Much of human history is marked by the opposition between people and authority. When this opposition comes to a head, rebellion breaks out. Such revolts build or destroy nations, liberate oppressed groups and permanently alter the way people think, act and live. Rebellions bring rapid change when such change is badly needed, but they also carry risks. There are distinct types of social rebellion, though sometimes the boundaries between different types blur and overlap.
Cultural rebellion may not coalesce into an organized movement, but it is a powerful transformative force nonetheless. Cultural rebellion refers to a group of people attempting to throw off conventional social mores. The so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s represented a form of cultural rebellion in which people opposed traditional sexual roles and practices. Cultural rebellion is both individualistic and collective: often it involves the assertion of individual freedom, but is strongest when participated en masse.
Movements of minority groups represent another form of social rebellion. Even in democracies, majority interest is tested against minority rights, and minorities have historically been assigned an inferior position within society. Racial, ethnic, religious or sexual minorities organize to assert equal status with their majority counterpart. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s was an example of a minority movement, in which black Americans agitated for equal social status and political rights.
History is full of examples of social rebellion turned into violent revolution. Violent revolution serves as a means to an end. The power structure that is the target of the rebellion may be more willing to bend in the face of violence; on the other hand, violence may also provoke greater repressive mechanisms by the state. The French Revolution in the late 1700s was a social movement that turned violent.
Movements of national liberation tend to combine political and cultural resistance in one all-encompassing rebellion. In national liberation movements, an oppressed or colonized people mobilize to fight for self-sufficiency and expel a foreign authority. The Indian liberation movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in the early 20th century was one such movement. Gandhi and other organizers mobilized various segments of Indian society to rebel against the British colonial authority, eventually compelling their removal and establishing an Indian democratic nation.