Typology of Activism

Activism can be classified according to many characteristics. Based purely on anecdotal and intuitive evidence, I believe there is a positive relationship between the proactivity of a strategy/tactic (independent variable) and the sustainability of the change that results (dependent variable) Whether or not this is accurate, I do think that it is helpful to organize activism according to these variables as such:

Four quadrants are created based on whether strategies/tactics are reactive or proactive and whether the changes sought are short-term or long-term. I started to think of a name for each quadrant and fit examples into each, but this became problematic. It is difficult to “fit” complex activism into such neat categories. Nonetheless, this chart may be useful as we evaluate the fit between our actions and goals.

Based on my earlier thesis, I placed proactivity on the y-axis and length of the change sought on the x-axis. This suggests a movement toward more proactive strategies to result in longer-term social changes.

In my experience, much progressive activism is reactive; it is based on an external stimulus rather than internally driven. Applying the Pareto Principle, perhaps about 80% of progressive activism is reactive and defensive. I think we should begin with the vision of the world we want to create and start building it – rather than erratically undoing the work of oppressive systems and the people who benefit from them.  Let’s shift 80% of our activism to proactive, offensive strategies to realize long-term, sustainable change.

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