Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society. Forms of activism range from mandate building in the community (including 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 history of the word activism traces back to earlier understandings of collective behavior and social action. 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. Following the surge of so-called "new social movements" in the United States in the 1960's, a new understanding of activism emerged as a rational and acceptable democratic option of protest or appeal. 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 Gandhi 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. Activism has had major impacts on Western societies as well, particularly over the past century through social movements such as the Labour movement, the Women's Rights movement, and the civil rights movement.
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.
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 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 takes quite a few forms:
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 (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 the economic power of government, consumers, and businesses for social and economic policy 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.).
Activists employ many different methods, or tactics, in pursuit of their goals. Decisions over what tactics to use or not may be planned carefully in advance, result from negotiations with law enforcement such as when and where to hold a rally, or be made in the heat of the moment. The tactics chosen are significant because they can determine how activists are perceived and what they are capable of accomplishing. For example, nonviolent tactics generally tend to garner more public sympathy than violent ones and are more than twice as effective in achieving stated goals.
Charles Tilly developed the concept of a “repertoire of contention,” which describes the full range of tactics available to activists at a given time and place. This repertoire consists of all of the tactics which have been proven to be successful by activists in the past, such as boycotts, petitions, marches, and sit-ins, and can be drawn upon by any new activists and social movements. Activists may also innovate new tactics of protest. These may be entirely novel, such as Douglas Schuler's idea of an "activist road trip", or may occur in response to police oppression or countermovement resistance. New tactics then spread to others through a social process known as diffusion, and if successful, may become new additions to the activist repertoire.
Many contemporary activists now utilize new tactics through the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs), also known as Internet activism or cyber-activism. Some scholars argue that many of these new tactics are digitally analogous to the traditional offline tools of contention. Other digital tactics may be entire new and unique, such as certain types of hacktivism. Together they form a new "digital repertoire of contention" alongside the existing offline one. The rising use of digital tools and platforms by activists has also increasingly led to the creation of decentralized networks of activists that are self-organized and leaderless, or what is known as franchise activism.
Common methods used for activism include:
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.
Anti-abortion movements, also referred to as Pro-life movements, are involved in the abortion debate advocating against the practice of abortion and its legality. Many anti-abortion movements began as countermovements in response to the legalization of elective abortions.
Abortion is defined as the termination of a human pregnancy accompanied by the death of the embryo or fetus.Anti-consumerism
Anti-consumerism is a sociopolitical ideology that is opposed to consumerism, the continual buying and consuming of material possessions. Anti-consumerism is concerned with the private actions of business corporations in pursuit of financial and economic goals at the expense of the public welfare, especially in matters of environmental protection, social stratification, and ethics in the governing of a society. In politics, anti-consumerism overlaps with environmental activism, anti-globalization, and animal-rights activism; moreover, a conceptual variation of anti-consumerism is post-consumerism, living in a material way that transcends consumerism.Anti-consumerism arose in response to the problems caused by the long-term mistreatment of human consumers and of the animals consumed, and from the incorporation of consumer education to school curricula; examples of anti-consumerism are the book No Logo (2000) by Naomi Klein, and documentary films such as The Corporation (2003), by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, and Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers (2003), by Erik Gandini; each made anti-corporate activism popular as an ideologically accessible form of civil and political action.
The criticism of economic materialism as a dehumanizing behaviour that is destructive of the Earth, as human habitat, comes from religion and social activism. The religious criticism asserts that materialist consumerism interferes with the connection between the individual and God, and so is an inherently immoral style of life; thus the German historian Oswald Spengler (1880–1936) said that "Life in America is exclusively economic in structure, and lacks depth." From the Roman Catholic perspective, Thomas Aquinas said that "Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things"; in that vein, Francis of Assisi, Ammon Hennacy, and Mohandas Gandhi said that spiritual inspiration guided them towards simple living.
From the secular perspective, social activism indicates that from consumerist materialism derive crime (which originates from the poverty of economic inequality), industrial pollution and the consequent environmental degradation, and war as a business. About the societal discontent born of malaise and hedonism, Pope Benedict XVI said that the philosophy of materialism offers no raison d'être for human existence; likewise, the writer Georges Duhamel said that "American materialism [is] a beacon of mediocrity that threatened to eclipse French civilization".Anti-corporate activism
Anti-corporate activism holds that the influence of big business corporations is a detriment to the public good and to the democratic process.Chicano Movement
The Chicano Movement of the 1960s, also called the Chicano civil rights movement or El Movimiento, was a civil rights movement extending the Mexican-American civil rights movement of the 1960s with the stated goal of achieving Mexican American empowerment. Similar to the Black Power movement, scholars have also written about the repression and police brutality experienced by members of this movement which some connect to larger government-organized activity such as COINTELPRO.DIY ethic
DIY ethic refers to the ethic of self-sufficiency through completing tasks without the aid of a paid expert. Explicitly meaning, "do it yourself", the DIY ethic promotes the idea that anyone is capable of performing a variety of tasks rather than relying on paid specialists.
The DIY ethic requires that the adherent seeks out the knowledge required to complete a given task. This ethic emerges in correspondence to the punk subculture, the DIY ethic is tied to punk ideology and anticonsumerism. Central to the ethic is the empowerment of individuals and communities, encouraging the employment of alternative approaches when faced with bureaucratic or societal obstacles to achieving their objectives.Dissident
A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. In a religious context, the word has been used since 18th century, and in the political sense since 1940, coinciding with the rise of totalitarian systems, especially the Soviet Union.Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit digital rights group based in San Francisco, California. The foundation was formed in July 1990 by John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow and Mitch Kapor to promote Internet civil liberties.
EFF provides funds for legal defense in court, presents amicus curiae briefs, defends individuals and new technologies from what it considers abusive legal threats, works to expose government malfeasance, provides guidance to the government and courts, organizes political action and mass mailings, supports some new technologies which it believes preserve personal freedoms and online civil liberties, maintains a database and web sites of related news and information, monitors and challenges potential legislation that it believes would infringe on personal liberties and fair use and solicits a list of what it considers abusive patents with intentions to defeat those that it considers without merit.
EFF also provides tips, tools, how-tos, tutorials, and software for safer online communications.Feminist activism in hip hop
Feminist activism in hip hop is a feminist movement based by hip hop artists. It grounds in graffiti, break dancing, hip hop music such as rap. Hip hop has a history of being a genre that sexually objectifies women, ranging from the usage of video vixens to explicit rap lyrics. Within subcultures, such as graffiti and breakdancing, sexism is more evident through the lack of representation of women participants. In a genre notorious for its sexualization of women, feminist groups and individual artists who identify as feminists have sought to change the perception and commodification of women in hip hop. This is also rooted in cultural implications of misogyny in rap music.Grassroots
A grassroots movement is one which uses the people in a given district, region, or community as the basis for a political or economic movement. Grassroots movements and organizations use collective action from the local level to effect change at the local, regional, national, or international level. Grassroots movements are associated with bottom-up, rather than top-down decision making, and are sometimes considered more natural or spontaneous than more traditional power structures. Grassroots movements, using self-organization, encourage community members to contribute by taking responsibility and action for their community. Grassroots movements utilize a variety of strategies from fundraising and registering voters, to simply encouraging political conversation. Goals of specific movements vary and change, but the movements are consistent in their focus on increasing mass participation in politics. These political movements may begin as small and at the local level, but grassroots politics as Cornel West contends are necessary in shaping progressive politics as they bring public attention to regional political concerns.The idea of grassroots is often conflated with participatory democracy. The Port Huron Statement, a manifesto seeking a more democratic society, says that to create a more equitable society, "the grass roots of American Society" need to be the basis of civil rights and economic reform movements. The terms can be distinguished in that grassroots often refers to a specific movement or organization, whereas participatory democracy refers to the larger system of governance.Individual and political action on climate change
Individual and political action on climate change can take many forms. Many actions aim to build social and political support to limit, and subsequently reduce, the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, with the goal of mitigating climate change. Other actions seek to address the ethical and moral aspects of climate justice, especially with regard to the anticipated unequal impacts of climate change adaptation.Internet activism
Internet activism (also known as web activism, online activism, digital campaigning, digital activism, online organizing, electronic advocacy, c'e-campaigning, and e-activism) is the use of electronic communication technologies such as social media, e-mail, and podcasts for various forms of activism to enable faster and more effective communication by citizen movements, the delivery of particular information to large and specific audiences as well as coordination. Internet technologies are used for cause-related fundraising, community building, lobbying, and organizing. A digital activism campaign is "an
organized public effort, making collective claims on a target authority, in which civic initiators or supporters use digital media." Research has started to address specifically how activist/advocacy groups in the U.S. and Canada are using social media to achieve digital activism objectives.Judicial activism
Judicial activism refers to judicial rulings that are suspected of being based on personal opinion, rather than on existing law. It is sometimes used as an antonym of judicial restraint. The definition of judicial activism and the specific decisions that are activist are controversial political issues. The question of judicial activism is closely related to constitutional interpretation, statutory construction, and separation of powers.LGBT social movements
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) social movements are social movements that advocate for LGBT+ people in society. Social movements may focus on equal rights, such as the 2000s movement for marriage equality, or they may focus on liberation, as in the gay liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Earlier movements focused on self-help and self-acceptance, such as the homophile movement of the 1950s. Although there is not a primary or an overarching central organization that represents all LGBT+ people and their interests, numerous LGBT rights organizations are active worldwide. The earliest organizations to support LGBT+ rights were formed in the 19th century.A commonly stated goal among these movements is social equality for LGBT people, but there is still denial of full LGBT+ rights. Some have also focused on building LGBT+ communities or worked towards liberation for the broader society from biphobia, homophobia, and transphobia. There is a struggle for LGBT rights today. LGBT movements organized today are made up of a wide range of political activism and cultural activity, including lobbying, street marches, social groups, media, art, and research.Lone wolf (terrorism)
A lone actor, lone-actor terrorist, or lone wolf, is someone who prepares and commits violent acts alone, outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group. They may be influenced or motivated by the ideology and beliefs of an external group and may act in support of such a group. In its original sense, a "lone wolf" is an animal or person that generally lives or spends time alone instead of with a group.Observers note the attacks are a relatively rare type of terrorist attack but have been increasing in number, and that it is sometimes difficult to tell whether an actor has received outside help and what appears to be a lone wolf attack may actually have been carefully orchestrated from outside.Men's rights movement
The men's rights movement (MRM) is a part of the larger men's movement. It branched off from the men's liberation movement in the early 1970s. The men's rights movement is notably anti-feminist and made up of a variety of groups and individuals who focus on numerous social issues (including family law, parenting, reproduction, domestic violence against men and opposition to circumcision) and government services (including education, compulsory military service, social safety nets, and health policies), which men's rights advocates say discriminate against men.
Scholars have described the men's rights movement or parts of the movement as a backlash against feminism.Claims and activities associated with the men's rights movement have been criticized and labeled hateful and violent. In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center categorized some men's rights groups as being part of a hate ideology under the umbrella of patriarchy and male supremacy. The movement and sectors of the movement have been described as misogynistic, and the perceived disadvantage some men feel is argued as often being due to loss of entitlement and privilege.Pedophilia
Pedophilia (alternatively spelt paedophilia) is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Although girls typically begin the process of puberty at age 10 or 11, and boys at age 11 or 12, criteria for pedophilia extend the cut-off point for prepubescence to age 13. A person must be at least 16 years old, and at least five years older than the prepubescent child, for the attraction to be diagnosed as pedophilia.Pedophilia is termed pedophilic disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and the manual defines it as a paraphilia involving intense and recurrent sexual urges towards and fantasies about prepubescent children that have either been acted upon or which cause the person with the attraction distress or interpersonal difficulty. The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) defines it as a "sustained, focused, and intense pattern of sexual arousal—as manifested by persistent sexual thoughts, fantasies, urges, or behaviours—involving pre-pubertal children."In popular usage, the word pedophilia is often applied to any sexual interest in children or the act of child sexual abuse. This use conflates the sexual attraction to prepubescent children with the act of child sexual abuse and fails to distinguish between attraction to prepubescent and pubescent or post-pubescent minors. Researchers recommend that these imprecise uses be avoided, because although some people who commit child sexual abuse are pedophiles, child sexual abuse offenders are not pedophiles unless they have a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children, and some pedophiles do not molest children.Pedophilia was first formally recognized and named in the late 19th century. A significant amount of research in the area has taken place since the 1980s. Although mostly documented in men, there are also women who exhibit the disorder, and researchers assume available estimates underrepresent the true number of female pedophiles. No cure for pedophilia has been developed, but there are therapies that can reduce the incidence of a person committing child sexual abuse. The exact causes of pedophilia have not been conclusively established. Some studies of pedophilia in child sex offenders have correlated it with various neurological abnormalities and psychological pathologies. In the United States, following Kansas v. Hendricks in 1997, sex offenders who are diagnosed with certain mental disorders, particularly pedophilia, can be subject to indefinite civil commitment.Soapbox
A soapbox is a raised platform on which one stands to make an impromptu speech, often about a political subject. The term originates from the days when speakers would elevate themselves by standing on a wooden crate originally used for shipment of soap or other dry goods from a manufacturer to a retail store.
The term is also used metaphorically to describe a person engaging in often flamboyant impromptu or unofficial public speaking, as in the phrases "He's on his soapbox", or "Get off your soapbox." Hyde Park, London is known for its Sunday soapbox orators, who have assembled at Speakers' Corner since 1872 to discuss religion, politics, and other topics. Blogs can be used as soapboxes within the context of the World Wide Web.Student activism
Student activism is work by students to cause political, environmental, economic, or social change. Although often focused on schools, curriculum, and educational funding, student groups have influenced greater political events.Modern student activist movements vary widely in subject, size, and success, with all kinds of students in all kinds of educational settings participating, including public and private school students; elementary, middle, senior, undergraduate, and graduate students; and all races, socio-economic backgrounds, and political perspectives. Some student protests focus on the internal affairs of a specific institution; others focus on broader issues such as a war or dictatorship. Likewise, some student protests focus on an institution's impact on the world, such as a disinvestment campaign, while others may focus on a regional or national policy's impact on the institution, such as a campaign against government education policy. Although student activism is commonly associated with left-wing politics, right-wing student movements are not uncommon; for example, large student movements fought on both sides of the apartheid struggle in South Africa.Student activism at the university level is nearly as old as the university itself. Students in Paris and Bologna staged collective actions as early as the 13th century, chiefly over town and gown issues. Student protests over broader political issues also have a long pedigree. In Joseon Dynasty Korea, 150 Sungkyunkwan students staged an unprecedented remonstration against the king in 1519 over the Kimyo purge.Youth activism
Youth activism is youth engagement in community organizing for social change. Youth participation in social change focuses more on issue-oriented activism than traditional partisan or electoral politics. Youth have taken lead roles in public protests and advocacy around anti-war activism, anti-crime and government corruption, pro-sexual education, anti-government censorship, expanded educational access, and public transportation access. Technology and the use of digital media has changed the way youth participate in activism globally, and youth are more active in media than older generations.