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Social movements are broader political associations focussed on specific issues. Political science has developed an eloquent theory of social movements, highlighting the relation between popular movements and the formation of new political parties as well as discussing the function of social movements in relation to agenda setting and influence on politics.

Usually, the labor movement and socialist movement of the late 19th century are seen as the prototypical social movements, leading to the formation of communist and social democratic parties and organisations.

In the 1970s, women's rights, peace, civil rights and environmental movements emerged, often dubbed New Social Movements. They lead inter alia to the formation of green parties.

Some find in the end of the 1990s the emergence of a new global social movement, the anti-globalization movement.

A list of social movements: