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Protest Inc.: The Corporatization of…

Protest Inc.: The Corporatization of Activism

by Peter Dauvergne

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Before reading this book I was already fairly aware of the fact that most large NGOs merely exist for the sake of perpetuating themselves and have completely been subsumed by capitalism. I therefore came in agreeing with the authors' thesis, that most large not-for-profit organizations like Greenpeace are made ineffectual by the fact that they have slowly come to resemble the corporations that they work with.

The first part of this book is merely a list of the various large NGOs and what their budgets look like (billions) and where they get it (corporate fundraising) and fairly tedious. I found that the authors repeated the same examples multiple times which was also tedious. An academic book not being that entertaining is not the end of the world, but my real problem with this book is the conclusions the authors draw. Which is to say, they don't make any. I'm not expecting a glib solution to this problem, but in addition to criticizing corporate-style NGOs, the authors also handwave at Occupy's attempts at a flat organizational structure, leading one to think... so what are people supposed to do? The book spends a lot of time talking about the good old days of the 60s-70s and decrying Kids These Days with their Internet and their Facebooks. The authors seem to have a very incorrectly rosy picture of activism in the past and provide no opinions on how to dismantle massive NGOs or create sustainable movements outside of capitalism.

I would not recommend this book to someone with no knowledge of the topic because the writing is not particularly effective. I also would not recommend this book to someone who already has some knowledge of the topic, unless it is to go find the sources the authors cite and synthesize your own opinion. ( )
  collingsruth | May 16, 2016 |
In a time of what seems to be a rise in global activism, this book presents a very different view.

Things are not at the point of "Greenpeace/Pepsico" or "Amnesty International (A Division of Unilever)," but a person could be forgiven for thinking that such a day is coming. Major NGOs have entered into multi- million dollar partnerships with corporations like Shell, Coca-Cola or Walmart (they certainly have more global reach than the United Nations). These corporate partners are going to expect more business-like behavior out of what, twenty years ago, was a rag-tag bunch of activists. Groups like the Sierra Club or World Wildlife Fund now have multi-million dollar annual budgets, boards of directors, offices all over the world and hundreds (or thousands) of employees. A growing number of organizations are interested in "corporate friendly" activism.

The consumerizing of activism is another growing trend. Purchase a certain item (usually made in China) and a portion of the money will be donated to some worthy cause. It helps the retailer to look good, and the worthy cause may get a small amount of extra money in their bank account. On the other hand, is more consumerism really the answer for world hunger or cancer research?

When dealing with the police or city officials, taking the streets has never been easy. Post-9/11, new laws have been passed which make it nearly impossible. Almost any public protest or disruption of daily activity can be equated with terrorism. Facing a police force that dresses and acts like the military, courtesy of surplus equipment from the Defense Department, certainly doesn't help.

In the middle of the 20th Century, there was much more of a social interest in getting together, like at the local union hall, to discuss the state of society. Those days are gone. Today, society is much more atomized. People are working two jobs, just to make ends meet, or they are spending their free time playing video games, so getting together to better society is low on the list of priorities.

This is a gem of a book, though also rather disheartening. It is a huge eye-opener, and should be read by all parts of society, including activists and non-activists. ( )
  plappen | Apr 25, 2015 |
Let me begin with the only negative remark that I have about this book: they say that Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language, this work seeks to prove the point. It seems that there is not a noun that is not transformable into a verb by the addition of three letters; I,Z,E. This can lead to some ugly and rather difficult reading but, I urge the reader to grit their teeth and press on - the content makes it worth while.

This book explores the growing links between activists and big business. I was certainly unaware of some of the companies financing Greenpeace,the WWF and other NGO's. The most pleasing aspect of this tome is that the authors do not feel the need to force their opinions upon the reader. They report, fairly, and leave the reader to decide upon the rights and wrongs of this he case. The book brings up some important questions and, if we are to hold a sensible conversation, then it is vital that we have the facts to hand.

I am pleased to have this work upon my bookshelf and am even more pleased that, at least some of it, will remain in my head. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Mar 9, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0745669492, Paperback)

Mass protests have raged since the global financial crisis of 2008. Across the world students and workers and environmentalists are taking to the streets. Discontent is seething even in the wealthiest countries, as the world saw with Occupy Wall Street in 2011.

Protest Inc. tells a disturbingly different story of global activism. As millions of grassroots activists rally against capitalism, activism more broadly is increasingly mirroring business management and echoing calls for market-based solutions. The past decade has seen nongovernmental organizations partner with oil companies like ExxonMobil, discount retailers like Walmart, fast-food chains like McDonald’s, and brand manufacturers like Nike and Coca-Cola. NGOs are courting billionaire philanthropists, branding causes, and turning to consumers as wellsprings of reform.

Are “career” activists selling out to pay staff and fund programs? Partly. But far more is going on. Political and socioeconomic changes are enhancing the power of business to corporatize activism, including a worldwide crackdown on dissent, a strengthening of consumerism, a privatization of daily life, and a shifting of activism into business-style institutions. Grassroots activists are fighting back. Yet, even as protestors march and occupy cities, more and more activist organizations are collaborating with business and advocating for corporate-friendly “solutions.” This landmark book sounds the alarm about the dangers of this corporatizing trend for the future of transformative change in world politics.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:50 -0400)

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