Unlike revolutionary movements that can bring radical change in relatively short periods of time, reform movements aim at establishing long-lasting change. A long but steady period of change enables the action to last longer and to have a more lasting effect than revolution, which can be counteracted just as quickly and is often tempestuous and fickle.
In America, many reform movements have been established to bring about change in many social areas. The Labor reform seeks to establish equality between workers and managers and provide workers with security. Educational reform sought to bring about changes in academic curriculum and provide education to a broader number of children. More momentous was Women’s Suffrage which aimed at giving women equal rights in voting, education, and in many civil matters. This reform for women’s equality is still happening today, a testament to the lasting change Women’s Suffrage has enabled. Likewise, abolition and racial reform has stimulated continual change in the ways that minority groups are treated and in their civil rights. These reforms continue and although they are not radical, the accomplishments are far greater than any single revolution might have been.
Reform movements often have excessively utopian foundations and are aimed at gradual, lasting social change. These movements seek out ways to make an idealized model a reality by progressively adapting ways to alter the current status quo. Because many of these are peaceful and the struggle is so long lasting, the eventual impact is far more advanced and grounded than a revolution would be. Because revolutions tend to have many dissenters that can act as a strong opposition, reformists quell the opposition by making changes so gradual they are almost unnoticed. The changes are therefore more widely accepted without contest. This enables reform movements to be successful.
Stafford, T. (2007). Shaking the System: What I Learned from the Great American Reform Movements. Downers Grove, IL: Ivp Books.
Walker, R. (1990). Reform in America – The Reform Spirit in America. Huntington, New York: Krieger Pub Co.