What explains social movements? Knuttila (2002: 98-120) reports that prior to the development of new social movement theory, the predominant way of explaining the rise of social movements was the Marxian class conflict model. However, a host of social movements arising in both Europe and American during the 1960s and 1970s, did not fit this model. These movements emphasized group or collective identity as well as values and lifestyles above developed ideologies; moreover, these movements appeared to emerge more from middle than working class constituencies. These were social movements for which the standard Marxian models did not appear to fit.
Bell (1976: 87-90), stated that the response was to postulate that these social movements were qualitatively different than past social movements and that they arose out of a post-industrial society. The new social movement models, Bell (87-108) reported, theorized the post-industrial society was not concerned or organized around class or economic issues but rather focused on political powered; they organized around new identities and communities. These were movements that criticized prevailing values and presented new values in their place. New social movements were said to be vehicles for a transition to a new and more egalitarian society.
As to how well new social movement theory explains the factors giving rise to present day social movements, Knuttila (2002: 98-120) points out that since the development of these early models, new social movement theory, while still arguing for a qualitative shift in social movements arising out of the post-industrial society, has now moved away from rooting these movements so strongly in the idea of totally new concepts and themes and have attempted to incorporate at least some earlier and more traditional components into social movement frameworks. Without these additions, the theories have been found to fall short in t