What is the role of activism in establishing a new social contract?
I see the role of activism as an integral part of societal contracts. I foresee that activism will slowly become the way we do the modeling of societal contracts. First two considerations to set up my argument: (i) it is indeed illusory to think there was or will be one societal contract on earth, (ii) it is also illusory to think that it should be set in concrete. It has been lacking fluidity until now for communication limitations but there is no reason to maintain this lack of adaptability. Now to reach the core of the argument, what I mean is that we should move toward a world where "swarm leadership" is a way of life. See "http://thinktank2-thinktank2.blogspot.com/2012/05/" for the concept definition. In a nutshell, societies would evolve based on the participation of the many while new values are adopted and others discarded at a rhythm and in a direction that depends on each cultural society. Yes, this expands the concept of activism but I think it also brings to it a certain equilibrium (if done in transparency) that respects the local society as a whole, avoiding splits in the Gauss curve (the cause of so many sufferings such as the actual world populism).
The Role of activism has always been there since the beginning of human civilization, although in recent times, the strategy to push for a change seem to have changed greatly.
Typical instance, toward the end of the MDGs, the United Nations having reviewed progress realized the gaps in the MDGs, and thought to fill those gaps, and therefore decided on a more broad SDGs, though ambitious, but with very practical steps to for monitoring and accountability in achieving the SDGs.
I joined the beyond2015 advocacy group, raised awareness, and transformed to together2030, till now raise awareness and develop the accountability around SDGs to ensure that targets are met, process is followed, at national and at global level.
For me the role of activism is problematic.
On one hand, it is vital to have engaged society, which not only care enough about something to spent their time protesting, but also meet together and make relationship with others like-minded people in the world where we desperately need them.
On the other hand, activists to often limit themselves to be protesters. They protest against globalisation, climate change, Trump, brexit, wars, but they rarely propose viable solutions. And You yourself prove the point - you were protesting globalisation in 1999 in "movement of movements", yet it took 17 years and Donald Trump to actually spark serious global discussion about pros and cons of globalisation. Simply shouting "no" to something doesn't necessary means anything.
And finally, I will wholeheartly oppose suggestions that voice of activists have anything to do with "the will of the people". The only way to find out what the will of the people is is to hold a election/referendum. Otherwise, which activist should I listen to? Those who I agree with? Those with the highest numer of likes on facebook? Or those capable of mobilizing the biggest number of people in the capital city?
In conclusion though - we need constructive activism, proposing solutions and attracting public attention on crucial social challenges. We also need responsive governments, which are not deaf to sensible proposals.