For the concept ‘social movement’, there are several definitions that could be valuable to better understand the vehicles commonly used for nonviolent campaigns. As this page tries to mention several different definitions, it does not strive to be exhaustive.
“Forms of collective action that emerge in response to situations of inequality, oppression and/or unmet social, political, economic or cultural demands.”
“Ongoing collective efforts aimed at bringing about consequential change in a social, economic or political order. Movements are civilian-based, involve widespread popular participation, and alert, educate, serve, and mobilize people in order to create change.”
Hardy Merriman, “Introduction To Civil Resistance”, 2015 ICNC Summer Institute,
“A nonviolent social movement tackles systemic injustices through sustained activation of diverse communities over time. People unite under a common purpose and use collective action to alter current power structures and transform their society.”
In the academic world, social movements are often connected to the concept of collective action, in trying to figure out what mobilized people to move. Most of the work in the field of political contention focusses on social movements. After the 1960s, in which it was often assumed that personal grievances largely account for collective action, three main scholarly approaches were developed in the study of social movements. From the 1960’s, political-structural and resource mobilization perspectives entered the study of contentious politics, focussing on the structural and rational forces. Then, with what is called the “cultural turn” in social movement studies, that focus shifted towards the subjective components of mobilization, and the concept of “meaning-making” gained ground.