Who has first or most famously distinguished 4 stages of social movements?

It is common to take social movements to have four stages: emergence, coalescence, institutionalization or bureaucratization, and decline.

Who has first or most famously identified these stages?

1 Answer 1


According to "Four Stages of Social Movements" by Jonathan Christiansen, the four-stage schema mentioned in the question can be traced back to the ideas of Herbert Blumer. Blumer's own descriptions of these stages were:

  1. social ferment
  2. popular excitement
  3. formalization
  4. institutionalization

Christianson explicitly links these terms to the stages as listed in the question, stating that "scholars have refined and renamed these stages but the underlying themes have remained relatively constant." He does not indicate which scholars may have been most central in developing or popularizing the newer names for these stages.

According to Della Porta and Diani, the original source for Blumer's stages is p. 203 of the following reference:

Blumer, Herbert 1951: Social Movements. In A. McClung Lee (ed.), Principles of Sociology. New York: Barnes & Nobles, 199–220.

  • Thanks for the references. Do you know who has edited the book where the Christiansen’s paper is published?
    – Sasan
    Dec 8, 2022 at 19:51
  • 1
    @sasan All I know is what it says in the PDF I linked to in my answer, "The Editors of Salem Press" .
    – Brian Z
    Dec 8, 2022 at 23:14

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