Activism occurs when people feel strongly enough about an issue to take action either for it or against it. Activism drives all movements, from violent revolutions that change history to neighborhood petitions to install a stoplight at a busy intersection. Before the 1960s, researchers studying social movements and activism believed in what they called the breakdown theory, which states that movements arise in times of great strain. For example, the sweeping changes brought by the growth of industry and city life gave rise to movements that sparked labor strikes, the organization of unions, and suffragism. According to the breakdown theory, activism is an irrational response to social turmoil, and the people most likely to become activists are those who feel...

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