To what extent do new social movements represent a challenge to established ways of conducting liberal democratic policies? In order to understand the extent of the challenge posed by new social movements to liberal democratic policy and the ways in which they are conducted one must first understand what these policies entail. The modern day concept of a liberal democracy is based on the liberalist movement of the philosophers of the eighteenth century.
However the advent of past social has resulted in challenges to the ways in which liberal democracy has been and is conducted over the intervening years since that time; the suffrage movement and the American civil rights movement against segregation are two such examples. These movements were successful because those in power allowed them to succeed (admittedly with some reluctance). There are also many other groups which have grown up as a result of the mass movement of peoples. These groups campaign for greater minority rights, and more freedom to express cultural heritage.
Heywood states additionally that these groups are a result of the post-modernist era: "If the major political ideologies were in their various ways, products of modernisation [i. e. the labour movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries], the transition from a modern to a post modern society cannot but have profound significance for their [the new movements] roles and character [… ] post modernity [… ] has both thrown up new ideological movements and transformed established ones [such as communist regimes]"2
He goes on to state that these new movements have become more prominent in the relatively new liberal democracies of the old eastern block and south African and South American states. However other movements outside of liberal democracy (particularly religious extremism) also exist and it is these movements which I feel have presented the greatest challenge to the liberal democracies which we live in. These movements have also gained sympathy in established liberal democracies such as the US this is shown through the massive popularity of Noam Chomsky's works.
Due to the stagnation of politics after the more idealistic movements of the nineteen sixties and seventies and the early eighties there has been a decrease in voter turnout and an increase in voter alienation (I feel this is demonstrated by the popularity of books which criticize those in power) this is because of a situation wherein people feel that the political system is insufficient in it's ability to bring about significant change for the benefit of the masses. This is demonstrated by George Bush's infamous tax cut which has helped the minority upper classes (and primary party donors) more than the majority middle and working classes.
Additionally, the way in which the resent president came to power is very dubious (he wasn't even voted by the people as the president, and various events's conspired to bring him into power). Moreover, in the UK the privatization of previously state owned companies has resulted in failed companies such as Railtrack. As well as this in the UK the governments policy towards asylum seekers contravenes their human rights and international law; this is possibly because the countries from which the most militant new movements are ones from which many asylum seekers originate.
However this is no more acceptable from a liberal democracy because it degrades and disrespects people as humans. This has it seems only demonstrated to the people of the liberal democracies that the supremacy of the people, and their rights is not one of the government's primary concerns. This alienation as led to the growth of single issue groups and organizations including: Amnesty international, and stop the war coalition and has in part been responsible for the increase in sympathy from the populations of some liberal democratic countries (the suicide bomber in the recent tragic events in Istanbul were identified as being Turkish).
These groups organize more immediate events which allow people to vent a level of frustration at the democratic process. Additionally, M. Moore feels there is a greater need for such groups which can more directly influence governments in an immediate manor. This is derived from the way that he has demonstrated that the US peoples are (according to recent surveys) significantly more liberally left wing in their views and ideals; this is not reflected in the right wing conservative government in power at present.
3 I feel this might be a causal factor in the rise of these new movements; there is a feeling that there is insufficient diversity in the political system and therefore people are turning to other means to get their view across to governments and pressurize them into implementing particular policies. The method has been perceived by those who supported the groups to be ineffectual and so the groups have become more extreme in there methods which has in turn led the liberal governments to remove even more of the liberty of peoples. The reason given for this is that it will protect the majority and prevent the "terrorists" from causing havoc.
One must note that it was only through the liberal democratic process that other movements have succeeded in their aims. This suggests that more recent movements will only truly succeed if they to engage in the current systems. However, this could be perceived as a possible paradox: the people are alienated and so they turn to fringe groups in order to vent their frustration, the only groups which succeed are those which engage in the current systems, but people don't vote (due to an alienation with the current system) so the fringe groups find it hard to gain influence in the political system.