Social Movements and Protest Politics Essay Example

  • Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:

Social Movements and Protest Politics

Social Movements and Protest Politics

Question 1. Media and Social Movement

The media has historically acted as a powerful tool for social movements (Passy & Giugni 2001, p. 123). The media provides social movements with a platform where they can mobilize people behind their cause and to advance their objectives (Martin 2015, p. 9). Using social media and television, this essay discusses how media is used by social movements to advance the objectives of a movement.

The Arab Spring of the early 2010 is regarded as one of the largest social movement whose impact was felt far and wide. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia in early 2010 and spread fast to Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iran, Somalia Oman, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Jordan among other Arab nations (Hughes 2012). The movement that involved violent protests and demonstration in major cities involved a push for a regime change and for democratization of governments. The organizers of the Arab Spring were not happy with how the Arab nations were being governed and the majority had stiffed democracy and was characterized by human rights abused (Crossley 2016, p. 138). Therefore, the best way to bring about social, economic and political change was to organize street protests and the end results was that a number of autocratic leaders, such as Muhammad Gadaffi of Libya, the Tunisian President and the Egyptian presidents had to surrender or topples to pave way for regime change.

Social media has emerged as one of the media platforms that help social movements to advance their objectives (Eltantawy et al., 2007, p. 1214). Many social movements nowadays turn to the social media to mobilize support, plan and passionately spread their message to the targeted audience. The Arab Spring movement is one of the social movements where the impact of the social media in advancing the objectives of social movements has been witnessed. Although it is believed that the Arab Spring was leaderless, the social media plays a vital role in ensuring that the objectives of the movement were achieved. Social media was used by the Arab Spring organizers to rally people from all walks of life in Arab nations to rise against their autocratic and undemocratic leaders. It is reported that, during the Arab Spring, people created Facebook and Twitter pages to raise awareness regarding the ongoing crimes against humanity such as police brutality in countries like Libya and Egypt. Wolfsfeld et al. (2013, p. 116) show that the organizers of Arab Spring used the social media to create awareness to the people in Arab countries the ills that their governments were doing, highlighting issues such as the role of the government in poverty, and joblessness among other social ills. Accordingly, this helped the organizers of Arab Spring to reach out to everyone from all corners of the world easily (Hughes 2012). This paid off as it resulted in a number of leaders being toppled , marking the beginning of social, economic and political change in the affected Arab nations, such as Libya, Egypt and Tunisia among others.

In addition to social media, Arab Spring activists depended a lot on television, especially international television channels to advance their objectives. Reports indicate that international television channels such as Aljazeera, CNN, BBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and RT and France-24 among others played a vital role in helping the Arab Spring activists achieve their objectives. These international television channels were used by the activists to spread the message about the undemocratic nature of Arab leaders, poverty, human right violations and economic situations in the Arab world (Weprin, 2012). Accordingly, this helped create awareness about the situation in the Arab countries to everyone across the globe. In fact, a number of Aljazeera reporters were arrested in Egypt with one still incarcerated for reporting about the situation in Egypt that helped topple President Hosni Mubarak.

In conclusion, Arab Spring is one of early 2010 is regarded as one of the most impactful social movements in history. The revolution that began small in Tunisia later spread and swept across the entire Arab World and resulted in a number of leaders being toppled through protests and demonstrations. However, as discussed in the paper, the media played a huge role in ensuring that the Arab Spring achieved its objectives. The most notable media that played a huge role in the Arab Spring are the social media and international television channels that helped in planning, delivering message and mobilizing people to stand up against autocratic regimes in the Arab world.


Crossley, N 2016, Social networks and social movements: Contentious connections.
Routledge, Oxford, NY.

Hughes, N 2012, A social media platform for social movement, viewed 31 May 2017

Martin, G 2015, Understanding social movements. Routledge, Oxford, NY.

Passy, F., & Giugni, M 2001, ‘Social networks and individual perceptions: Explaining differential participation in social movements,’ Sociological Forum, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 123-­153.

Weprin, A 2012, CNN, ABC, CBS, The BBC and Al Jazeera Among 2012 peabody award winners. Retrieved May 31, 2017

Wolfsfeld, G., & Segev, E., Sheafer, T 2013, ‘Social media and the Arab Spring: Politics comes first,’ The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol.18, no. 2, pp. 115–137

Question 2: Is Ethical Consumption A Social Movement?

The growing problems of environmental degradation and emergence of once rare illnesses have resulted in increased advocacy for ethical consumerism. Hilton (2003, p. 3) defines ethical consumption as the consumption pattern that promote social, economic and environmental sustainability. Some of the practices that constitutes ethical consumption include buying fair trade products like tea or coffee, carpooling to work, buying and eating organic foods or rejecting/boycotting certain companies, products or services that do not promote sustainability (Clarke 2008, p. 1883). Although ethical consumption is increasingly becoming a buzz words as consumers become more conscious about their consumption habits, the question that ponders in the mind of many, including sociologists pertain to whether or not ethical consumption is a social movement. This essay ethical consumption as a social movement.

The last few decades have seen a significant growth in social movements across the globe. A social movement refers to a group of persons or corporations working together for a common purpose. In most cases, social movements focus on political and social issues affecting people in the society. Typical examples of social movements include environmental activists, labor unions and human rights activists among others (Dubuisson-Quellier 2010, p. 1850). However, analysis indicates that ethical consumption is indeed a social movement as evidences across the globe points that ethical consumption or green consumption has been used as a social and political tool to initiate change in the market.

Evidence of ethical consumption as a social movement was first demonstrated in the 1960s and 70s following the rise of social movements that advocated against the decline in biodiversity and nature (Hilton 2003, p. 16). The social movement made up mainly of environment activists organized protests against increased environmental degradation, such as pollution and deforestation that had caused a decline in biodiversity and nature. Even presently, there are many environment activists across the globe who are advocating for ethical consumption to ensure environmental protection. A good example of this is the People’s Climate March, which is a social movement against climate change (Clarke 2008, p. 1875). The movement has been organizing protests in major cities across the globe to push governments to take appropriate action to address the irresponsible consumption habits that is responsible for the growing problem of environmental degradation and climate change.

Evidence that ethical consumption is a social movement is also demonstrated by the fact that the clamor for green consumption has often seen consumers sometimes boycott certain products or services to force the manufacturers or sellers of those products to become ethical. It is notable globally that boycott is one of the tools that social movements use as a tool to drive change. For instance, in the 1980s, Greenpeace, which is a popular social movement, called for mass boycott of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) (Ocampo 2015, p. 17). The boycott call was informed by the fact that the use of CFCs was causing depletion of the ozone layer and this exposed people to excessive radiation. The boycott saw consumers from across the globe boycott the purchase and use of CFCs.

Additionally, the reason that ethical consumption is a social movement is demonstrated by the protracted and longstanding boycott call against Nestle products. A group of activists have been calling for a boycott of Nestle baby formula since the 1970s after consumer groups in developing nations became bothered by the lack of breast-feeding, which resulting in a lot of infant deaths in the developing world. Following investigations by the group, it was conclude that the over 1.5 million infant deaths that occurred annually was caused by unsafe bottle feeding, resulting in a boycott of Nestlé’s products as was seen in 1988, when groups, such as the International Baby Food Action Network boycotted Nestlé’s products in protest (Dubuisson-Quellier 2010, p. 1852). Fair Trade movement another social movement organization that encourages consumers to engage is social actions (Jaffee 2007, p. 13).

In conclusion, there has been a growing advocacy for ethical consumption across the globe. As indicated, the increased call for ethical consumption has been triggered by increased social, economic and environmental challenges that affect the world due to unethical consumption. Based on the analysis of ethical consumption, it has been demonstrated that ethical consumption is a form of social movement as it is used as a political and social change tool all over the world.


Clarke, N 2008, ‘From ethical consumerism to political consumption’, Geography Compass, vol. 2, no. 6, pp. 1870-84.

Dubuisson-Quellier, S 2010, ‘From consumerism to the empowerment of consumers: The case of consumer oriented movements in France,’ Sustainability, vol. 2, pp. 1849-1868. doi:10.3390/su2071849

Hilton, M 2003, Consumerism in twentieth-century Britain: The search for a historical movement. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Jaffee, D 2007, Brewing justice: Fair trade coffee, sustainability and survival. University of California Press: Berkeley.

Ocampo, S. D 2015, Green consumption: A social movement? Local food movement and resistance through care. University College London, pp. 3-45