The Melanesian Cargo Cults: A Test of the Value-Added Theory of Collective Behavior*


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    An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the 1981 meeting of the Southern Sociological Society in Louisville. Preparation of this report and the research reported in it was made possible in part by a fellowship from the Graduate School, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. The author wishes to thank Edward MGlynn, Jay Meddin, and Brendan Maguire for their useful comments.


This research examines Smelser's value-added theory of collective behavior. According to Smelser, six determinants are necessary for the development of a social movement: structural conduciveness, structural strain, generalized beliefs, precipitating factors, mobilization of participants, and social control. As a test of this analytic framework, two Melanesian cargo cult movements and the general history of these movements are investigated. On the basis of a historical and comparative analysis that relies upon both primary and secondary sources, the six factors outlined in the theory are shown to be present. The relevance of these findings for the explanation of social movements is discussed.