Extinction Rebellion and the Commodification of Environmental Protest

Kilpatrick, F. (Presenter)

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation

Description

The Extinction Rebellion protest movement presents itself as being ‘of the people’, championing collective control of the decarbonisation process through citizens assemblies, and vocally opposing capitalist overproduction and western consumption practices. Whilst these ideologies are not new within the history of social protest, Extinction Rebellion has attracted unusually high levels of media attention and participation since its inception in November 2018, particularly from the white middle classes (Hayes et al, 2018). A key Extinction Rebellion strategy is provoking mass arrests, which have been criticised as mere performances of resistance, complicit with state power mechanisms in their capitulations to police forces (Critical Legal Thinking, 2019). This performance becomes part of the representational image or ‘spectacle’ as described by Debord (1970). Debord argued that social life has been reduced to representations or appearances of lived reality only, and that these images become commodities to be fetishised by contemporary society and the mass media. This paper explores how environmental protest is commodified by Extinction Rebellion for consumption by the middle classes. This was tested through research analysing Extinction Rebellion press releases, promotional materials, written text and visual images. The analysis was then clarified and compared against interviews with people who were drawn to public protest action for the first time by Extinction Rebellion. Preliminary findings indicate climate change is ‘marketed’ through narratives based on depoliticised threats such as biodiversity loss and air pollution, which alienate voices of marginalised communities. Through Extinction Rebellion, environmental protest becomes a commodity affordable only by those with significant social and financial capital.
Period8 Nov 2019
Event titleHistorical Materialism Conference, SOAS, London.
Event typeConference

Keywords

  • climate activism
  • extinction rebellion
  • historical materialism
  • Guy Debord