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Charlie Griffin Position Paper #1 Movements as a change of consciousness Without theory we can’t analyze things in order to ensure not only our accuracy in the analysis, but also lack direction in what to study. Sometimes theories that are currently in use are lacking things that would be needed in order to ensure that the most holistic approach to an area of study is in place. Tendencies being as they are today makes it seem as though movement studies is one of those fields. We must reanalyze what it means to be a study of movements and what maybe is still needed. Today’s study of movements often neglect ideas of tactical action. Tactical action is something coined by Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life. In this analysis de Certeau indicates that there is two main types of resistance to the current system, the first, being strategic action and the second, being tactical action. As could probably be assumed, strategic action is what we currently think of as being a movement. Its dialectical in nature, looking for a change in laws and social norms. While these forms of resistance are important for study, current practices neglect and equally important aspect of social change that occurs. Tactical action is a form of resistance that has no plan, it has no specific agent. Tactical action occurs in our everyday life, it is song, it is discourse, it is things that often go by unnoticed. The main difference between tactical and strategic action is this, strategic action is often very up front about their goals and why they want to change. Strategic action seems to outline how things are going to occur,
Stout 2 they point to predictions like if we do X then Y will occur. These are different in what tactical action entails as it usually leaves half of the equation out. It might tell you that its goal is to no longer see the censored internet in China, but it may not tell you how to get there, or it will be someone hacking into Chinese web systems to allow the bypass of internet regulations. Now why that might seem strategic, its not for the reason that it doesn’t identify values as to why it is being done. The person hacking might not say that its because they value free speech, they might not say its because they just hate China, they might not even say that its so they get publicity, or that he has a business and wants to ensure his products get sold to the Chinese market. This lack of identification that is entailed in tactical action is what allows the system to not see and co-opt the movement as is so often seen with its appeasement strategies used to kill movements. Another important stasis point between tactical and strategic action is that tactical action is done by small groups. Tactical action can be done by one single person or a small group of people. The key is that the group quickly disbands at the end of the evening and doesn’t necessarily come back and do the same thing the next day. This obviously is a hard line to draw in the sand about the difference between tactical and strategic action, and that’s because they are so often confused in current literature and our academic field has an obsession with separating out dislike actions of study so that some other person can study it. Importantly though, both forms of actions have produced massive change. We can reconcile this problem easily with a new definition of what entails as a social movement. I think we should turn to Michael Calvin McGee and the article “Social Movement”: Phenomenon or Meaning?. In this article McGee makes compelling
Stout 3 arguments as to why the current conceptions of movements are ones that see movements as phenomenon. McGee resolves his conflict with the current system by defining movement as being able to be: “observing changes in the “ideographic” structures of social norm systems” This change in social norm systems is what I want of focus on. If we define a movement as producing observable changes in the “ideographic” structures of the social norm systems, then we must analyze what movement studies would look at. To answer what movement studies would look at we turn again to McGee in the same article. McGee contends that when people use new descriptors to define their environment that the environment has moved. This means that we must continue to look at the rhetoric that is being used by the entities to change the social norm systems. This would include the current analysis of rhetorical approaches of pamphlets, recruitments, speeches, rallies and the assorted other things that must be looked at when looking at such a dynamic ecological structure. What else that would be analyzed is the actual actions that people take. Analysis of what exactly listening to and popularizing certain music does for the transformation of social norms, or how simple everyday acts can have radical ramifications rendering the system changed. Ultimately within McGee’s definition of a movement as I’ve interpreted, it would allow the study of tactical action. Roland Bleiker in his book Popular Dissent, Human Agency and Global Politics takes a look at how current movements are using tactical actions and the scholarly world has all but ignored such measures being used within the movements. He does use a few different examples.
Stout 4 The first we will talk about is when Bleiker describes the collapse of the Berlin Wall. This was a major international event that had ramifications beyond just a local area. Bleiker contends that it was dissent that caused the German people to destroy the Berlin wall. Bleiker takes a look at the music that was being played in the area and how it had drastic effects on peoples attitudes towards the current systems and that the simple act of listening to music was part of a larger movement of the destruction of the Berlin Wall. Bleiker also looks at another example in which groups of people wanted reusable milk containers. These people all had different reason for the goal, and the individuals never identified with others the reason for their goals, they kept the reasons to themselves and simply didn’t buy milk from non-reusable containers. This simple act that could be accomplished everyday is another form of tactical action and how it created change. Bleiker contends that because the people didn’t buy certain types of milk that it created a norm amidst the grocery store that non-reusable containers were no longer acceptable. So because of such the store stopped carrying the products in question, and as a result it had effects on the entire milk industry in the country. This just proves that a simple act that occurs in everyday practices is worthy of study because it created a change in the social norms that were entailed. Another form of tactical action that our definition opens up is the individuals who are helping dissidents and residents inside media repressed societies to gain access to an open and free internet by doing lots of daily activities. Some people are allowing themselves to be proxy servers so that the filtering systems in that country can no longer affect them. Some people are hacking into and ruining the systems that are filtering the internet in countries. Some people are writing programs to help get around the filtering.
Stout 5 The point is that there is a plethora of actions occurring within the open internet now movement that point to things that aren’t official strategies of the organized group and are just everyday people taking everyday actions that are having drastic effects on the way that politics operates in the world today. Ultimately the usefulness of this approach is profound. Not to detract from any of the work done in the past, the definition of movements and what movements studies should entail enables the most holistic approach to studying everything that is the movement. No longer should we confine ourselves to the official and organized groups of people creating a change in social norms. Too many social norms change too often for it all to be attributed to official strategic groups looking for change. Only when this holistic approach is taken towards movement studies will there really be what we are looking for inside the field, the ability to acquire knowledge that will help us evaluate current movements actions and their effectiveness with more accuracy than ever before.