The History of the Boycott.
July 29, 2002 7:51 PM   Subscribe

The History of the Boycott. The very first boycott took place as a part of the resistance in colonial Ireland, against the eponymous Capt. C.C. Boycott, beginning a long line in the use of personal ethics by aware 'actors' to make economic choices in pursuance of social and/or political ends. As such, this type of action marries the libertarian attitudes of personal responsibility and Adam Smith's 'invisible hand', with the quasi-socialist collective action and 'power to the people'. [There have been a number of MeFi threads on specific boycotts: however none have dealt with the concept as a whole.] What's your favourite boycott? (",) More inside>>>
posted by dash_slot- (6 comments total)
This method of protest is also a major part of non-violent action
in pursuit of, for example, pacifism and Civil Rights, (e.g., the Montgomery Bus Boycott).

Of course, the doyenne of the genre is the South African Boycott of the 1980's, after which some academic research showed "...that activist shareholders who chose to divest from South Africa did not suffer a subsequent loss to their portfolios."

Obviously, there's the boycott of Israeli goods, and by contrast, the original boycott of Arab goods by Israeli jews.

Did you know there's a Saudi boycott of the US? Or a boycott-boycott!
I see 'sanctions' as a form of boycott, organised not by oppressed folk or pressure groups, but governments, some of whom ran Olympic boycotts

There are plenty of Ethical Consumer boycotts ongoing, if you want to keep up with 'em, have a look here (some of these seem to acknowledge their shaky foundations....) I have to admit to some trouble in keeping up with these, and though I've not taken part in many boycotts, I still can't bring myself to buy a Murdoch product (a hangover from anti-Page3 sentiments of the Clare Short wars of the 70's & 80's. Aah, nostalgia...)

Here's the 4-11 on the optimal boycotting tactics:
- make sure they've got their facts straight
- ensure that they're targeting the most important and most culpable corporations
- are clear about the desired outcome of the boycott
- put the corporation on notice
- are clear about any legal aspects
- make a commitment for the long run, and
- don't turn to alternative sources for the product or service that are as bad as the offending corporation.

The basic object is simple: do everything possible to draw attention to the misdeeds of the corporation in question, write the company, and make a personal commitment not to purchase its products.

If you substitute 'your arch-Mefi troll' for corporation in the paragraph above, you'll have the gist of why I posted this (crypto-self link, sort of).

How hard is it to make boycotts work?
posted by dash_slot- at 8:04 PM on July 29, 2002

Baby Milk Action, baby.

There are a lot of weird, constitutionally questionable, legal restrictions on boycotting. In California, for example, Civil Code Sec. 51.5 provides: "No business establishment of any kind whatsoever shall discriminate against, boycott or blacklist, or refuse to buy from, contract with, sell to, or trade with any person in this state because of the race, creed, religion, color, national origin, sex, disability, or medical condition of the person or of the person's partners, members, stockholders, directors, officers..." This law was almost certainly written to prevent anti-Israel boycotts in California. See also Govt. Code 16649.80 et seq.
posted by xowie at 8:30 PM on July 29, 2002

No grapes, no lettuce. I learned about Chavez a little later.
posted by swerve at 9:33 PM on July 29, 2002

"The reason Adam Smith's invisible hand was invisible was because it wasn't there."
-- Joseph Stiglitz
posted by raaka at 10:05 PM on July 29, 2002

Considering the fact that Gandhi’s non violent protests and boycotts lasted 32 years, he should be honored and remembered as the leader in change thru non violent civil disobedience, of which boycotts were used many times. Mahatma...
posted by Mack Twain at 10:36 PM on July 29, 2002

I was a student union officer during the 80s South African boycott period, when the biggest action that the National Union of Students (in the UK) was promoting was the Boycott Barclays Bank campaign. (Barclays had significant investment in SA, though as it transpired, not as much as some of the other major UK banks, just more visibly.)

One significant issue which arose from this was that of what do you do once your action has been successful? Barclays withdrew from its South African investments very openly, and cited the ongoing boycotts as part of the reason. Some unions continued to tell their members to avoid them anyway, others took the view that unless there's a tangible benefit to bowing to a boycott (eg, that business which had previously been denied you suddenly became available), there would be no commercial reason for a business to change its policies, no matter the pressure.

My view was that it was necessary to judge what it was they were really doing, pulling out of South Africa because they felt that by staying they were supporting an economy/system which they found morally repugnant, or pulling out because it opened the door to making more money than they were in SA?

Which highlights for me the difficulty with boycotting - are you trying to change a practice or a mindset? And if the latter, will you accept the former as a successful outcome?
posted by jonpollard at 3:23 AM on July 30, 2002

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