“We Must Be the Change We Want to See in the World”: Integrating Norms and Identities through Social Interaction



In this article, we propose a social psychological mechanism for the formation of new social change movements. Here, we argue that social change follows the emergence of shared injunctive social norms that define new collective identities, and we systematically spell out the nature of the processes through which this comes about. We propose that these norms and identities are created and negotiated through validating communication about a normative conflict; resulting in an identity-norm nexus (INN), whereby people become the change they want to see in the world. We suggest that injunctive norms are routinely negotiated, validated, and integrated with shared identity in order to create the potential to effect change in the world. Norms and identities need not be integrated or connected in this way, but the power of social actors to form new social movements to bring about sociopolitical change will tend to be severely limited unless they can bring about the integration of identity and action.