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Why We Can't Depend On Activists To Create Change

Politics is too important to be left to a small activist class. We need to weave it back into every corner of all of our lives.

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Instead, activism itself often becomes its own community of interest, which self-selecting activists join. When activists enter a special cultural space, where “activism” takes place among likeminded “activists”, some of the most idealistic and civically minded young people in society essentially remove themselves voluntarily from the institutions and social networks where that they were organically positioned to influence. While most activists may not fully extricate themselves from “non-activist” spheres of their lives (e.g. family, workplace, etc.), still the framework that activism occupies a special space unto itself—that it is an activity disembedded from the day-to-day lives of the masses—encourages activists to check their activism at the door when entering non-activist spheres.

The latter spheres are certainly not always easy to engage. There are perfectly legitimate and understandable reasons why many of us gravitate toward spaces where we feel more understood and choose the path of least resistance in the other spheres of our lives. But when we do not contest the cultures, beliefs, symbols, narratives, etc. of the existing institutions and social networks that we are part of, we also walk away from the resources and power embedded within them. In exchange for a shabby little activist clubhouse, we give away the whole farm. We let our opponents have everything.

Our task is to re-politicize these de-politicized everyday spaces; to weave politics and collective action back into the fabric of society.