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― 55 ― Two Interpretations of Contemporary Social Change Alain Touraine1. Decline or Transformation of Social Movements?Social movements cannot be identified with campaigns for institutional reforms. But they can be understood as countercultural or "alternative" forms of collective action or as a protest movements, directed against forms of social organization more than against cultural values. These two types of collective action—more "cultural" or more "social"—are present in the seventies and eighties. Both the future and the very nature of what I referred to some ten years ago as the "new social movements" appear to be uncertain. Those who study social movements have taken two views about the future of these movement. The first view sees the end of social movements inasmuch as they are defined as organized collective actions aimed at transforming the social order. According to these observers, our era is characterized by movements that depend on try to expand individual freedom and that oppose the state's power. The social and political space, in German, the "Öffentlichkeit," is becoming a no-man's-land between a more and more individualistic private life that expects society to be permissive and international relations that are dominated by the confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers and by the resistance of Islam and other communitarian movements to Westernization. Social movements, especially the most important one, the labor movement, are melting down because our democratic regimes are able to answer social demands with institutional reforms and because these social movements have often been transformed into instruments of power and repression rather than of protest. The second view holds that we are living in a period of transition between the decline of the labor movement and the formation of new social movements that belong to postindustrial society. In this society, ― 56 ― industrialized production and the diffusion of symbolic and cultural goods take the central role that belongs to "productive forces" in industrial society. This period of transition is