What is the most 'radical' movement in American culture today?
December 1, 2011 11:58 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out which modestly-sized movements are most antithetical to conventional modern day culture (excluding direct political movements - I'm thinking something akin to how Gay Rights were perceived 50+ years ago)

Polyamory? Prisoners' rights? Animal Rights?
Furthermore, which of these most radical movements are most likely to grow to acceptance in the longish term? (e.g. 50/75 years)

If I had to take a guess, I would wager Polyamory as it's still a relatively small movement, yet seems to have far less of a following than Animal Rights and Prisoner Rights, and I'm unsure how long it might take to become part of (especially American) culture.
That said, what are your thoughts? What might I not be thinking of?
posted by pipian to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What's the line between movement and subculture?

For example, lots of people are into BDSM, or naturism, or cosplay; they are still small minorities in the general population, and seem unlikely to catch on as "movements." At the same time the majority of the general population knows these things exist and tolerates their existence (nobody's getting burned at the stake or anything). I think some minority subculture-type things (memes? in-groups?) may achieve some level of homeostasis in society, neither expanding nor being repressed.

Does widespread adoption of personal computers and associated devices count as a movement? or "just" a trend?

All that said, I would put some money on personalized cyber- and/or bio-modification as something that seems way out there today but may be seen as commonplace in fifty years. Maybe chemical-modification too? E.g. logical evolution of things like off-prescription use of Adderall, or the bluetooth earpiece.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:22 PM on December 1, 2011

posted by Jon_Evil at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2011

Its really difficult to define a "social movement" and then measure the size, breadth, and impact of said movement, especially in the present without the benefit of historical hindsight.

For example, I'm having a hard time getting my head around your examples. When you say animal rights movement, I'd say there has been a major shift in conventional acceptance of how we care for domesticated animals and treat livestock or research animals; but no harm to animals / ending husbandry type perspectives are certainly well out of the mainstream.

Anyway, if you want to say that the movements need to be "radical", as in fundamental changes in social or political relationships, I would say that elements of both environmentalism and anti-capitalism could become widely accepted in 50-70 years in the US. Just for human survival, I think we'll see the acceptance of Earth First type environmental practices soon, and I think that there will be larger swaths of Americans that reject growth-based capitalism as a form of economic organization.
posted by RajahKing at 12:28 PM on December 1, 2011

Atheism isn't that far behind, but it's still hard to picture an "out" atheist member of congress, much less a president, much as I imagine it was hard to imagine a gay congressman a few decades ago. I think there have been a few, though. Apparently Pete Stark was the first?
posted by supercres at 12:29 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by Bwithh at 12:31 PM on December 1, 2011

Atheism, definitely.

I also think we're going to see a significant rise globally of people who do no identify strictly as male or female. In Thailand, for example, kathoey culture is much more accepted (socially, if not legally) than transgenderism here in the U.S.
posted by mkultra at 12:57 PM on December 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

For "most likely to grow to acceptance": tattoos and body modification in general. A few decades ago having a tattoo meant you were either a veteran or an ex-con; now almost every twenty-something I know has at least a couple of them.
posted by theodolite at 1:09 PM on December 1, 2011

Tattoos have become so common, so quickly that it still blows my mind that they where illegal in NYC in the 70s (as in, you couldn't run a tattoo parlor in the city), body mod stuff is getting there but much slower.

In some parts of the country Vegetarianism is still new and unusual, let alone something like Veganism but I bet in 20 years every place in the country will have vegan and gluten-free options available.
posted by The Whelk at 1:13 PM on December 1, 2011

How about local food, traditional home economics, and voluntary austerity? I don't know if there's a word for that movement, or if it's actually multiple movements. But it's working great for me and some people I know, and I think it's key to our culture's adaptation to the resource and economic constraints that lie ahead. It's counter culture because for the most part we're in denial about those constraints, and for the same reason it hasn't been highly politicized or visible.
posted by maniabug at 1:44 PM on December 1, 2011

Legalization of (consensual, adult) incest? Not to mention furries, pet-lovers, and good old-fashioned prostitution?

Are you thinking solely of transgressive movements, or is stuff that's merely alternative (like maniabug's "crunchy" points) in your matrix as well?

I think polyamory, to respond to your position, is already fractionally accepted -- if the April Ludgate "vee" relationship with her bisexual-but-labeled-gay boyfriend depicted on Parks & Recreation season 1 is any measure. So far as I know -- or even can Google -- it managed to avoid any major backlash, but maybe that's just the declining influence of broadcast television.
posted by dhartung at 1:55 PM on December 1, 2011

There is still such as thing as Nazis.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:10 PM on December 1, 2011

I second mkultra: both Atheism and people who don't fit into our traditional gender binaries are both movements that are ripe for some sort of growth in the next 10-20 years. Beyond that, the crystal ball gets very foggy.

I'd like to ask what your definition of widespread acceptance is. Is it just legal acceptance or does it also encompass social, civic, and economic acceptance?

Legally speaking, in the US and most Western countries, atheists already have legal rights. However, they are ostracized and alienated from meaningful participation in the civic sphere (at least in the US). I think you could say the same for members of "traditionally marginalized groups": racial minorities, women, LGBT. To take African Americans in the U.S. as an example - despite having won many legal rights, there is a long way to go for equal civic and economic participation with whites - black representation in legislative and judicial branches (and historically the executive) lags behind their representation in the total population. Additionally, there are still lingering issues with enforcement of existing laws with regards to employment and housing discrimination (among other things). Add on to that a rate of poverty and poor health outcomes that are direct results of historic racism, and we still have a long way to go to reach actual equality, even though legally whites and blacks are nearly equals.

I believe that instead of seeing a bunch of new movements seeking to solidify their legal rights, the challenge of the next generation or two will be for already existing movements to bridge the gap between official legal protection for their rights, and the full economic and civic enfranchisement of their members.

That might require a new way of looking at jurisprudence , or it may require an unprecedented campaign to instill new social mores and ways of viewing society. Either way, it's a huge challenge.
posted by baniak at 2:15 PM on December 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Drug Legalization I think.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:14 PM on December 1, 2011

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