Direct action

action taken by a group intended to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue

Direct action originated as an anarchist term for economic and political acts in which the actors use their (e. g. economic or physical) power to directly reach certain goals of interest, in contrast to those actions that appeal to others (e. g. authorities).


  • Direct action enables people to develop a new sense of self-confidence and an awareness of their individual and collective power. Direct action is founded on the idea that people can develop the ability for self-rule only through practice, and proposes that all persons directly decide the important issues facing them. Direct action is not just a tactic, it is individuals asserting their ability to control their own lives and to participate in social life without the need for mediation or control by bureaucrats or professional politicians. Direct action encompasses a whole range of activities, from organising coops to engaging in resistance to authority. Direct action places moral commitment above positive law. Direct action is not a last resort when other methods have failed, but the preferred way of doing things.
  • In its essence direct action is the insistence, when faced with structures of unjust authority, on acting as if one is already free. One does not solicit the state. One does not even necessarily make a grand gesture of defiance. Insofar as one is capable, one proceeds as if the state does not exist.
    • David Graeber, Direct Action: An Ethnography, Oakland: AK Press, p. 203, 2009.

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