Social reform is a general term that is used to describe movements organized by members of a community who aim to create change in their society. These changes often relate to justice and ways that a society is currently relying on injustices for certain groups in order to function.
The concept of “reform” is distinguished from “revolution” because reform aims to work within existing structures and solve structural problems; revolution, on the other hand, aims to dismantle and create new structures. The French Revolution, in which the French people overthrew their monarchy and implemented a democracy, is social revolution, not social reform. Reform aims to be gradual and to make tangible changes for members of the community.
Social reform is not limited to any specific time period or society; rather, it describes the organizing of people to implement gradual change toward justice. An example of a social reform movement is the American Women’s Suffrage movement. Women in the United States experienced injustice in their inability to legally vote, so they organized among themselves and gathered support from allies. They did not want to dismantle the voting system altogether, but rather, they worked to ensure that the system was inclusive of their voices.