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Collective Behaviour

  Collective behaviour refers to the behaviour of people in groups or crowds. The most influential early sociological and social psychological theory of collective behaviour is that of Gustav Le Bon, writing in the late 19th century. Le Bon argued that in periods of social decline and disintegration, society is threatened by the rule of crowds. It is assumed that as a result of individual proximity, individual personality is subsumed in a crowd mentality, which radically transforms individual behaviour. The action of individuals tends to depart from routine standards of social demeanour and may be explosive and unpredictable.

In contemporary sociology, the term collective behaviour is used to refer to the mobilization of a mass of people with the aim of changing the social structure. Movements to change society involve secular and religious movements. N.J. Smelser, in Theory of Collective Behaviour (1962), produced one of the most influential generalized theories of collective behaviour, which emphasizes the importance of generalized beliefs and values in directing social movements in periods of rapid social change. DA

See also authority; conflict theory; consensus theory; corporatism; feminism; legitimation crisis; power; religion; subculture; values.



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