Social movement activists have numerous goals in mind when they choose a particular corporate target, including implementing a specific policy change, changing the norms or standards of an industry, and drawing attention to their cause. Choosing the optimal target can affect the activists’ abilities to accomplish these goals. As demonstrated through research by Tim Bartley and Curtis Child on anti-sweatshop campaigns and by Mary-Hunter McDonnell and myself on boycotts, activists do not choose corporate targets randomly. They frequently go after the largest, most dominant, and most prestigious companies in their respective industries. Continue reading
Sarah Soule. 2009. Contention and Corporate Responsibility. Cambridge University Press.
My suggestion for great summer reading is Contention and Corporate Social Responsibility by Sarah A. Soule (2009, Cambridge University Press). I recommend it to scholars of social movements and collective behavior because of its focus on anticorporate activism. Much of the work in social movement research focuses on activism against the state. Historically, scholars defined social movements by that very feature (Tarrow, 2011). However, social movements are increasingly targeting nonstate actors. Soule’s book helps us understand how and why this happens and to what ends.
Soule begins by providing a broad overview of social movement theories, especially as they relate to actions against corporations. She distinguishes between contentious politics, in which activists target states, and private politics, in which activists do not target or involve the state in their actions. Soule rightly acknowledges that the scene on the ground often involves complex combinations of private and contentious politics, as is the case when the state is drawn into conflicts between activists and corporations. She illustrates the complexity of maintaining this analytical distinction throughout the book. Continue reading
Google doodle highlighting gay rights and the 2014 Olympics
As a follow up to Lisa Leitz’s post about the same sex marriages featured at the 2014 Grammy Awards, I want to draw attention to Google’s homepage “doodle” which “honors” the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The doodle highlights six winter sports and, critically, is set against a rainbow background. Below the search bar is a quote from the Olympic Charter: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
Anyone who has been following politics around this year’s Olympic games will recognize this as a not so subtle dig at Russia’s anti-gay laws and the general treatment of gay athletes leading up to the games. The political nature of the Google doodle has been picked up by a number of news sources, and one news source noted that the doodle was on the Google Russia homepage.
I think this, as with the same sex marriage event at the Grammy Awards, is a sign of the mainstreaming of LGB rights, but is also a sign that the protests against Russia’s anti-gay laws have been successful at drawing attention to the issue. Even Bob Costas mentioned the controversy around these laws on the first night of Olympic coverage, Thursday night. While the Google doodle will do little to concretely change the situation in Russia, I think it should be celebrated, and certainly should be seen as a win for gay rights advocates. But, I’m open to other interpretations. Thoughts?
Want a side of bland, vague politics with your coffee? Then please visit Starbucks!! You can also get a free cup of coffee today (July 4) if you tweet the hashtag “indivisible.” (Something tells me your local barista won’t know whether you actually tweeted it…) While editing this morning I was introduced to their new campaign to stop the partisan bickering via their bulletin board and their bags of coffee.
No stranger to politics, this is Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s latest attempt to enter into politics in an uncontroversial way. He made statements and has done some work to get corporate leaders to end their financial contributions to politics and create jobs in the United States. In an interview with CNN he described some success in this work.
What do you think about this latest foray into politics by a large corporation? Is it a way to sell more (as Jim Edwards suggests) and tap into public sentiments about political topics, ala Miley Cirus’s Occupy song?