Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make improvements in society. Forms of activism range from writing letters to newspapers, petitioning elected officials, running or contributing to a political campaign, preferential patronage (or boycott) of businesses, and demonstrative forms of activism like rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, or hunger strikes.
Activism may be performed on a day-to-day basis in a wide variety of ways, including through the creation of art (artivism), computer hacking (hacktivism), or simply in how one chooses to spend their money (economic activism). For example, the refusal to buy clothes or other merchandise from a company as a protest against the exploitation of workers by that company could be considered an expression of activism. However, the most highly visible and impactful activism often comes in the form of collective action, in which numerous individuals coordinate an act of protest together in order to make a bigger impact. Collective action that is purposeful, organized, and sustained over a period of time becomes known as a social movement.
Historically, activists have used literature, including pamphlets, tracts, and books to disseminate their messages and attempt to persuade their readers of the justice of their cause. Research has now begun to explore how contemporary activist groups use social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action combining politics with technology.
The Online Etymology Dictionary records the English words "activism" and "activist" as in use in the political sense from the year 1920 or 1915 respectively.
Definitions of activism
The history of the word activism traces back to earlier understandings of social action and the emergence of public demonstrations as an acceptable democratic option of protest or appeal. As late as 1969 activism was defined as "the policy or practice of doing things with decision and energy", without regard to a political signification, whereas social action was defined as "organized action taken by a group to improve social conditions", without regard to normative status. No definition of social activism is included as an entry in that source. However, the history of the existence of revolt through organized or unified protest in recorded history dates back to the slave revolts of the 1st century BC(E) in the Roman Empire, where under the leadership of former gladiator Spartacus 6,000 slaves rebelled and were crucified from Capua to Rome in what became known as the Third Servile War.
In English history, the Peasant's Revolt erupted in response to the imposition of a poll tax, and has been paralleled by other rebellions and revolutions in Hungary, Russia, and more recently, for example, Hong Kong. In 1930 under the leadership of Mahatma Ghandi thousands of protesting Indians participated in the Salt March as a protest against the oppressive taxes of their government, resulting in the imprisonment of 60,000 people and eventual independence for their nation. In nations throughout Asia, Africa and South America, the prominence of activism organized by social movements and especially under the leadership of civil activists or social revolutionaries has pushed for increasing national self-reliance or, in some parts of the developing world, collectivist communist or socialist organization and affiliation.
Types of activism
Activists can function in a number of roles, including judicial, environmental, internet (technological) and design. Historically, most activism has focused on creating substantive changes in the policy or practice of a government or industry. Some activists try to persuade people to change their behavior directly (see also direct action), rather than to persuade governments to change laws. For example, the cooperative movement seeks to build new institutions which conform to cooperative principles, and generally does not lobby or protest politically. Other activists try to persuade people or government policy to remain the same, in an effort to counter change.
In his 2008 book, Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution, Douglas Schuler suggests something he calls an activist road trip, whereby activism and road trips are merged into an activity that can be pursued on geographical levels that range from neighborhood to international.
Activism is not always an activity performed by those who profess activism as a profession. The term activist may apply broadly to anyone who engages in activism, or be more narrowly limited to those who choose political or social activism as a vocation or characteristic practice.
Judicial and citizen activism
Judicial activism involves the efforts of public officials. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. - American historian, public intellectual, and social critic - introduced the term "judicial activism" in a January 1946 Fortune magazine article titled "The Supreme Court: 1947". Activists can also be public watchdogs and whistle blowers, attempting to understand all the actions of every form of government that acts in the name of the people and hold it accountable to oversight and transparency. Activism involves an engaged citizenry.
Environmental activism describes the actions of those who believe in protecting the Earth's natural environment. This can include a wide range of approaches.
The power of Internet activism came into a global lens with the Arab Spring protests starting in late 2010. People living in the Middle East and North African countries that were experiencing revolutions used social networking to communicate information about protests, including videos recorded on smart phones, which put the issues in front of an international audience. This was the one of the first occasions in which social networking technology was used by citizen-activists to circumvent state-controlled media and communicate directly with the rest of the world. These types of practices of Internet activism were later picked up and used by other activists in subsequent mass mobilizations, such as the 15-M Movement in Spain in 2011, Occupy Gezi in Turkey in 2013, and more.
Internet activism may also refer to activism which focuses on protecting or changing the Internet itself, also known as digital rights. The Digital Rights movement consists of activists and organizations, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who work to protect the rights of people in relation to new technologies, particularly concerning the Internet and other information and communications technologies.
Activism in literature
Activism in literature (not to be confused with literary activism) includes the expression of intended or advocated reforms, realized or unachieved, through published, written or verbally promoted or communicated forms.
Economic activism involves using economic power for change. Both conservative and liberal groups use economic activism to as a form of pressure to influence companies and organizations to oppose or support particular political, religious, or social values and behaviors. This is typically done either through preferential patronage to reinforce "good" behavior and support companies one would like to succeed, or through boycott or divestment to penalize "bad" behavior and pressure companies to change or go out of business.
Consumer activism consists of activism carried out on behalf of consumers for consumer protection or by consumers themselves. For example, activists in the free produce movement of the late 1700s protested against slavery by boycotting goods produced with slave labor. Today, vegetarianism, veganism, and freeganism are all forms of consumer activism which boycott certain types of products. Other examples of consumer activism include simple living, a minimalist lifestyle intended to reduce materialism and conspicuous consumption, and tax resistance, a form of direct action and civil disobedience in opposition to the government that is imposing the tax, to government policy, or as opposition to taxation in itself
Shareholder activism involves shareholders using an equity stake in a corporation to put pressure on its management. The goals of activist shareholders range from financial (increase of shareholder value through changes in corporate policy, financing structure, cost cutting, etc.) to non-financial (disinvestment from particular countries, adoption of environmentally friendly policies, etc.).
There are a wide range of methods used for activism including:
- Civil disobedience
- Community building
- Franchise activism
- Media activism
- Peace activist
- Political campaigning
- Strike action
- Youth activism
Some groups and organizations participate in activism to such an extent that it can be considered as an industry. In these cases, activism is often done full-time, as part of an organization's core business. Many organizations in the activism industry are either non-profit organizations or non-governmental organizations with specific aims and objectives in mind. Most activist organizations do not manufacture goods, but rather mobilized personnel to recruit funds and gain media coverage.
The term activism industry has often been used to refer to outsourced fundraising operations. However, activist organizations engage in other activities as well. Lobbying, or the influencing of decisions made by government, is another activist tactic. Many groups, including law firms, have designated staff assigned specifically for lobbying purposes. In the United States, lobbying is regulated by the federal government.
Many government systems encourage public support of non-profit organizations by granting various forms of tax relief for donations to charitable organizations. Governments may attempt to deny these benefits to activists by restricting the political activity of tax-exempt organizations.
- Obar, Jonathan; et al. (2012). "Advocacy 2.0: An Analysis of How Advocacy Groups in the United States Perceive and Use Social Media as Tools for Facilitating Civic Engagement and Collective Action". Journal of Information Policy. SSRN 1956352
- Obar, Jonathan (2014). "Canadian Advocacy 2.0: A Study of Social Media Use by Social Movement Groups and Activists in Canada". Canadian Journal of Communication. SSRN 2254742
- Harper, Douglas. "activism". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
- Harper, Douglas. "activist". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
- Barnhart, Clarence L. (1969). The World Book Dictionary. Chicago, IL: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation. p. 23.
- Barnhart, Clarence L. (1969). The World Book Dictionary. Chicago, IL: Field Enterprises Educational Corporation. p. 1963.
- Czech, Kenneth P. (Apr 1994). "Ancient History: Spartacus and the Slave Rebellion". HistoryNet. Retrieved 12 Aug 2018.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica, Editors of. "Peasants' Revolt". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 12 Aug 2018.
- Schuler, Douglas (2008). Liberating Voices: A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262693660.
- "Activist Road Trip". Public Sphere Project. 2008. Retrieved 1 November 2015.
- "Introduction to Activism". Permanent Culture Now. Permanent Culture Now. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
- Keenan Kmiec in a 2004 California Law Review article
- "Politically Active? 4 Tips for Incorporating Self-Care, US News". US News. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
- Sliwinski, Michael (21 January 2016). "The Evolution of Activism: From the Streets to Social Media". Law Street. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
- Zeynep, Tufekci (2017). Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300215120. OCLC 961312425.
- Hector, Postigo (2012). The digital rights movement : the role of technology in subverting digital copyright. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press. ISBN 9780262305334. OCLC 812346336.
- Reasonable Investor(s), Boston University Law Review, available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2579510
- Carried Interest: "Activist Investor Definition" . Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- Dana R. Fisher, "The Activism Industry: The Problem with the Left's Model of Outsourced Grassroots Canvassing Archived 5 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine.", The American Prospect, 14 September 2006
- New Federal Lobbying Law Reporting Periods Begin
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Activism|
- Paul Rogat Loeb, Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time (St Martin's Press, 2010). ISBN 978-0-312-59537-1.
- Brian Martin with Wendy Varney. Nonviolence Speaks: Communicating against Repression, (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2003).
- Randy Shaw, The Activist's Handbook: A Primer for the 1990s and Beyond (University of California Press, 1996). ISBN 0-520-20317-8.
- David Walls, The Activist's Almanac: The Concerned Citizen's Guide to the Leading Advocacy Organizations in America (Simon & Schuster/Fireside, 1993). ISBN 0-671-74634-0.
- Victor Gold, Liberwocky (Thomas Nelson, 2004). ISBN 978-0-7852-6057-8.