The idea of power, who has it, who does not, and who is searching for it, can usually tell an interesting story regarding the state of society. All three authors that we read for this week discuss different versions of power and its relationship with those involved, and I want to relate Finnegan’s and Castells’ views to my discussion on protest and social change. As can be seen throughout the history of our country and nations throughout the globe, protests are one of the many avenues that societies pursue in order to initiate social change, both on a local and a global scale.
There are two early stages when attempting to promote social change. The first of those two basics changes is having something worth fighting for, and having a reason or a passion for making drastic alterations to the standards of society. This is something that Juliette Beck had in the article “After Seattle”. Her passion was in international trade rules, and she had the option of participating with 50,000 other demonstrators in Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization. She was able to pursue her passion in a constructive manner in order to initiate social change, along with thousands of others who were all fighting for the same goal. This idea goes into another aspect of starting social change that is needed – organization. Once an interest in a certain movement has flared, there needs to be some level of organization in order to ensure that the movement doesn’t die down and end up a footnote in history books. Beck had gone up against some pretty large and menacing organizations, such as the International Money Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. When going against the status quo and going up against those in power, only with sufficient organization can social change because ingrained in the society. Once a protest is formed, either a larger public outcry, or a smaller, more-locally centered objection, the group can then make progress moving forward as to make sure that more protests can be made in the future and that progress is seen.
We have seen an incredible method to secure that level of organization come to fruition in the 21st century with the use of the Internet, networks, and social media. These methods of communication lead into the second stage of initiating social change through protest, and that is the spread of the protest. Manuel Castells discusses the effect of network deeply in his article, and fits in perfectly with social change and power. Collective action can be met through interconnecting channels and network, and this is what can help a protest grow from an idea to a movement. Castells discusses the ideas of anger and fear in his article, and once enough anger has boiled, that trigger leads to change. The anger, however, is counteracted by fear, and the anxiety that results from fear of those in power means that the anger isn’t always enough to make those lacking in power to seek change. Now, with the use of networks, it is easier for groups of the oppressed to make a difference without having the fear of major repercussions. And so, some of the characteristics that help spread social change most effectively that were mentioned in the article include: networks come in different forms, social movements are timeless, movements are viral, and it creates a sense of togetherness and self-reflectiveness. These qualities, in my opinion, are how networks aid protests in becoming a permanent aspect of history when attempting to initiate social change and make an impact on those who are in coercive power.