We have lost our amateur spirit and need to rediscover the radical and liberating pleasure of doing things we love.
In The Amateur, thinker Andy Merrifield shows us how the many spheres of our lives—work, knowledge, home, politics—have fallen into the hands of box tickers, bean counters and pedants. In response, he corrals a team of independent thinkers, wayward poets, dabblers and square pegs who challenge accepted wisdom. Such figures as Charles Baudelaire, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Edward Said, Guy Debord, Hannah Arendt and Jane Jacobs show us the way. As we will see, the amateur takes risks, thinks the unthinkable, seeks independence—and changes the world.
The Amateur is a passionate manifesto for the liberated life, one that questions authority and reclaims the iconoclast as a radical hero of our times.
“A satisfying celebration of the ‘great romantic dream … a society that breaks free of the vicious circle of undefined productivity.’”
“Rather than thinking of amateurs as dabblers, weekend gardeners, busying themselves with unimportant tasks, Merrifield defends the creative and political potential of doing things we love for pleasure. Amateurs take risks, seek independence, innovate by choosing a less obvious direction. By exploring the work of figures like Baudelaire, Dostoevsky, and Hannah Arendt, and their impact on his own professional life, Merrifield succeeds in highlighting the revolutionary spirit of the amateur.”
“Erudite and engagingly written … refreshing.”
“Here amateurs (a word derived from the Latin ‘to love’) are non-alienated citizens; enthusiasts, who counter the mechanical expertise and technical formalism of modern society; passionate obsessives standing up for values that need defending. Merrifield, an urban theorist who writes with a brio and wit often missing in professional academics, offers an idiosyncratic canon (Dostoevsky, Jane Jacobs, Edward Said) in which he holds up amateurs as outside-the-box thinkers, inter- and post-disciplinary radicals. It’s a stirring book whose critique of contemporary work culture will be instantly recognisable. It also doubles as a moving memoir of a working-class intellectual.”
“Provides a much needed take-down of the social legitimacy and sense of virtue with which the professional class has been endowed. It’s a critique of professionalism—and an urgently needed one.”
“A celebration of brilliant quirks, hobbyists both talented and not, and passionate activists, a full-frontal assault on professionalism, and a call to cherish our amateur pursuits … Delightful to read, The Amateur is also a timely salvo.”
“This elegant polemic is a persuasive manifesto for amateurism.”