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The Collaborative International Dictionary

activism \activism\ n. 1. a policy of taking direct and militant action to achieve a political or social goal.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1920 in the political sense; see activist + -ism. Earlier (1907) it was used in reference to a philosophical theory.


n. The practice of using action to achieve a result, such as political demonstration or a strike in support of or in opposition to an issue.


n. a policy of taking direct and militant action to achieve a political or social goal


Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis with the desire to make improvements in society and to correct social injustice. Forms of activism range from writing letters to newspapers or to politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, and hunger strikes. One can also express activism through different forms of art ( Artivism). Daily acts of protest such as not buying clothes from a certain clothing company because they exploit workers is another form of activism. One view holds that acknowledging privileges and oppressions on a daily basis ranks as a form of activism. Research has begun to explore how activist groups use social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.

The Online Etymological Dictionary records the English words "activism" and "activist" (in the political sense) from 1920 and from 1915 respectively.

Usage examples of "activism".

Broadly speaking, the Twelvers are considered political quietists as opposed to the Zaydis who favor political activism, and the Ismailis who are identified with esoteric and gnostic religious doctrines.

Jakub exhibits the same monstrous subjectivism but not the feverish activism of his Russian counterpart.

Footage from the trials had formed and informed the first film, but the filmmakers decided to base the sequel on creation of the Web site and the activism it had spawned.

Paul Brandeis, a Hollywood producer who'd won international acclaim with his films on a variety of ecological and animal-rights causes, had swept her into a whole new world of celebrities, parties, and popular activism.

In the jargon of activism, Global Witness was an NGO, or nongovernmental organization.

Considering itself an army against the newly established Protestant Reformation in Europe, its political and religious activism led to its rapid growth and great influence.