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The Defiant: Protest Movements in Post-Liberal America

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In the tradition of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, an engaging account of the last half-century of political discontent The history of the United States is a history of oppression and inequality, as well as raucous opposition to the status quo. It is a history of slavery and child labor, but also the protest movements that helped end those instituti In the tradition of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, an engaging account of the last half-century of political discontent The history of the United States is a history of oppression and inequality, as well as raucous opposition to the status quo. It is a history of slavery and child labor, but also the protest movements that helped end those institutions. Protesters have been the driving force of American democracy, from the expansion of voting rights and the end of segregation laws, to minimum wage standards and marriage equality. In this exceptional new book, Dawson Barrett calls our attention to the post-1960s period, in which US economic, cultural, and political elites turned the tide against the protest movement gains of the previous forty years and reshaped the ability of activists to influence the political process. For much of the last half-century, policymakers in both major US political parties have been guided by the "pro-business" tenets of neoliberalism. Dubbed "casino capitalism" by its critics, this economy has ravaged the environment, expanded the for-profit war and prison industries, and built a global assembly line rooted in sweatshop labor, while more than doubling the share of American wealth and income held by the country's richest 1 percent. The Defiant explores the major policy shifts of this new Gilded Age through the lens of dissent--through the picket lines, protest marches, and sit-ins that greeted them at every turn. Barrett documents these clashes at neoliberalism's many points of impact, moving from the Arizona wilderness, to Florida tomato fields, to punk rock clubs in New York and California--and beyond. He takes readers right up to the present day with an epilogue tracing the Trump administration's strategies and policy proposals, and the myriad protests they have sparked. Capturing a wide range of protest movements in action--from environmentalists' tree-sits to Iraq War peace marches to Occupy Wall Street, #BlackLivesMatter, and more--The Defiant is a gripping analysis of the profound struggles of our times.


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In the tradition of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, an engaging account of the last half-century of political discontent The history of the United States is a history of oppression and inequality, as well as raucous opposition to the status quo. It is a history of slavery and child labor, but also the protest movements that helped end those instituti In the tradition of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, an engaging account of the last half-century of political discontent The history of the United States is a history of oppression and inequality, as well as raucous opposition to the status quo. It is a history of slavery and child labor, but also the protest movements that helped end those institutions. Protesters have been the driving force of American democracy, from the expansion of voting rights and the end of segregation laws, to minimum wage standards and marriage equality. In this exceptional new book, Dawson Barrett calls our attention to the post-1960s period, in which US economic, cultural, and political elites turned the tide against the protest movement gains of the previous forty years and reshaped the ability of activists to influence the political process. For much of the last half-century, policymakers in both major US political parties have been guided by the "pro-business" tenets of neoliberalism. Dubbed "casino capitalism" by its critics, this economy has ravaged the environment, expanded the for-profit war and prison industries, and built a global assembly line rooted in sweatshop labor, while more than doubling the share of American wealth and income held by the country's richest 1 percent. The Defiant explores the major policy shifts of this new Gilded Age through the lens of dissent--through the picket lines, protest marches, and sit-ins that greeted them at every turn. Barrett documents these clashes at neoliberalism's many points of impact, moving from the Arizona wilderness, to Florida tomato fields, to punk rock clubs in New York and California--and beyond. He takes readers right up to the present day with an epilogue tracing the Trump administration's strategies and policy proposals, and the myriad protests they have sparked. Capturing a wide range of protest movements in action--from environmentalists' tree-sits to Iraq War peace marches to Occupy Wall Street, #BlackLivesMatter, and more--The Defiant is a gripping analysis of the profound struggles of our times.

34 review for The Defiant: Protest Movements in Post-Liberal America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Vela

    In “The Defiant: Protest Movements in Post Liberal America”, Dawson Barrett seeks to show how Neoliberal Policies, “led by economic, cultural, and political elites in the post-sixties turned the tide against the movement gains of the previous decades and how these changes reshaped the ability of activists to impact the political process.” To do so, Barrett takes us through five distinct protests and interests that span the period stretching from the late 1970s to the present, while showcasing how In “The Defiant: Protest Movements in Post Liberal America”, Dawson Barrett seeks to show how Neoliberal Policies, “led by economic, cultural, and political elites in the post-sixties turned the tide against the movement gains of the previous decades and how these changes reshaped the ability of activists to impact the political process.” To do so, Barrett takes us through five distinct protests and interests that span the period stretching from the late 1970s to the present, while showcasing how neoliberal policies changed the world from what many consider to be the strongest, and most egalitarian period of American History (the period spanning from 1945 through the 1960s) to the America we see today, with its multitude of problems ranging from racial and income inequality, to the privatization of industries like public schools and prisons. Starting off with the election of Reagan, who was the epitome of Neoliberalism, we began to see a decline in the gains made during the liberal era mentioned above. With tactics such as appointing political adversaries to head agencies (such as an Oil and Gas CEO to run the EPA, a Private School system supporter to lead the Department of Education, a tactic being used today by Trump) to make these departments obsolete, the deregulation and opening of a free market had wider consequences. In the process, Barrett also shows, at least to this discerning eye, that the similarities between the Gilded Age and our present age are similar, thus giving credence to what many (including myself) believe is a second gilded age. Environmental movements, such as Earth First, highlighted how neoliberal policies made it easier for corporations to shun the progressive policies passed in the 1970s like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species act; while showing how protestors responded to these intrusions, including blocking roads and chaining themselves to trees (A concept that was picked up on by later movements, with slight differences like chaining themselves to fences). With the criminalization of public spaces, the rise of countercultures provided a space for inclusion in the form of Rebel Spaces. Naturally, these counter cultures, which provided safe spaces and alternative scenes to protest by way of art, democracy, and bold statements, led to conflict with state and city governments. Barrett discusses ABC No Rio and 924 Gilman street, whose collective power and ability to reach out to the neighborhood helped in their causes when it came time to fighting the Governments. Barrett showcases how neoliberal policies, such as budget cuts to public schoolyards and cuts to recreational facilities, compounded with the lack of employment opportunities, led to these inner-city children moving to graffiti. A baffling part of the criminalization of youth culture is that New York City, while facing bankruptcy, somehow found money to slash social programs, but was still able to conjure up $400 Million to fight graffiti. (pg. 56). Despite this, the above-mentioned clubs not only succeeded in their goals, but they did so while giving many of their members a voice in true democratic form, while also having to take it upon themselves to enforce the rules that they, as a collective, came up with, such as “No Racism, No Sexism, No Homophobia.” On the subject of Worker’s Rights, Barrett explains that NAFTA was a Neoliberal policy, which, while making free (a codeword for unregulated, according to Barrett) markets more accessible and profitable to companies, damaged the economy and workers’ rights. This chapter deals with NAFTA, and the CIW fight for basic rights and protections, as well as how student organizations and protests at prominent schools such as Notre Dame and the University of Texas, met the demands, although some (like UT), ultimately failed. These mainly revolved around what many termed as economic slavery by these major corporations as it concerned migrant workers in Florida. Despite the concern from Students, one Aramark (the company responsible for overseeing food outlets at UT) spokeswoman said that it would be a “Disservice to the students who were strapped due to tuition increases.” (pg. 93). To me, this line was not only a cheap cop-out by Aramark, it also spoke to what could well be another Neoliberal failure. With the advent of the Iraq War, we see renewed calls for protest, including global protests against what many saw as US Imperialism. However, the neoliberal policies of privatization led to atrocities committed by some contractors, such as Blackwater, Titan, and CACI International, as well as the taking of taxpayer money by Halliburton. Some of the neoliberal policies also led to the contractors being immune to Iraqi Law. This was a particularly disturbing chapter, as it also dealt with stipulations being made that would force school districts to allow recruiters onto campus with false tactics such as games. Finally, with the Advent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, we saw a turn on Neoliberalism. In the aftermath of the neoliberal policies put in place since the 1980s, the collapse of the stock and housing market saw the direct transfer of public funds to private businesses that were “too big to fail”. The resulting OWS movement was enough to rattle conservatives, and the news coverage was a contributor. However, the election of Obama, in terms of social and at times economic policy, was not a turn on neoliberal policies, though it did move to distinguish the parties along issues that, though large in the social circle, aren’t big in terms of economics. He also proceeds to point out that both sides of the political aisle are, inherently, neoliberal (even going so far as to point out that the Obama administration did deport parents of US Citizens, some of which were children.) It is here that Barrett makes a strong point when he states that “US protest movements have responded to a range of neoliberal policy shifts. Their sustained impact on national politics, however, has been otherwise limited. They have been unable to counter the neoliberal “Free-market” ideology that both parties use to regulate the economy in favor of people at the top. Protest movements in previous periods of US History also confronted hostile political parties and incredibly well-funded opponents.” (pg. 161). All in all, Barrett makes a convincing argument about how these five groups, from environmentalists to farm workers to students and punks, though they all fought for their own group, also fought a larger ideology, that of Neoliberalism.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    The Defiant have left the building The Defiant divides neatly into two sections. The pre neoliberal era is all about social activism. People take up causes, protest, sit-in, march, form groups and achieve goals. They change rules and attitudes, save others and help everyone. It inspires. It gives hope in this current era of inequality, doubling down on hate and twitter being the newspaper of record. Which, by coincidence, makes up the second part of the book, which is largely devoid of activism, The Defiant have left the building The Defiant divides neatly into two sections. The pre neoliberal era is all about social activism. People take up causes, protest, sit-in, march, form groups and achieve goals. They change rules and attitudes, save others and help everyone. It inspires. It gives hope in this current era of inequality, doubling down on hate and twitter being the newspaper of record. Which, by coincidence, makes up the second part of the book, which is largely devoid of activism, sit-ins, marches and groups achieving social goals. Dawson Barrett paints a picture of struggle that includes change, modest success, but mostly awareness and engagement in the pre neoliberal era. That the current era is largely devoid of it goes oddly unanalyzed in the book. Its absence is clearly felt as we lose rights and services in all directions, as our leadership takes us down bizarre and clearly unpopular if not totally wrong paths, and optimism for the future has drifted away. There is no direction given on how to revive the spirit, no up and coming leaders, associations, interest groups or causes. The list of sins from Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Trump are simply listed, and there appears to be little in the way of constructive opposition or alternative paths. The Defiant leaves the reader puzzled. David Wineberg

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Aguilar

  4. 5 out of 5

    Karina

  5. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andie Jung

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kendra Mills

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

  9. 5 out of 5

    EnlightenedReaders

  10. 5 out of 5

    Adam Kanter

  11. 4 out of 5

    Navi

  12. 5 out of 5

    Derek Holodak

  13. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kiernyn

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn Beane

  16. 4 out of 5

    Susan

  17. 4 out of 5

    Can Omay

  18. 5 out of 5

    Meg W

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marlaina

  21. 4 out of 5

    Devin Lowell

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

  23. 5 out of 5

    thefacepunch

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cat

  27. 5 out of 5

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  28. 4 out of 5

    Nadav David

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jason von Meding

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

  31. 5 out of 5

    Garrett Hall

  32. 4 out of 5

    Tory Cross

  33. 5 out of 5

    Erendira

  34. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

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