The Role of Difference in Activism

Tim Jordan, in his book titled Activism!: Direct Action, Hacktivism and the Future of Society, discusses the principals of activism and discusses the role of difference. He begins by describing difference as the “right of different politics to develop.” A concrete example of this comes from the 18 June anti-globalization protests that took place throughout the world and included groups protesting capitalism and the idea of nation-states while other groups opposed globalization for nationalist reasons. It might appear strange to have such widely divergent messages within one movement, but “such contradictions could exist side by side because difference was invoked as a general principal (Ford 141).

This idea of difference is important because it allows for the flexibility, innovation, and diversity in activism. For example, in environmental sustainability movements some are motivated by moral reasons such as Green Peace while others might be interested in developing green technology because it disrupts older, inefficient ways of energy production and re imagines our way of living. This combination of different motivations and skill sets might be exactly what is need in order to encourage the necessary changes in the way humans use resources. Other cases of difference can also serve to make a movement more inclusive such as the feminist movement’s inclusion of sub-groups highlighting differences in race, wealth, and religion. While difference can serve a positive purpose, Ford highlights how it can lead to indifference toward difference. He uses the example of Australia’s definition of multiculturalism and shows how it diminishes the unique situation of the aboriginal people. In order to remedy this situation, Ford introduces the second principal of activism, which deals with social relations: oppression. I found this discussion of difference to be very important foundation to understanding why activism has developed a vocabulary that centers on oppression, exploitation, and power.

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