The Wheeler Centre
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Lunchbox/Soapbox: Verity Burgmann on the Importance of Being Extreme
Agitators, as Oscar Wilde observed, are essential to progress. Reforms are more likely to be achieved when sections of a social movement behave badly and demand more than reforms. In this Lunchbox/Soapbox presentation, Verity Burgmann explores the productivity of extreme action.
The history of protest suggests that extremism in form and content shifts the spectrum of debate so moderate proponents of the same social movement emerge as the voice of compromise and reason; extremists strengthen the bargaining position of moderates, because authorities accede to moderate demands to weaken extremist challenges; and extremists keep the moderates more honest.
Verity Burgmann is Adjunct Professor of Political Science in the School of Social Sciences at Monash University. She has been involved in protest movements for four decades and is the author of numerous studies of labour and social movements.