Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Grassroots Activism and the Network Society

Today’s society moves faster than ever before. Technological innovations allow economies, people, and ideas to move and change in new ways with ever-increasing speed. Naturally political theories must change to accommodate changes in society, and those whose campaigns can adapt faster have an obvious advantage. In this competitive environment emerged the very modern idea of “grassroots activism.” This philosophy refers to the ideal of campaigns originating among the people, as opposed to by some faceless elites in a far away meeting.

This model for campaigns became the new standard for the Democratic Party in the 2010 and 2012 election years. It required organizers to redraw hierarchies of campaign leadership. The new model looked more like a web of individuals, a fabric woven by the personal relationships of every voter in America. The network mentality entered politics for the first time.

This network was created with the same dreams as all networks. One was that grassroots activism would reform the political process and give everyone an opportunity to become involved. To a great extent, this became so. Regional organizers were given more responsibility to gather and train volunteers, and volunteering happened at a more local, spread out level. But this network did not reform electoral politics completely, nor did it bring political involvement to people and places it did not already go. The same limits of every network – online or otherwise – apply to grassroots activism as well.

Networks are natural and inevitable systems to form as communication becomes easier and the world of information continues to shrink. But they seem to all have the same limits.  Evidently barriers of geography and class will always prevent people connecting with each other to some extent. 

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