The origin of the boycott helps explain why the modern version seems so ineffectual by contrast. Modern boycotts are less like “social excommunication” and more like publicity campaigns, hoping to achieve through attracting notice what cannot be achieved by actual social organization.

I see that the diminished power of organized labor and the social actions like this week’s rideshare strike are not just the product of changing labor regulation and law, but a learned inability to cohere around moral principles. It took the moral resources generated by the practice of neighborliness, along with social and religious solidarity to drive Boycott out of Mayo. How can contractors who neither know or see each other save through social media manage the same coordinated effort and moral purpose and organization? They cannot.