Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Activism and governance

One of the purposes of this blog is to explore how activism works. Social change happens whether people try to change society or not. But its called activism when people try to change it explicitly.

Is it activism when it's the government that tries to change society explicitly? I guess we'd all mostly agree that that is more properly called governance. What then is the distinction between activism and governance? It seems to be that part of governance (governance includes enforcement too) is explicit social action by the state and activism is explicit social action by non-state actors.

Today, perhaps, that distinction is becoming problematic. There is a plethora of public-private partnerships that even include privatized military forces . And (I think this is more prevalent in other parts of the world) there are non-state actors, for example Hamas , that provide many services that could be considered the responsibility of the state. In other words, non-state actors are providing enforcement. This doesn't make them states, though. Military contractors are not (technically at least :/ ) sovereign.

What does this mean for activism? As enforcement responsibilities erode from state institutions, perhaps so too will social action responsibilities? This may seem like good news for "participatory democracy" but I, for one, am far more comfortable keeping the enforcement powers strictly in the hands of a civilian controlled and popularly elected state. Is there a paradox here? Is the flow of one kind of authority out of the state a precursor of another flow? Can we have a society in which social action (deciding on the rules and norms) is shared by all but enforcement is limited to the state? Or maybe these aren't useful conceptual models at all.

All I know is, this clip from FreshCreation is pretty amazing.

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