Deprivation theory posits that social movement formation and growth was as a result of the lack of access for the people to what could make life worth living for them. A good example in Nigeria is the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereignty State of Biafra (MASSOB). Other similar movement sprang up in other parts of the country to protest one form of injustice or the other
Goes to show that people who are even witnessing improved living conditions are likely to keep agitating for more. One critical point to be noted here is that absolute deprivation may not aggravate the formation of social movement but relative deprivation. As captivating as the theory seems, it has the shortcoming of only explaining the causes of social movement while glossing over the real operations of the movement itself neither is it able to answer the question why some people witnessing relative deprivation as others may not be interested in forming social movements. It has also yet to be proved that relative deprivation alone can be adduced as a major indicator of social movements. In spite of this array of criticisms, the theory remains a good predicator variable in the explanation of social movements
It was Smelser who developed this theory in 1962, to explain the formation of social movement using the events of Eastern Europe. He also provided insight into the causes of other collective behaviors such as riots and mobs as well as other factors aiding or discouraging their development. The factors he enumerated for the formation of virile social movements are as explained below:
·Structural conduciveness: this comes with the belief or the conviction by the people that the society has a lot of problems, which requires serious surgical operations. It is this conviction that the leadership of such social movements worked on to enhance the commitment of members within the group. They must not only be aware of their poor living conditions but be convinced that they are actually living in abject poverty compared to others, hence a change is needed.
·The problem comes when the society fails to meet these expectations. This was the situation that led to the formation of Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in Nigeria. As an oil producing society, the people expect much from the government in terms of infrastructural facilities, education, economic empowerment etc. which was not forthcoming, hence the formation of their social movement
·They also must be armed with explanations as to the causes of their suffering as well as the solutions to them. Grievances at this stage are often expressed through demonstrations etc.
·There must be a precipitating factor: for social movement formation, people must have been complaining for a longtime but all that is needed for the eruption of a collective action is a minor governmental policy such as fuel scarcity, tax increment, hike in school fees, etc. this is enough to spark of revolts thus collective behavior leading to a social movement.
·Need for people mobilization: for action to take place, the people need to be mobilized and this takes the form of protest, rallies, formation of alliances with other groups which are sympathetic to their course, making of handbills and leaflets, all in a bid to enlighten and educate the people for more support.
·Failure to maintain social control: where the authorities concerned also fail in maintaining firm control over the situation, the social movement gains further strength to advance its policies and programs. The government has the responsibility of maintaining law and order through its agencies such as the police, military and others and where they go brutal; they can suppress the activities of social movements. In certain cases, such agencies where they are sympathetic of the group may turn their face to the operations of such groups.
This posits that both internal and external supports are necessary for a strong and virile social movement. The success of any social movement depends on the quality of its leadership to harness support both from home and outside. Apart from committed members, the group also needs assistance from outsiders both in terms of finance and human resources to succeed.
The alliances formed with other external forces give the physical, moral and psychological support to the group. They provide aids both in cash and kind and they help popularize the group through the mass media, which put them on world notice. Such was the support given by the United States to the pro-democracy groups in the old Soviet Union until socialism collapsed.
Social movements are different from each other across societies, however their goal remains virtually the same and that is seeking a change in the existing order of things or maintenance of the system pattern. Tilly (2004) and other scholars have identified four phases in the life of any social movement in spite of their differences across the globe. These they put as emergence, coalescence, bureaucratization and decline.
On emergence it is said that a widespread feeling of dissatisfaction often provoke people to desire a change. Others may also spring up due partly, to the awareness of the general populace on the issue of concern to them.
At the same time, the leadership must embark on enlightenment campaign through rallies, public debates, etc. The policies as well as methods of achieving its aim and objectives must be developed at this stage. Thereafter its leadership must start massive recruitment of members and forge alliances with sympathetic groups for support.
Decline, the last stage usually sets in especially where the social movement target goal has been achieved. Most of the members relax since there is nothing to agitate for. This may not be very common since most social movement do have more than a single goal. The slack leadership structure coupled with paucity of funds is another other reason for decline. Internal crises arising from self-centeredness of official who have become sell-out may lead to discouragement of members to respect the ethics guiding such movements