Local Activism Can’t Be Crushed, Research Finds. At Most, It Changes Target

| Strategize!

Above Photo: Fabrizio Perretti, Bocconi University, co-author. Credit: Paolo Tonato

According to received wisdom, local activism against the establishment of industrial plants follows a cycle, with its highest intensity a short time after mobilization. If a firm stands, activism is destined to fade away. New research published in the Strategic Management Journal suggests we should think again.

Fabrizio Perretti (Bocconi’s Department of Management and Technology) and Alessandro Piazza (Jesse H. Jones School of Business) analyze the American anti-nuclear movement between 1960 and 1995 and find that the  made by a firm affect both the evolution of  in its own sector and the emergence of mobilization in other industries.

As expected, when activists are successful in preventing the establishment of a nuclear plant, there is an upsurge in similar protests in neighboring communities. Such a victory showcases activism as a viable opportunity for  and activists remain mobilized to push further towards more ambitious goals. This dynamic is exemplified by the very first episode of protest against a  at Bodega Bay, California. In 1964 plans for the plant were canceled and, partly due to this success, a nationwide movement opposing nuclear power was soon born.

A protracted cycle of protest starting in 1976 could not, however, prevent the construction of a  plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire, which was concluded in 1986. Despite the failure in achieving their goal, however, the Seabrook protests connected and inspired people around the country, establishing a dominant model of a large-scale direct-action organization for groups championing different issues, including the AIDS activist group ACT UP.

“Firms’ decisions can be considered critical events in a protracted conflict that not only determine local mobilization outcomes, but can also have boundary spanning effects,” says Prof. Perretti. “Furthermore, the idea that mobilization is more effective at its very onset proves wrong: all the conflicts about new  go on for years, if not decades, and activism effectiveness doesn’t tend to wane over time.”





    1) NATURE CONNECTED AND DETERMINED-any phenomenon can be understood and explained if considered in its inseparable connection with surrounding phenomena.

    2) A STATE OF CONTINUOUS MOTION OF the interconnection and interdependence of phenomena, but also from the standpoint of their development, their coming into being and going out of being.

    3) QUANTITATIVE CHANGE LEADS TO QUALITATIVE CHANGE a transition (the nodal point) from an old qualitative state to a new qualitative state, as a development from the simple to the complex, from the lower to the higher, in a spiral.

    4) CONTRADICTIONS INHERENT IN NATURE. There are negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and the struggle and unity between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, constitutes the internal content of the process of development.

    5.- CONDITIONS OF TIME AND PLACE. Basing our orientation not on the strata of society which are no longer developing, even though at present they constitute the predominant force, but on those strata which are developing and have a future before them, even though they at present do not constitute the predominant force. Slow quantitative changes give way to rapid and abrupt qualitative changes. We must not cover up the contradictions of the capitalist system, but disclose and unravel them; we must not try to check the class struggle but carry it to its conclusion, pursuing an uncompromising working class policy, not a reformist policy of harmony, which would try to address both the interests of the workers and the capitalists. The end result is a synthesis of both opposite ends of the spectrum in a new form.

    6) MATERIALISM. Matter is primary, since it is the source of sensations and ideas and consciousness is secondary, derivative, since it is a reflection of matter, a reflection of being–The brain is the physical organ of thought.

    7) THE WORLD AND ITS LAWS ARE KNOWABLE– There are no things in the world which are unknowable, but only things which are as yet not known. The development of society is also knowable, so that the party of the workers should not guide itself in its practical activity by casual motives, but by the laws of development and by practical deductions from these laws. The material life of society is an objective reality existing independently of the will of men, while the spiritual life of society is a reflection of this objective reality. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but rather their social being that determines their consciousness. Theory becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses,setting into motion broad masses of the people and of mobilizing them and organizing them into a great army prepared to smash the reactionary forces and to clear the way for the advanced forces of society.