Elitist Social Action Model

Elitist Social Action Model

Broadly, Britto (1984) has categorized social action into two models — Elitist Social Action and Popular Social Action. It may be reiterated that when certain motivated, progressive and sensitive people raise voice on behalf of the marginalized section of the population, primarily without active participation of that population group, it is termed as elitist model of social action. On the other hand, when marginalized people themselves carry forward the task of liberation from exploitation, may or may not be with the leadership/guidance of social actionist/activist/worker, it comes in the category of popular social action. Three sub-models can be identified in each type of social action. In this section, we would focus on Elitist model of social action.

Elitist Social Action

It is the action initiated and conducted by the elites for the benefit of the masses, either exclusively or with marginal participation of masses. There are three submodels of elitist social action — legislative social action model, economic sanction model and direct physical
model — as described below:

i) Legislative Social Action Model:

In this model, group of elites undertake social action for bringing about social change. This process generally includes understanding the magnitude, extent and urgency of the problem at hand (may be undertaking full fledged research work), creating public opinion (say, involvement of electronic, print media) and designing intervention with the aim to bring about desired change in the social legislation or social policy. The differential aspect of this model lies in the fact that the general population or the target group is not involved directly in the process. Some elites either themselves or along with like-minded individuals take-up the social issues, which they think is a pressing problem. Strategies and tactics like media advocacy, legislative advocacy, judicial advocacy, lobbying, networking, coalition and the like are used (about these you would study in detail in the next unit). It may be noted that essential pre-requisites for this model of social action is extensive and intensive knowledge of social situation, social processes, micro-macro linkages, excellent analytical abilities and communication and persuasive skills.

Key terms, here, are elitist and social legislation. Change is brought by liberal minded people (elites) through social legislation. In general, these people belong to intelligentsia of the society, are of radical outlook, believe in social justice and empowerment and have
strong motivation to eradicate causes of exploitation and oppression. Another potent variable that acts like a catalyst in the process of elitist model of social action is the strength of social capital (i.e., linkage with those people who have resources, who are decision-makers, social planners, policy makers). The elites carrying out social action have the knowledge about and access to the people and systems that have the power to influence the lives of marginalized sections of the society. To exemplify, Raja Ram Mohan Roy had the relevant legal knowledge, perspective defined by social justice and access to decision-makers when he persuaded the then state to enact legislation against Sati-system. Likewise, socialists like Aruna Roy, Arvind Kejriwal who played pivotal role in enactment of Right to Information Act also, more or less, adhered to elitist model of social
action. In fact, majority of contemporary social legislations like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Juvenile Justice Act, 2006, The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 have been tabled because of socially enlightened people who
undertook elitist social action model and tried bringing change through social legislations.

ii) Economic Sanction Model:

In this model of social action, the elites make use of their power to influence economic condition/position or profits or financial transactions of the ‘oppressors’, who are denying the rightful share to labour class. Social workers/activists/ actionists (elites) have control over some economic resources, which is used as a weapon to obtain benefits for their clientele. There have been many instances when the labour officers have bargained for economic benefits (pay hikes), medical insurance, community development programmes (education of children of labourers, provision of electricity, safe drinking water) to the Management making profit on the hard work of labour class. Many social work students undertook social action during their fieldwork when Delhi Government tried to ‘rehabilitate’ the poor people staying in slums to the outskirts and remote areas, quite far from the places of their work. Protests by civil society organizations (social action groups, advocacy groups, NGOs, CBOs, etc.) against World Trade Organization, Liberalization policy of the Government and at some places against the Special Economic Zones, have been social action initiatives under this category.

iii) Direct Physical Model:

It is a process where elites tend to punish those responsible for the cause of injustice and thus try to bring about benefits to their clientele. It is quite debatable issue as Britto has maintained that under this model, elites take the law in their hands to penalize the oppressors. Media initiating social action and joining together of students, women’s groups all across the country for justice for Jussica Lal followed by Priyadarshini Mattoo can be included in this type of model. Rang De Basanti movie also tried to portray this Direct Physical model of social action. We may exclude bloodshed and violent means of registering protest in any model of social action. Other strategies like taking out processions, candle light marches, sitins, dharnas, may well be taken into account by the social activists engaged in this model of social action.

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