Does XR’s Lawbreaking Challenge or Uphold State Injustices?

Kilpatrick, F. (Presenter)

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


‘Climate Justice Now!’ is a key rallying cry of the current high-profile climate activist movement exemplified by Fridays for Future and XR. However, XR face criticism for sidestepping applications of climate justice theory in their actions of civil disobedience, particularly over race, class, and disability. To explore this apparent contradiction, this paper discusses the author’s research into XR campaign strategies and activist discourse on justice. The research concludes that many of XR’s ‘apolitical’ campaign discourses are replicated by XR activists, including a rejection of politicised environmental activist stereotypes and a framing of XR as respectable and ‘ordinary’ people. Findings also showed an obscuring of issues of privilege, justice and systemic inequality, and an emphasis on urgency and timescales. This results in a universalist, ends-justify-means approach to climate activism, dismissing and denying the agency of marginalised groups in order to more effectively interact with institutional power. This paper argues that by taking an apolitical, universalist stance based on the good, law-abiding citizenship of its activists, XR's civil disobedience and lawbreaking fails to meaningfully challenge state power and instead replicates and contributes to existing systems of injustice and inequality.
Period21 May 2020
Event titleResisting Democratic Law
Event typeConference


  • climate activism
  • extinction rebellion
  • climate justice
  • justice