consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social
, or environmental reform
with the desire to make changes in society
toward a perceived greater good. 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
, 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 or propagate 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
Definitions of activism
The Online Etymology Dictionary
records the English words "activism" and "activist" as in use in the political sense from the year 1920
respectively. 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 1960s, a new understanding of activism emerged as a rational and acceptable democratic
option of protest
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 Peasants' 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 eventually independence of 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
Types of activism
Activists can function in a number of roles, including judicial, environmental, internet (technological) and design (art). 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 an activity always performed by those who profess activism as a profession.
The term ″activist″ may apply broadly to anyone who engages in activism, or narrowly limited to those who choose political or social activism as a vocation or characteristic practice.
Judicial and citizen activism
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.
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.
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
to penalize "bad" behavior and pressure companies to change or go out of business.
is the type of activism in which business plays a leading role in the processes of social change. Applying brand activism, businesses show concern for the communities they serve, and their economic, social, and environmental problems, which allows businesses to build sustainable and long-term relationships with the customers and prospects. Kotler
and Sarkar defined the phenomenon as an attempt by firms to solve the global problems its future customers and employees care about.
Design Activism locates design at the center of promoting social change, raising awareness on social/political issues, or questioning problems associated with mass production and consumerism. Design Activism is not limited to one type of design. 
Art Activism or Artivism
utilizes the medium of visual art as a method of social or political commentary.
Fashion activism was coined by Celine Semaan.
Fashion activism is a type of activism that ignites awareness by giving consumers tools to support change, specifically in the fashion industry.
It has been used as an umbrella term for many social and political movements that have taken place in the industry.
Fashion Activism uses a participatory approach to a political activity.
Craft activism or Craftivism is a type of visual activism that allows people to bring awareness to political or social discourse.
It is a creative approach to activism as it allows people to send short and clear messages to society.
People who contribute to craftivism are called "craftivists".
While scientists have been traditionally less likely to be politically active as scientists yet aware of the need to better communicate the benefits of science
perception of increased politicized
discrediting of science has motivated some scientists and science advocates to embrace an activist approach, such as that demonstrated in the March for Science
. Some see activism as a way to get "out of the lab" and enhance communication efforts.
Approaches to science activism vary from more aggressive protests to suggestions that such activism should also include a more psychological, marketing-oriented component that takes into account such factors as individual sense of self, aversion to solutions to problems, and social perceptions.
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.
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
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
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 mobilize 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.
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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.
- Deflem, Mathieu. 2019. "The New Ethics of Pop: Celebrity Activism Since Lady Gaga." pp. 113–129 in Pop Cultures: Sconfinamenti Alterdisciplinari, edited by Massimiliano Stramaglia. Lecce-Rovato, Italy: Pensa Multimedia.
- Victor Gold, Liberwocky (Thomas Nelson, 2004). ISBN 978-0-7852-6057-8.
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