This study evaluates the Collective Behavior approach that was the dominant approach in the studies of social movements from the 1920s to the 1970s.
The roots of social movement studies lie in six classical traditions: Marx (class struggle), Durkheim (collective consciousness), Mill (a sum of individual cost-benefit calculations), Weber (charisma and bureaucracy), Simmel (interaction of individuals), and Le Bon (crowds).
The studies began in Chicago University in the 1920s by Robert E. Park. His pupil Herbert Blumer made the basic classifications in the field. In interactionist tradition Ralph Turner and Lewis Killian stressed the emerging norms that modify collective behavior and Kurt and Gladys Engel Lang focused on collective processes.
In structural functionalistic string Talcott Parsons stressed the impact of cultural trends in movement emergence and Neil Smelser developed a value-added theory of the movement formation.
Third string was mass society tradition that stressed the impersonal character of society and how this creates ties between movement leader and followers. Fourth string was relative deprivation tradition which explained that movements are expressions of deprived people.
Collective behavior tradition was attacked in the 1960s when its theories did not fit into the student movement and there was a paradigm shift to resource mobilization approach. However, the ideas of collective behavior tradition survived from the attack and have been alive in new social movement studies.