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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 the 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.


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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 the 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.

30 review for Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism

  1. 5 out of 5

    Misch

    My rating is rounded up from 2.5 stars. There have to be better books on this subject... Details various organizations and their direct actions from 1970's to Ferguson but not much of a political perspective from the author besides broad definition of "left". It mostly focuses on white-led groups, noting how much trouble they had uniting with people of color but doesn't offer much valuable insight on the problem before moving on to the next thing. Like reading a long wikipedia article. The pic o My rating is rounded up from 2.5 stars. There have to be better books on this subject... Details various organizations and their direct actions from 1970's to Ferguson but not much of a political perspective from the author besides broad definition of "left". It mostly focuses on white-led groups, noting how much trouble they had uniting with people of color but doesn't offer much valuable insight on the problem before moving on to the next thing. Like reading a long wikipedia article. The pic of the book is neon pink but mine is neon green.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bookforum Magazine

    "Kauffman does not hesitate to address the flaws and weaknesses of some of the groups she studies. She points out that direct-action enthusiasts who advocate voluntary arrest will often alienate people of color and others who routinely face violence from the police. Prefigurative movements can incubate useful ideas and methods that affect wider society, changing the frame of what's seen as possible, but at their worst, they become a way to retreat from the pursuit of concrete victories in the out "Kauffman does not hesitate to address the flaws and weaknesses of some of the groups she studies. She points out that direct-action enthusiasts who advocate voluntary arrest will often alienate people of color and others who routinely face violence from the police. Prefigurative movements can incubate useful ideas and methods that affect wider society, changing the frame of what's seen as possible, but at their worst, they become a way to retreat from the pursuit of concrete victories in the outside world." –Sarah Jaffe on L.A. Kauffman's Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism in the Feb/Mar 2017 issue of Bookforum To read the rest of this review, go to Bookforum: http://bookforum.com/inprint/023_05/1...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    This book was invigorating in a way I did not expect. As a person that has participated in direct action on and off for the last 20 years, it was great to see myself and my peers reflected in this story as part of a legacy of global resistance. More importantly, it helped me understand the roots of the movements and tactics that I inherited. While I lived the tension between the Bay Area and NYC hip-hop inspired (mostly socialist) POC organizers and the overwhelmingly white anarchists, I didn't This book was invigorating in a way I did not expect. As a person that has participated in direct action on and off for the last 20 years, it was great to see myself and my peers reflected in this story as part of a legacy of global resistance. More importantly, it helped me understand the roots of the movements and tactics that I inherited. While I lived the tension between the Bay Area and NYC hip-hop inspired (mostly socialist) POC organizers and the overwhelmingly white anarchists, I didn't know the history and wasn't informed of the efforts my predecessors (like the sisters from Combahee) had made to intervene and confront the white, straight, and male complexion of the many campaigns employing direct action. SO many of the concerns that had long swirled in my mind were validated on the pages of this book. Direct Action ends on a promising note. With the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, those who have long been pushed to the margins in direct action work are again at the center. However, as we all know, after BLM came Standing Rock and then The Women's March and then antifa and now we are looking at the re-emergence of a global climate justice movement with Extinction Rebellion. Will we just backslide into the old ways or will the new formations be truly intersectional? Only time and struggle will tell. But one thing is evident both from the book and my lived experience: much of the work of transforming the world lies in more rigorous and self-reflective prefiguration. See adrienne maree brown's Emergent Strategy for that ;)

  4. 4 out of 5

    malou

    read this last summer - found it to be a super compelling history of protest movements in the united states. so many of the challenges organisers faced in the second half of the last century are apparent today. it ends with black lives matter. would love for a similar history to be written about lefty groups in the netherlands.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Subvert

    That was nice and easy read. I liked it. But I do feel a bit annoyed that I read these things that are solely focused on North-America. I'm not just less interested in the US, but also annoyed by its cultural dominance and my decision to consume it. The links and inspiration that many of these movements had with European movements also seems to be a bit underplayed. I would love to read a European version of this. I am reminded of the Subversion of Politics and Geronimo's Fire and Flames, but th That was nice and easy read. I liked it. But I do feel a bit annoyed that I read these things that are solely focused on North-America. I'm not just less interested in the US, but also annoyed by its cultural dominance and my decision to consume it. The links and inspiration that many of these movements had with European movements also seems to be a bit underplayed. I would love to read a European version of this. I am reminded of the Subversion of Politics and Geronimo's Fire and Flames, but they are of a different and lesser quality. It starts with the mostly forgotten big 1971 Mayday action, that I loved reading about, and goes on until Ferguson protests of late 2014. For a book that covers 40 years of radical actions and organizing in less than 200 pages most of what is covered understandably lacks detail. Because of that it is sometimes not that easy to see how all these different campaigns and groups are connected. But I like how it was quite reflexive, trying to gauge strategic merits of all these different groups, their successes and failures. A red line throughout the book is also its reflection on race. How the direct action has always been very white and how they dealt with that.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    This book was more frustrating that I anticipated, but I also liked it more than I thought I would. At its best, Direct Action encourages leftists to think more about the tactics and strategies we use. I think this is immensely useful, as the left has a reflexive tendency towards mass marches without actually considering how appropriate that tactic is when situated in time and place. Kauffman is also honest about the main pitfall of direct action — the fetishization of direct action, where parti This book was more frustrating that I anticipated, but I also liked it more than I thought I would. At its best, Direct Action encourages leftists to think more about the tactics and strategies we use. I think this is immensely useful, as the left has a reflexive tendency towards mass marches without actually considering how appropriate that tactic is when situated in time and place. Kauffman is also honest about the main pitfall of direct action — the fetishization of direct action, where participating in direct action becomes its own politics, an end rather than a tactical choice. She also doesn't mistake large/well-organized/expressive actions for winning ones, and I found the book's focus on thinking strategically instead of expressively or symbolically to be refreshing. On the downside, the book's treatment of anti-nuclear power activists as an important part of the left & not as a hippie holdover is immensely frustrating. The problem is capitalism, not nuclear power. And I think the text should have made a more explicit critique of the insular organization of activist culture in the 70s and 80s that focused on procedural issues like group dynamics and decision making processes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Peter Pinelli

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Posting some notes I wrote for friends: The author, L.A. Kaufman has spent three decades as an organizer. This is her attempt to distill the past fifty years of protest history. Ugh, alright. This book is a pile of unanalyzed evidence. It’s testimony in the name of testimony. While there’s value in preserving these stories, that isn’t what I wanted from this book. I wanted some guidelines for moving forward. It seems a little foolish to trace the genealogy of direct action when the left is so spli Posting some notes I wrote for friends: The author, L.A. Kaufman has spent three decades as an organizer. This is her attempt to distill the past fifty years of protest history. Ugh, alright. This book is a pile of unanalyzed evidence. It’s testimony in the name of testimony. While there’s value in preserving these stories, that isn’t what I wanted from this book. I wanted some guidelines for moving forward. It seems a little foolish to trace the genealogy of direct action when the left is so splintered. The perspective of each group is so fundamental to their actions, that an analysis like this is bound to be incoherent. (The author needs a better editor). I wanted a guide for action, but this is a storybook. You could viciously rebuke me, claiming that direct actions are inherently creative acts which reflect too many variables for them to be elucidated in any book (or whatever tactics will probably change soon anyway). Anyway, I would rather have read something besides this book. Since the 60’s we’ve seen a profusion of leftist political identities, alongside a massive decrease in the left’s influence Direct action has many definitions. Martin Luther King used, “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension… that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue” One: Mayday Largest ever direct action. As a response to the vietnam war, on may 3rd, 1971, 25,000 people attempted to shut down the government. The government anticipated the action, and arrested 7000 people in one day. While the protest failed, it still managed to spook Nixon. Wow, inspired by police murders of protesters at Kent State and Jackson State, by May 1970 “it’s estimated that half the country’s student population-- perhaps several million youth--took part in antiwar activities” They even burned + bombed almost one hundred campus buildings with military ties. Many organizers were beginning to burn out. The antiwar movement fractured into a Socialist section who marched (lame), a pacifist section who did sit-ins (better), and an alliance of the most politicized hippies with the hippest radicals. The final group is the one which sought to shut down the govt.. Their plan was to strategically obstruct traffic with bodies and vehicles, a tactic adopted from earlier civil rights organizers. (for the civil rights group there was a massive backlash of public opinion, tho their tactic worked). Mayday action established the precedent for affinity groups. The groups of 5-15 people plan their role for the action, allowing the event to be more decentralized (which helped accommodate the diversity of identity groups involved). Wow, the New Left had groups which were so much more militant than anyone today. Affinity groups can be criticized as allowing “the tyranny of structurelessness”. While apparently democratic, the lack of structure in affinity groups enabled informal and unaccountable power dynamics to flourish. The movement’s true leadership was hidden by this and allowed to be completely unaccountable to the affinity groups. The author quickly profiles a gay contingent of the Mayday protest. They pioneered the zap, “a unique tactic of confrontation politics, combining the somber principles of realpolitik with the theatrics of high camp” … “At a time when government surveillance and disruption of radical movements were both routine and highly damaging, the exuberant eroticism of the Gay Mayday Tribe doubled as a form of protection.” Two: Small Changes The 70’s were a dispiriting time for leftist organizers. They grew increasingly cynical about the possibilities for change. The groups working most actively were also the most violent groups. Their bombings and kidnappings alienated the mainstream public. A massive economic crisis lead many to refocus their efforts away from activism. Similarly, the end of the vietnam war lead many to quit protesting. The left began to organize around a plethora of identity groups. Whoa: the guy who first supplied guns to the Black Panthers was a longtime FBI informant New inspiration for protesting came from the clamshell alliance, a group of anti-nuclear activists. Their tactic was basically the same as Occupy: they occupied. In their case that meant planting trees and corn at the site of a proposed new nuclear plant. Their tactic delayed the construction of the plant by a decade. Many other groups subsequently adopted it. Another interesting aspect of the Clamshell alliance is that they organized themselves like quakers; using “voteless decision-making”. Instead of taking votes, they would come together to assess the spirit of the group. The practice is based around the religious conviction that the disparate perspectives will eventually converge on god’s truth. If the group doesn’t reach agreement then they take no action (at least in the quaker model). In part this served as a sort of ‘pre-figurative politics,’ which means treating the movement as a rough model for what society will look like; a.k.a prefiguring. (the author notes that prefiguring became popular at a time when it was becoming increasingly difficult to achieve external change, which made the internal soul-searching of these pre-figurative actions more appealing). Consensus-based decision-making is beneficial in that it helps empower marginalized voices. The process can be amazingly convoluted and sluggish though. The process could also be undermined. For instance, one anti-nuclear group was divided when a politician offered them a better protesting location so long as they agree to leave after several days. The decision had to be made rapidly, and so some people accepted the terms on behalf of the whole protest, without ever consulting the protesters. After the lengthy, painful planning process, this sudden unconsulted shift felt like betrayal. The group was also divided on a key decision of whether or not to physically shut down the nuclear plant. 2500 people attacked the fences, only to be repelled by tear gas and fire hoses. One organizer later acknowledged, “we made a big mistake, partly just out of political immaturity. We elevated direct action to a politics instead of just a tactical choice.” The author describes various racist practices within direct action groups. There’s an overview of direct action against apartheid. First, several prominent leaders arrive at the South African embassy to present a list of demands to the ambassador. Unexpectedly, they’re arrested. The next day they bring more people with them. They’re arrested again. The number of people coming to be arrested at the embassy swells rapidly, bringing critical attention to apartheid. Success! There was a similar sort of action on college campuses. Students began to build shanty towns in prominent places as a way of demonstrating the squalor of blacks in South Africa, while forcing confrontation with administration…. There was tension between black activists and white ones. They disagreed on tactics. Blacks were more cautious because they were treated worse by the police. Whites, on the other hand, had a romantic image of being arrested. Three: In Your Face The left got into the real bad habit of protesting party conventions during election years; the democratic one especially. These were aimless, ineffectual actions aimed against a confused political party. Ugh. One of the key innovations during this time was that punks began to go to protests. They were rowdy and vaguely nihilistic, but at least their rage was focused outward onto mainstream society (as compared to the more introspective culture of the progressive protesters). During this time various conservative groups began to use direct action tactics. There’s an account of a protest aimed against the CIA for intervening in Central America. An uneasy coalition of labor, religious people, and progressives protested. Meanwhile 1000 people worked to block access to the CIA. OK, it seems like the work of organizing people is based around the idea of convincing them to do media-savvy actions. They need to force confrontation in a way that presents their complaint as ‘common sense’. The challenge is not only defining the right message, but also convincing activists to buy-in to actions that will have a broad appeal. A lesson: “they took a white-defined and white-led movement and tried to diversify it through subsequent outreach, an approach that was doomed to fail” A conference intended to initiate a new national movement faces an old divide. One group, inspired by the Social Democrats of the New Left, wants to use the time to find the most appropriate issues to engage. Another group, more anarchist in its character, wants to follow a prefigurative program; supporting the notion that their activism should be more about “how we want to live” than about tackling whatever issue. One black group nearly boycotting the entire conference because of the low number of students of color involved in deliberation. Though it was discovered that many black student groups decided not to participate because of their distaste for direct action. “Environmental Action, the fairly moderate group behind te first Earth Day, openly and actively encouraged ‘ecotage,’ with little concern that the tactics would be viewed as extremist. The group even held a contest for the best sabotage tips” “Daniel and Phillip Berrigan-- militant catholic brothers… undertook a series of “Plowshares” actions, in which they used hammers to damages actual nuclear weapons, generating huge amounts of publicity for their cause.” “What most distinguished this crop of activists was how the viewed themselves in relationship to mainstream America. Where both Greenpeace and Plowshares opted for a prophetic role, undertaking actions that they hoped would appeal to the consciences of millions, the new wave of radicals had little expectation of gaining widespread sympathy for their positions… Their basic strategy was… ‘Make it more costly for those in power to resist than to give in” There’s a profile of HIV medication group ACT UP. They were incredibly successful. Many members quit all other activity after discovering their HIV infection in order to organize. They did risky activities, like disrupt news, and barricade governors in their homes. They cleaned up each others’ shit, and attended each others’ funerals. The movement brought gays and lesbians together in palpable way (earlier they had been suspicious of each other). “The political grounding that the lesbians gave to ACT UP was complimented by the sensibility and skills of the movement’s most notable neophytes: affluent white gay professionals with considerable cultural and financial capital at their disposal” … ACT UP fostered a splinter group, The Lesbian Avengers, which emerged as many gay activists were burning out. The avengers substituted sweetness for anger, handing out balloons and lollipops to kids… “Just three years after their first ACT UP direct action, members were already seeing a declining rate of return from their dramatic tactics” Earth First! Is profiled. Many of the early members of the group were misanthropes, who wanted to see nature left alone. When the 90’s rolled around, those members were outnumbered by more socially-minded people who were willing to build coalitions with loggers and other interest groups. FOUR: TURNED UP In 1995, a coalition of activists supporting gay rights, affordable housing, cheaper tuition and opposing police brutality, blocked all four manhattan bridges in response to mayor Giuliani's major budget cuts. Also in 1995, President Clinton approved a large amount of logging on public land. To counter that, Earth First environmentalists devised numerous new ways of constructing human shields to block roads. The principle was to attach someone to something that would be difficult to remove without injuring the person. Also around this time, more groups addressing ecological racism began to emerge (former environmentalism had been mainly white, and focused on the preservation of wilderness rather than the welfare of people). The WTO protest happens. Police respond to blockade tactics by using pain-compliance. They rub pepper spray in people’s eyes, a dangerous thing to do. The action featured prominent “carnivals in the street”. 9/11 happened, and activism died way down. Ugh. Largest world protest ever happened against the Iraq War. A million people protested in NYC alone. While the groups were large, they weren’t militant. This raises the question of whether the most important part of a protest is numbers or tactics. At around this time police began to become more aggressive. Occupy Wall Street is detailed. It’s all real familiar. Black Lives Matter comes next. It, too, is real familiar. And that’s Direct Action

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Gosztola

    There are numerous books, which delve into the rise of the New Left movements of the 1960s. They chart their struggles, how the government targeted them, and their eventual fall and disintegration. The legacy of the Left in the Sixties looms large over left-wing activism. Yet, while it may not have the same folklore, movements have pressed on in the past decades. L.A. Kauffman's book fills that void of knowledge by piecing together a history of the left from the early 1970s to the Black Lives Ma There are numerous books, which delve into the rise of the New Left movements of the 1960s. They chart their struggles, how the government targeted them, and their eventual fall and disintegration. The legacy of the Left in the Sixties looms large over left-wing activism. Yet, while it may not have the same folklore, movements have pressed on in the past decades. L.A. Kauffman's book fills that void of knowledge by piecing together a history of the left from the early 1970s to the Black Lives Matter movement. She astutely chooses to focus on the tactic of direct action to explore the combination of identity politics or intersectionality issues, which organizers have had to confront to grow movements. She recounts the ways in which direct action failed to appeal to poor and working class people of color because they were vulnerable. From Earth First! to ACT UP to Catholic anti-nuclear activists, Kauffman offers concise portraits of the genesis of key groups. She sharply interrogates the history, unpacking what worked and what failed, so that those organizing and resisting oppression now can draw inspiration. Each era, activists will put their own spin or mark on the tactic of direct action. Organizers cannot mimic history. They have to figure out what variation or innovation they can employ to solidarity activism and do what will work best for their efforts to build power or achieve demands.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A surprisingly good book that weaves the long line of direct action from the 1971 May Day protest to the present. Kauffman is an insider to many of these movements, which shows from her diverse amount of materials she has about them as well as the interviews she conducted. Perhaps best of all, she doesn't shy away from the racial and class limits that subsumed many of these movements. She also makes a fairly convincing case that women of color, women in general, and queer, lesbian, gay, etc. com A surprisingly good book that weaves the long line of direct action from the 1971 May Day protest to the present. Kauffman is an insider to many of these movements, which shows from her diverse amount of materials she has about them as well as the interviews she conducted. Perhaps best of all, she doesn't shy away from the racial and class limits that subsumed many of these movements. She also makes a fairly convincing case that women of color, women in general, and queer, lesbian, gay, etc. communities had a leading role in many of them. Although this claim doesn't hold true for all that she says, it nonetheless punctuates the book enough to validate her point. Perhaps most interesting is the way she gets at the complexities of the various movements investigated. She explores how they succeeded but also where they have failed or the potentialities that they held but never released. The books shows a nuance that reveals how long she has been working on the book (around 25 years) as well as her involvement and intimacy with such struggles. Probably the best thing written as of lately addressing a long historical trajectory of social movements for the past 50 years.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    We have to Stan. I’m for once not adding this to the must read list, but it’s really interesting. This is a history book, and I for one and I think most people (at least younger people who didn’t live through all this) don’t know about many of the direct actions that have gotten us where we are now. I consider myself pretty up on AIDS protesting, but I didn’t know very much about women’s lib, anti nukes, WTO, and other influential movements since the 60’s, and how all their successes and failure We have to Stan. I’m for once not adding this to the must read list, but it’s really interesting. This is a history book, and I for one and I think most people (at least younger people who didn’t live through all this) don’t know about many of the direct actions that have gotten us where we are now. I consider myself pretty up on AIDS protesting, but I didn’t know very much about women’s lib, anti nukes, WTO, and other influential movements since the 60’s, and how all their successes and failures introduced intersectionality and new protest methods that are more common now. It was published in 2017 and of course this is a topic that will always be changing, but I feel like that’s especially true right now with the movement for black lives. It’s not so old that it doesn’t touch on BLM but I’ll have to put a more up to date and specific BLM book on the lefty list.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Madeleine

    at times, crafts a carefully articulated narrative of direct action rippling with emotion that makes me want to drop everything and go (depending on... the movement in question lol). certain movements are detailed in a rush (glaringly: the combahee river collective), and the selection of movements is narrow. i understand that if this is an overview of "direct action" radicalism as opposed to other forms of activism, that may be intentional. but i wonder about the title of this book-- does this t at times, crafts a carefully articulated narrative of direct action rippling with emotion that makes me want to drop everything and go (depending on... the movement in question lol). certain movements are detailed in a rush (glaringly: the combahee river collective), and the selection of movements is narrow. i understand that if this is an overview of "direct action" radicalism as opposed to other forms of activism, that may be intentional. but i wonder about the title of this book-- does this tell a story of the "reinvention of american radicalism? are direct action and radicalism analogous and if not (...they aren't) why not?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Tas

    A clear well written history of major direct action events within American history since May Day 1971. Kauffman spends a lot of time highlighting the changes movements underwent as they were presented with critiques, and how often racial issues became central to coalition building. While not comprehensive probably in many respects, it does a good job highlighting the most present actions and how they were carried out. Well worth the read if you're unsure of how protests and tactics have changed A clear well written history of major direct action events within American history since May Day 1971. Kauffman spends a lot of time highlighting the changes movements underwent as they were presented with critiques, and how often racial issues became central to coalition building. While not comprehensive probably in many respects, it does a good job highlighting the most present actions and how they were carried out. Well worth the read if you're unsure of how protests and tactics have changed since the vietnam anti-war protests and why.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    She examines the protests movements from the later part of the twentieth century and their use of direct action practices, as well as how those practices have changed and evolved over the years. She particularly emphasizes the influence of civil rights and feminism on these movements. Anyone interested in progressive movements today should read this book to find out our history, our successes and failures and the theories behind direct action.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wesley Burton

    very informative, if a bit dry (especially considering the author herself was involved with many of the actions discussed). nonetheless required reading for anyone who considers themselves a leftist or progressive, as their is wisdom to be gleaned from past actions, whether they were successes or failures - and in fact this book invites us to question what it is that makes a direct action successful, as even something that doesn't directly affect policy can still have an impact. very informative, if a bit dry (especially considering the author herself was involved with many of the actions discussed). nonetheless required reading for anyone who considers themselves a leftist or progressive, as their is wisdom to be gleaned from past actions, whether they were successes or failures - and in fact this book invites us to question what it is that makes a direct action successful, as even something that doesn't directly affect policy can still have an impact.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Naomi Toftness

    giving up on this one. I generally have a hard time with history, so this may be my own fault, but the narrative is super rambly and goes in weird loops and I'm just having a hard time following. I'd love to know all about these groups, but maybe I just need a different format to consume this information. giving up on this one. I generally have a hard time with history, so this may be my own fault, but the narrative is super rambly and goes in weird loops and I'm just having a hard time following. I'd love to know all about these groups, but maybe I just need a different format to consume this information.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Mills

    Kauffman adds a critical but often-ignored layer to movement history as she traces identity politics, and especially race, through leftist organizing beginning in the 70s. I found this extremely useful, even though there were times I would have liked more detail, especially more direct sources rather than her reflection.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Felser

    Provided an incredibly informative perspective on how direct-action has evolved to how we recognize it today (including the legacy of whiteness in post-civil rights activist circles). Highlights the essential rolls of women and BIPOC in providing the framework for successful activism today, even though many of the largest movements were grounded in white-male identity. The main absence is indigenous activism which I would have loved to hear more about. It's a bit dense, but I felt the flow picke Provided an incredibly informative perspective on how direct-action has evolved to how we recognize it today (including the legacy of whiteness in post-civil rights activist circles). Highlights the essential rolls of women and BIPOC in providing the framework for successful activism today, even though many of the largest movements were grounded in white-male identity. The main absence is indigenous activism which I would have loved to hear more about. It's a bit dense, but I felt the flow picked up as I got more into the interwoven stories of the different movements.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Winston Powell

    This is a survey of major direct action campaigns since 1971. Loved it. I learned a lot as I have been involved in the Ferguson movement as a resident of Ferguson. Kauffman shows how we got here in terms of various social movements and why the #BlackLivesMatter movement is the way it is. Easily read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rory

    This book is all about the American left. Which is written in the title. But I didn't want to read any more, because there's more to the world than USA, and I don't want to get used to seeing everything through the lens of the USA. This book is all about the American left. Which is written in the title. But I didn't want to read any more, because there's more to the world than USA, and I don't want to get used to seeing everything through the lens of the USA.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    An engaging survey -- informative, critical, and even moderately hopeful -- of the evolution, successes, and weaknesses of 40 years of the U.S. "Direct Action" left's history. L.A. Kauffman provides a perspective worth holding in mind as the U.S. and Europe are threatened with yet another hard-right political turn. An engaging survey -- informative, critical, and even moderately hopeful -- of the evolution, successes, and weaknesses of 40 years of the U.S. "Direct Action" left's history. L.A. Kauffman provides a perspective worth holding in mind as the U.S. and Europe are threatened with yet another hard-right political turn.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Tymkow

    All you need to know about the history of the last 50 years of protest in the USA

  22. 5 out of 5

    William

    Really stellar history of protest, direct actions, and organizing from the late 60s into the present day. Rather than focusing efforts on tearing down the increasingly futile and local nature of activism that failed to stop the rightward shift in American politics, the book thoughtfully analyzes tactics and strategies in a nearly "objective" way. Triumphs are given equal time with failures, plus the book has numerous examples of radical direct actions that still could be utilized in the here and Really stellar history of protest, direct actions, and organizing from the late 60s into the present day. Rather than focusing efforts on tearing down the increasingly futile and local nature of activism that failed to stop the rightward shift in American politics, the book thoughtfully analyzes tactics and strategies in a nearly "objective" way. Triumphs are given equal time with failures, plus the book has numerous examples of radical direct actions that still could be utilized in the here and now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ekaterina Kuznetsova

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ting

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gregory

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jan

  27. 5 out of 5

    J.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kyla

  29. 4 out of 5

    Emma Kiefer

  30. 5 out of 5

    Greg

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