Tensions between individual and system change in the climate movement: an analysis of Extinction Rebellion

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10 Scopus citations


This article examines tensions in the climate movement between solutions that involve individual consumption and behaviour changes and those involving more transformative systemic change. Although they are demanding system change, activists in Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion face accusations of hypocrisy based on their personal choices. This neoliberal appeal to hypocrisy is used to discredit, divide, and undermine the climate movement. Focusing specifically on Extinction Rebellion (XR), I examine how accusations of hypocrisy take form, how XR activists and supporters respond to accusations of hypocrisy, and how XR activists justify living a low-carbon lifestyle despite a strong belief that only system change can adequately address the climate crisis. Then I explore the disconnect between XR’s focus on system change and their lack of specific goals that would drive forward the systemic changes necessary. While many activists call for ‘system change’ what is missing is an understanding of what kind of system change is necessary and how it might be achieved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)806-819
Number of pages14
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2022


  • Activism
  • climate movement
  • extinction rebellion
  • hypocrisy
  • individualism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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