Strikes, revolutions, mass demonstrations, protests; these are all large scale explicit examples of resistance with a clear message and aim, as can be seen with the recent uprisings in Ukraine, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela. These are often effective in resulting in some sort of change, however; ultimately the economic and social prowess of globalisation and world systems is so potent and embedded that it still dominates on a global scale, despite the prevalence of keen revolutionaries in academia and a select few countries that have resisted globalisation.

Through small scale acts of resistance we actively pursue a desire for an alternative lifestyle. Take for example, quotidian acts of resistance in the workplace such as routinely turning up late, stealing paper and stationary from the office, inherently hating ones boss or just carrying out tasks purposely inadequately. This kind of defiance is probably the most common to the point of being satirised frequently in films, television, and literature. These may sound like a cynical and insignificant examples of resistance, I do understand that not everyone implores their boss or is stuck in a boring office job, however I think it is applicable on an almost universal scale at the moment. Small performances of

defiance are expressions of people’s individuality that’s otherwise being repressed by certain economic systems or governmental regimes. The point is that quotidian resistance is optimistic; it’s a sign of awareness and consciousness. Everything from the burger boy who spits in the burgers of rude customers, to the student activists around the world who have been campaigning for social justice every day for years, are examples of a break away from oppressive constructs of social etiquette and a step towards autonomy and free will. They exemplify behaviour contrary to the view that people are determined entirely by economic systems that serve the ruling class, and instead prove human’s agency within their everyday life.
So how does everyday resistance become effective in the struggle for social change, and how does it translate to large scale resistance?

One could argue that everyday acts of resistance are incredibly important in maintaining and perpetuating the meaning behind the protests, revolutions, and strikes that call for social change. They are the impetus for change just as much as the larger scale uprisings they help to manifest. But it’s when resistance transcends internal and individual existence to being explicit and public in solidarity that one starts to truly see the prevalence of struggle and discontent. In Venezuela, the average person was seeing a decrease in the quality of life, a repression of their freedom, and an emerging totalitarian style government that lost grip of inflation levels (apparently the highest rate of inflation in the world despite huge oil revenues amounting to $1tn since 1999) and, consequently, its people. Growing dissatisfaction with everyday life spurred a previously politically idle middle class take to the streets in a plea to restore basic civic freedom. Despite relentless censorship enforced by President Nicolás Maduro, the population will continue to resist this, and there will undoubtedly be independent radio stations, independent newspapers, and platforms for freedom of speech created by the people even if they are deemed illegal.

In Ukraine there was a growing feeling that the state didn’t represent the people, and corruption was far too prevalent, so displeasure turned in to a mass call for revolution. David Graeber, and other anarchist alike, speaks out for a transformation from just everyday resistance to public direct action such as Occupy movements and creative refusals. Occupy Wall St was a perfect example of how everyday resistance meets a demand for social change. The movement saw lots of people with shared values and principles come together in solidarity to show an awareness of the immorality of neoliberalism.

Before the movement manifested every participant in their own way acted upon what they felt, however, it wasn’t until all these individuals came together the movement had a global impact. The notion of direct action, commonly championed by anarchists, is seen by some as the only form of resistance that leads to true social change. Direct action refers to anti-neoliberalism and anti-corporation movements that symbolically and physical protest against the current economic and social state of the world in favour of a prominent egalitarian vision of society. Anarchism is a humanist ideology advocating a borderless world without inequality. These anarchist movements are not inherently anti-globalisation, unlike what most people think, it instead strives for a form of globalisation not controlled by corporations.
We must be careful, though, in discussing the nature of uprisings, as the current situations around the world demonstrate that there are usually many differences in the causes, aims, and messages behind revolutions, thus homogenising all revolutions can become problematic and ethnocentric. We have the tendency to view all revolutions as a Karl Marx inspired worker revolt; however this is not the truth. The recent protests around the globe have been class, ethnic, economic, and anti-government based protests. Bosnia’s recent grievances are economic not ethnic, unlike the conflict in Ukraine between the nationalists and the pro-Russians. From small scale, often invisible, resistance to larger scale resistance which has both physical and symbolic power behind it, there are usually outcomes that impact society in some way.

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References:
The Guardian: what do Ukraine, Turkey and Thailand have in common?
Graeber, D 2002. The New Anarchist. New Left Review.
The Guardian: chaos and thuggery take the place of the pretty revolution
Kellner, Douglas (2004) ‘Cultural Marxism and Cultural Studies.’