Activism is a necessary & proper expression of free peoples operating effectively in a free society. In the American experiment, 1st amendment protections from government interference in the freedom of religion, speech, the press, to assemble & associate, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances – the right to complain – is enshrined in our founding documents.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances“
Activism can also be a weapon perverted to provoke fear, create animosity and antagonism, to frustrate and confound the civil order, to bring about some desired objective end.
The difference is nontrivial but not always easily identified. Even one event can have many unaffiliated participants as well as several groups interacting for a perceived mutual benefit, but while they share in a given activity, their objective reasons for doing so may be very different. This can even be true within a given group.
That said, understanding contemporary activism, activists, and activist groups is a complex undertaking. Looking to the activities, the sources of funding and other forms of support and coordination, methods of recruiting and communication, their leadership and members, organizational structure and aspirations, and their strategies and tactics to attain them – these are among the principal duties of the Study of Activism within the Academy.
Identifying, cataloging, tracking, understanding, communicating and developing relationships with, and seeing both the trees and the forests of the different movements in flux around the nation and around the world where they intersect is what the center of study and practice, Study of Activism, is all about.