Justice Everywhere

a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Tag: activism

More attention is being paid to formal activism. Informal activism matters too

A common complaint made about contemporary political theory is that it is far too focused on describing what a perfect society looks like, and not focused enough on exploring the means by which we are to move toward the ideal. This criticism seems to me to be basically right. But it would not be correct to say that nothing has been said about the means by which to improve society. Political theorists have had a fair amount to say about ‘civil disobedience’, for instance.

Moreover, in recent years, scholars have increasingly turned their attention to allegedly ‘uncivil’ forms of activism, from hacktivism to hunger strikes, rioting to revolution. What all of these forms of activism have in common is that they typically have laws and policies as their targets. Hence, when political theorists think about activism, they tend to have what you might call ‘formal activism’ in mind.

While formal activism is of course essential, I want to draw attention to forms of activism that have social phenomena other than law or policy as their targets. Let’s call this kind of activism ‘informal activism’. There are at least three reasons why informal activism is important.

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Is disruptive climate activism morally controversial?

We are in the midst of an emergency. Drastic action by states, businesses, and individuals is required if we are to avert the most disastrous effects of climate change. Activism is a necessary part of and precursor to this action. And increasingly it is disruptive climate activism that is being advocated and engaged in. To many people, this kind of activism will seem morally controversial and perhaps even unjustified. But is it? And, if so, why exactly? Let’s examine three worries one might have.

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