Value-Added Theory Explained: How It Relates to Social Movements

Value-Added Theory is a sociological concept that explains the formation, maintenance, and decline of social movements. It posits that social movements are the result of a series of factors that add up to a final decision by individuals to join and participate in the movement. This theory is based on the idea that individuals are rational beings who make decisions based on cost-benefit analyses.

The Basic Principles of Value-Added Theory

According to Value-Added Theory, social movements are formed when certain conditions are met. The first condition is structural conduciveness, which means that there must be an underlying problem or issue that needs to be addressed.

The second condition is structural strain, which refers to the gap between what people want and what they have. The third condition is the growth and spread of a general belief in the need for change.

The fourth condition is precipitating factors, which refer to specific events or incidents that trigger the formation of a social movement. The fifth condition is mobilization of participants, where individuals begin to organize and actively participate in the movement. Finally, success or failure determines whether or not a social movement will continue.

How Value-Added Theory Explains Social Movements

Value-Added Theory explains social movements by examining how these six conditions interact with each other. For example, structural conduciveness may exist without any mobilization taking place if there are no precipitating factors or if there is no general belief in change. Similarly, mobilization may occur without success if there is no structural strain or if there are no precipitating factors.

Value-Added Theory also explains why some social movements fail while others succeed. If any one of these six conditions is absent or weak, then the movement is less likely to succeed. For example, if there is no general belief in the need for change, then mobilization will be difficult because people will not see the value in joining the movement.


Value-Added Theory provides a comprehensive framework for understanding social movements and their development. By examining factors such as structural conduciveness, structural strain, general belief in change, precipitating factors, mobilization of participants, and success or failure, we can gain a better understanding of why some social movements succeed while others fail.

Ultimately, this theory helps us understand how individuals make decisions about joining and participating in social movements.