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A form of unconventional politics, which has indeed been around for quite some time, is on the rise: boycotts.
A boycott is considered to be when one voluntarily takes a political or social stance by refusing to use or recognise an organisation or political figure in a sign of protest. The term itself was not coined until 1880 yet boycotts actually date way back to at least the 1790s, when those who argued for the abolition of the save trade in Great Britain would refuse to buy slave-produced sugar.
One of the most intriguing boycotts worldwide which is gaining evermore prominence today is the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI.org 2014). It appears that whereas US electoral turnout is dropping there has been a significant increase in US citizens supporting the boycott of Israel as an act of defiance against the conduct of the Israeli government. The movement towards ideas of boycott commenced following a cry from Palestinian civilians calling for the world to boycott Israel until it complied with its international legal obligations and, regardless the opinions of politicians, it is now gaining more and more supporters. The young, the spirited, and those that have an understanding of the complexity of the issue, or demonstrate a sense of empathy due to the situation, will be more motivated to fulfil their civic duty through a boycott than a vote that, for a rational choice thinker, does not count for much which marks the growing importance of these rising phenomena.
Usually, a boycott is thought of as a one-time thing which allows us to react against a wrong doing. However, some boycotts can last for much longer periods and can be part of overall programmes to raise awareness to certain laws or customs; in this case boycotts become an integrated part of moral purchasing – in which people continue to make purchases based on their moral beliefs and refuse to buy certain products even after long periods of time
Therefore, the majority of organised product boycotts are not focused solely on short-term changes but fundamentally set out to gain long-term changes of the habits of buyers. They therefore fit into the wider picture of the political world and set out to reform markets and government attitude to products. An example of this can be seen by the lengthy boycott of South African businesses to protest apartheid.
One of the best things about boycotts is that anyone can do them – and if you feel strongly about a specific topic, be it animal rights and Fairtrade, boycotting is an ideal way to defend your views and raise awareness of the issues that are important to you. Boycotts are now spread easier thanks to the wonders of the Internet where you can find plenty of topics and boycotts for inspiration! Internet-based boycotts tend to be much more successful than more traditional forms of gaining recognition. With more and more people turning to boycotts and less people voting some believe that unconventional forms of politics – such as petitions and boycotts – are the future. So, although many argue that political participation is indeed declining, if we were to begin including these rising forms of unconventional politics when measuring political participation we may see that it is not declining as quickly as some assume.