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June 2023

How Change Happens

By Leslie R. Crutchfield


The book ‘How Change Happens’ is a sociology book which looks at social movements from recent history. The book focuses on the successful movements to reduce drunk driving, the anti-tobacco campaign, marriage equality and the gun lobby. In order to answer the question of how change is most effectively brought about, the book addresses six main fundamental factors. These are the role of grassroots campaigners, the importance of pushing change to varying degrees in all states (this parameter is US specific), changing public perception, dealing with conflict in the context of the social movement, encouraging support from corporations, and, finally, good leadership practices. The book explores the practices of the aforementioned successful social movements in order to draw broader conclusions. The book is very interesting as it underlines the plethora of factors that make for an effective social movement. Moreover, the book also addresses why some social movements fail – broadly speaking because they do no adopt many of the good practices of social movements that succeeded. One interesting case study the book repeatedly draws on is the gun control movement as opposed to the gun lobby. Whereas gun control campaigners mostly focused on the federal level and attempted to change policy, the NRA invested in grassroots campaigns and events relying on charismatic, yet, inclusive, leadership. The book is interesting not only in a sociological and historical context, but also for understanding some of the most effective social movements which influenced America and the world. 

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