Direct Action by L.A. Kaufman: Forthcoming Review

After I finish reading Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism by L.A. Kaufman, I’ll post a review of it in a week or so. Despite some differences of opinion with the author, I consider it a valuable book. If you read it between now and then, we could compare notes. One option would be for you to write your comments before reading mine. Then we could share independent reactions.

The release of her book by Verso prompted Rolling Stone to publish an interview with her titled, “How to Take Action – and Stay Sane – in the Trump Era.” The sub-title was “’Direct Action’ author L.A. Kauffman discusses how to get motivated and fight burnout, and why ‘protest works.'”

Five of the six customer reviews on Amazon give it five stars. NPR also reviewed the book.

Verso’s description of the book reads as follows:

A longtime movement insider’s powerful account of the origins of today’s protest movements and what they can achieve now

As Americans take to the streets in record numbers to resist the presidency of Donald Trump, L.A. Kauffman’s timely, trenchant history of protest offers unique insights into how past movements have won victories in times of crisis and backlash and how they can be most effective today.

This deeply researched account, twenty-five years in the making, traces the evolution of disruptive protest since the Sixties to tell a larger story about the reshaping of the American left. Kauffman, a longtime grassroots organizer, examines how movements from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used disruptive tactics to catalyze change despite long odds.

Kauffman’s lively and elegant history is propelled by hundreds of candid interviews conducted over a span of decades. Direct Action showcases the voices of key players in an array of movements – environmentalist, anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, feminist, LGBTQ, anti-globalization, racial-justice, anti-war, and more – across an era when American politics shifted to the right, and a constellation of decentralized issue- and identity-based movements supplanted the older ideal of a single, unified left.

Now, as protest movements again take on a central and urgent political role, Kauffman’s history offers both striking lessons for the current moment and an unparalleled overview of the landscape of recent activism. Written with nuance and humor, Direct Action is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the protest movements of our time.

Verso’s biography of the author is:

L.A. Kauffman has spent more than thirty years immersed in radical movements as a participant, strategist, journalist, and observer. She has been called a “virtuoso organizer” by journalist Scott Sherman for her role in saving community gardens and public libraries in New York City from development. Kauffman coordinated the grassroots mobilizing efforts for the huge protests against the Iraq war in 2003–04. Her writings on American radicalism and social movement history have been published in The Nation, n+1, The Baffler, and many other outlets.

Consider checking it out. I look forward to evaluating it, hopefully with some of you.

 

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