Activists at Bay: Royal Dutch/Shell's Response to Anti-Apartheid Divestment Pressure, 1986-1990

Ishva Minefee

Research at the nexus of social movements and organization theory predominantly emphasizes corporate acquiescence to activist pressure. This study challenges prevailing assumptions and examines how corporate resistance influences social movement failure. Historical analysis of Royal Dutch/Shell’s response to activists’ demand for divestment from South Africa during apartheid offers insight into the dynamic interaction between social movements and multinational corporations. Rather than passively resist, Shell kept activists at bay with legitimating resistance strategies that reinforced the decision to stay in South Africa. This study has implications for research on social movement success and failure as well as corporate responses to activist pressures in global contexts.