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One of the critiques of this theory is that it assumes that groups coalesce or converge in an environment which is normless. While the theory is suited to an explanation of spontaneous group formation, it does not address the fact that movements such as fascism are grounded on prior normative formations and value systems that lead to the collective behavior. At the same time it must be acknowledged that this theory does have value in that emphasizes the insight that
"…behavior is social" and that "…each individual's behavior is affected by the presence and actions of others." (Brown, and Lewis)
2.3. value -- added theory
Value-added theory is associated with the work of Neil Smelser. It is based on the view that various conditions have to be met for a social movement to come into being. This view is related to the concept of social change. In other words, collective action and social movements are a result of a number of variables that are founded on the collective need and desire for social change. This is a much more appropriate theory to explain the conditions that existed in Germany after the First World War.
As referred to above, the German nation was suffering under abysmal social, national and economic condition. These were a fertile breeding ground for social change and collective action that would lead to the organization of the fascist and nationalist social movement in the country.
Smelser argues that a number of aspects are necessary for collective and social movements to occur. These include the following: structural proximity; structural strain; generalized belief; precipitating factors; mobilization for action; and the failure of social control. (Brown, and Lewis) Each of these aspects has correspondences with the German situation.
Structural proximity and structural conduciveness refer to the elements that make social cohesion possible, for example spatial proximity. This is an aspect that is clearly applicable to the German situation with its integrated society and close-knit communities. This is also bolstered by the second factor. which is a coherent and shared general belief system. There was a general understanding and awareness among the German population of their situation with regard to economic hardship and the social barriers to advancement. Poverty and a loss of national integrity were elements that were felt in every region of the country. This led to the formation of many nationalist and patriotic groups. (Cole)
The above can also be related to the concept of structural strain, which is another component of this theory. There was a growing sense of inequality and injustice in the society. The German people felt marginalized by the rest of Europe as a result of Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty can be seen as a central precipitating factor in the development of collective action and the fascist social movement.
The Treaty of Versailles was in essence the punishment meted out for the First World War by the victors. Under the Treaty Germany was required to adhere to a number of stringent requirements, which had a humiliating affect on Germany and a crushing and humiliating affect on the people. The terms of the treaty required Germany to make territorial concessions and to restrict its military forces and installations as well as paying reparations. Furthermore, Germany's national boundaries were reduced. (A German View of the Treaty of Versailles)
Another humiliating factor was the "war guilt clause" that was incorporated in the Treaty, under which the German people were formally blamed for the war. This increased the German people's predilection for social change and increased the movement towards nationalist socialism. This leads as well to the next factor in this theory which is the mobilization for action. This was facilitated by the interaction that exists between various groups in the country and the general tone of rebellion among the population against the requirements of the Treaty of Versailles. A further facto noted in this theory is the loss of social control. This was also evident as the government was perceived by most Germans as being inept and weak.
Therefore, the various elements of this theory tend to provide a useful and realistic framework for the understanding of German collective action and the genesis of the social movement towards fascism in the country.
In conclusion, it is important to realize that there are many different types and categories of collective behavior and that some theories are more applicable to certain types of collective action and social organization. The theory that seems to be the most appropriate to account to the rise of fascism in Germany from a sociological perspective is value-added theory.
However one should also take into account other views and theories that may shed further light on this social phenomenon. In this regard it is important to bear in mind the view of Parsons on collective behavior and social change. Parsons was in fact responsible for coining the phrase 'collective behavior'. He defined this term as ," …the behavior of individuals under the influence of an impulse that is common and collective, an impulse, in other words, that is the result of social interaction" (Coser, 1977, p. 358). This places social interactionism at the centre of the impetus behind collective behavior. Both structuralist and social interactionist theories of collective behavior and action are useful in that they shed light on the complexity of this important social phenomenon from different perspectives.
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