Are Boycotts Violence?

The blog entry linked below (by BEH co-editor Chris MacDonald) asks just what it is that separates supposedly non-violent boycotts from violent attempts to get your own way. The intent is often similar. The impact is often similar. So why are boycotts (which can ruin people’s lives) thought of as non-violent, in a way that makes them sound harmless?

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LINK: Is a Boycott an Act of Violence? (by Chris MacDonald for The Business Ethics Blog)

People tend to think of boycotts as classic non-violent direct action. Power to the people! and so on. Often, in recent years, boycotts have been used by consumers to pressure companies on a range of progressive issues, such as gun control and marriage equality.

But of course, boycotts have not always been a progressive thing — they’re used by activists on all parts of the political spectrum. And historically, they’ve sometimes been used for some rather nasty purposes. In the 1920s, for example, the Ku Klux Klan quite openly used boycotts to drive Black-owned stores (along with stores owned by Jews and Catholics) out of business. This was a strategy aimed ultimately at driving out entire minority populations out of particular towns and states…..

What do you think?


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