Social Boycott

Social boycotts are an effective means of social non-cooperation that involve the technique of identifying a target or entity for non-cooperation by implementing stringent social reprisals that result in ostracism and economic hardship against the target. These means often require hardships on both the ones doing the boycotting as well as the target due to the utility of the target in providing a service or product being disabled. The basic attempt in social boycotting is to ostracize and socially shame the target to the point of giving in to the demands of a particular group. As a form of resistance social boycotts have been used to:

  • build a rallying cause among social activist to get recognition of grievances held in common
  • cause the boycotted target to refrain from associating with causes considered antithetical to the boycotting groups
  • reject the target’s interests and those in power who protect their interests.

Throughout history there have been many instances and types of social boycotting. Sometimes the boycott is broken due to the intense need for the services or products that the target provides, but very often the result is either compromise over the dispute or relinquishment to the demands of those who are boycotting. Some examples of effective boycotting in the past have included:

  • American colonists effectively boycotted any business or persons seen as too pro-British to induce the to stop cooperating with British interests.
  • When the Russian aristocracy under Nicholas II banned the Finnish constitution, many Finns refused to comply with Russian law as a way of bolstering support for its reinstatement.
  • During Nazi occupation of Denmark, the Danes would ignore the requests of German troop and hastily leave their presence without speaking.
  • Artichoke farmers in 1950s France would publicly shame and ostracize any farmer refusing to cooperate with a reduction in supply in order to raise prices.

All of these examples were effective in inducing social change using non-violent means. By relying on the fact that humans are innately social, the social boycott can effectively bring on the realization by target individuals of their interdependence on the needs of others and as a way of building a consensus on societal cause.

Continue reading the 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action.

Also check out The Politics of Nonviolent Action Part One / Part Two / Part Three.

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