequence of the decimation of the traditional anchors of self. Identity-based movements are an attempt to legitimate new social identities, to adapt to the changes in society.

Societal level reactions also take either reactive or adaptive postures. On the reactive side, there is the demise of so-called traditional institutions like family and religion as well as changes resulting from the uneven progress of change as some groups may experience downward social mobility or some regions may be left behind or shut out of the information revolution. As noted by Toffler, "populations sometimes resist the pace of change" (1970:41). This has given rise to a spate of SMs generally associated with the right-wing like the pro-family movement and fundamentalist religious movements.

In terms of reacting to technological change, Toffler specifically sees


the first glimmers of an international revolt that will rock parliaments and congresses in the decades ahead. The protest against the ravages of irresponsibly used technology could crystallize in pathological form – as a future-phobic fascism with scientists substituting for Jews in the concentration camps (1970:430).

Into this type can be included movements opposed to biotechnology (whether that be human, animal, or plant bioengineering), as well as the environmental, animal rights, and anti-abortion movements. Toffler gives some discussion to environmental issues or, as he refers to it, "Earth Politics."


The attempt to deal with [ecological] problems will not only fragment old alliances, but breed more zealots – world savers for whom environmental requirements (as they define them) supersede the niceties of democracy" (1990:243).

What is curiously lacking in Toffler’s extended discussions are reactions to the economic practices of globalization. Not that he does not see a potential for transnational corporations (which Toffler calls mega-firms) to destabilize the economy in that they no longer serve the interests of any one nation or that the globalization of the economy may not result in significant global powershifts away from nations to corporations or from some regions to others. But he phrases the potential conflicts in terms of a struggle between nationalists and globalists. Nationalists defend their cultural uniqueness and protest their absorption into the Western cultural model. But this only acknowledges part of the burgeoning anti-globalization movement. Direct citizen protests against the economic practices of transnationals that seek to usurp our culture, that exploit third-world workers, and result in the growing power of multinationals (see Klein 1999) are not discussed although Toffler might counter that his premise that "a change in the level of socially necessary order" (Toffler 1990:463) brought about by the transition to a super symbolic economy covers this point. Although Toffler discusses the shape of the anti-globalization movement, in terms of the table above, the anti-globalization movement is still categorized as a reaction to the rise of the post-industrial economy although the form of anti-globalization protest, from Toffler’s view, is limited to nationalist reactions to globalization.

In terms of adaptive social movements, Toffler argues that we should expect "a historic struggle to remake our political institutions, bringing them into congruence with the revolutionary post-mass production economy" (Toffler 1990:239). There will be "pressures for political decentralization in all high-tech nations" (Toffler 1990:240). Toffler does not specifically point to any examples but his discussion of recent movements that extol the "right to know" and harking privacy issues fall into this category. One might further argue that some segments of the environmental movement that have increased input into governmental policies through the use of non-governmental organizations represent such adaptations of government.

In sum, Toffler seems to consider SMs in much the same way as most consensus theorists, as signals that the normal functioning of society has gone awry. He argues that solutions are to be found in the creation of new social institutions and that corporations will naturally act in the best interests of the whole society. In fact, Toffler argues that the pressure to act morally will bring the actions of corporations in line with those of social justice. That the new corporation will have multiple "bottom lines." He states that this change to ethical behavior is already taking place (see Toffler 1980:235-243). Individuals who act out of outmoded values (those rooted in the Second Wave) are bound to lose out as he sees these changes as largely inevitable. Such a view tends to marginalize SMs.

Further, his language when referring to movements tends to be extreme. He uses words like phobic, zealot, and extremist in describing social movements. It seems that Toffler does not have a positive image of SMs.

Nonetheless, Toffler offers an interesting model of social change that deserves serious consideration alongside other models of SMs in the contemporary age. But there are some problems with Toffler’s model that stem from his consensus perspective of social change. He sees social change as dominated by technology but sees technological change as independent of power groups in society. This leaves us guessing as to what is the engine of technological change. He makes it seem that the introduction and development of technology is natural social process. A related problem is that there is an internal contradiction in his model. He argues that corporations will be beset by new moral concerns that will pressure their behavior while at the same time still needing to attend to the bottom line. Yet, corporations cannot at the same time increase their costs by instituting fair labor practices or responding to environmental and political sensitivity while maximizing profit. It would be more likely that corporations would try to avoid or mute the cries for social justice rather than affect their true bottom line – profits.


Toffler presents a model of social change that when abstracted can provide an alternative explanation for "new" social movements, a model not previously recognized by SM researchers (see Buechler 1995; Pichardo 1997). The Future Shock thesis when compared to existing NSM theories provides an interesting contrast that revolves around four characteristics of NSMs: the role of the media, public opinion, decentralization, and identity concerns.

The State Intrusion thesis argues that movements in the post-industrial economy take the shape they do in part because they are centered on identity issues and because they utilize tactics that are geared toward media coverage as a means of mobilizing favorable public opinion. This emphasis on identity issues is thought to be rooted in the intrusion of the state into the cultural realm. The Future Shock thesis paints a contrasting picture. Identity concerns are not a product of the "colonization of inner life" (Habermas, 1981) or the commodification of social life (Mouffe 1984) but rather are a product of the fragmentation of social life that has led to a proliferation of social identities. Toffler does not see identity issues as necessarily being politicized. Rather he believes that cults and other like identity-based solutions are more probable.

As for the role of the media, the State Intrusion thesis argues that the reliance of NSMs on the media is a function of their desire to operate outside of institutional channels (Pichardo 1997). Toffler (1980) also sees a significant role for the media in the modern age. But rather than phrasing it in terms of institutional versus non-institutional channels, he sees the media going through the same processes as the economy in general; that is, a process of de-massification. This proliferation of media inputs and outlets (ranging from video cameras to fax machines to the internet) has a potentially subversive quality (Toffler 1990). This subversion resides in several characteristics of new age media: its mobility, convertibility, connectivity, ubiquity, and globalization.

Mobility refers to the rising use of devices like cell phones and pagers which can keep people in touch even when on the go. This also allows people to set or change plans quickly as well as operate illicit businesses like drug sales. Convertibility refers to the ability to transfer information from one medium to another (as when a computer sends faxes) as well as translating one language instantaneously to another. Connectivity refers to the ability of computers, despite different makers, to communicate with each other. Ubiquity refers to the "systemic spread of the new media around the world and down through every economic layer of society" (Toffler 1990:355). And finally, this new infrastructure is global in scope, reaching across national borders. These properties of the new media make it cooptable for the purpose of subversion and resistance. Thus, Toffler employs a more expansive vision of the media (not just broadcast news) and sees the media utilized as a tool of protest not because it is non-institutional but rather because of the growing power, pervasiveness, and importance of the media in the modern age.

Next, we need to discuss the role of public opinion. There are two kinds of social order: socially necessary order and surplus order. Socially necessary order is that which is needed to maintain the veneer of civilization while surplus order "is that excess order imposed not for the benefit of the society, but exclusively for the benefit of those who control the state" (Toffler 1990:462-63). Toffler suggests that "global opinion is growing more and more articulate, and less tolerant of surplus order" (1990:463). Those states that impose high levels of surplus order not only run the risk of losing their legitimacy but also of stifling economic progress.


The revolutionary new element - a change brought about by the novel system of wealth creation – is a change in the level of socially necessary order. As nations make the transition toward the advanced, super-symbolic economy, they need more horizontal self-regulation and less top-down control. Put more simply, totalitarian control chokes economic advance (Toffler 1990:463).

So, the importance of public opinion lies not in its ability to circumvent institutional channels but because socially necessary order must be regulated in order to insure economic and social progress and this is a consequence of the shift to the information age.

In terms of decentralization, the State Intrusion hypothesis argues that this is a reaction to the undemocratic structure of modern life and is a reflection of the ideological underpinnings of NSMs (Pichardo 1997). Toffler’s thesis suggests that decentralization is one of the hallmarks of the Third Wave brought about by the reorganization of social and production organizations. Thus, Toffler sees decentralization to be a product not of the counter-hegemonic ideological underpinnings of modern life but rather the decentralization of all aspects of modern life brought about by the introduction of new technologies.

A final point of discussion. Mouffe (1984) specifically states that the future will be characterized by increasing levels of bureaucracy and cultural massification. This is in direct contrast with Toffler’s vision. Toffler believes that the future will see the death of bureaucracy and the proliferation of new identities.

So, while both the State Intrusion and Future Shock theses acknowledge similar processes like identity issues, the importance of public opinion, and the role of the media, they offer contrasting reasons for why these are so. In a future article, I hope to apply the Future Shock model to a specific case study to see how well it holds up. Regardless of its specific merits, the Future Shock thesis offers a new way to think about SMs in the future.


1. There are actually several variations of the so-called NSM theory. See Buechler 1995, Pichardo 1997 for a review of these.

2. The info-sphere is Toffler’s term for the sphere of society that deals with the production and distribution of information. This sphere changes as the techno-sphere changes.

3. The classification of a movement as either identity-based or not is not clear-cut. Many movements have identity components (see Pichardo Almanzar, Sullivan-Catlin and Deane 1998) but it is still the case that some movements are more centered on identity issues than others.

4. This is supported by the work of Naomi Klein (1999) where she argues that "the prospect of having to change a few pronouns and getting a handful of women and minorities on the board and on the television posed no real threat to the guiding profit-making principle of Wall Street" (p. 122).