Direct Action

Direct Action:Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism

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The genealogy of today’s disruptive protest movements

A vibrant, groundbreaking history of American radicalism since the Sixties
What happened to the American left after the Sixties? This engrossing account traces the evolution of disruptive protest over the last 40 years to tell a larger story about the reshaping of American radicalism, showing how the direct-action blockades, occupations, and campaigns of recent activist movements have functioned as laboratories for political experimentation and renewal.
Propelled by more than 100 candid interviews conducted over a span of decades, this elegant and lively history 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 issue- and identity-based organizing eclipsed the traditional ideologies of the left.
As Kauffman, a longtime movement insider, examines how groups from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used direct action to catalyze change against long odds, she details the profound influence of feminism and queerness on radical political practice and how enduring divisions of race have shaped the landscape of activism. Written with nuance and humor, and revealing deep connections between movements usually viewed in isolation, Direct Action is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how protest movements erupt -- and how they can succeed.

Reviews

  • It is impossible to overstate the importance of this book. Chances are that even if you know something about the recent history of the left in America, you probably only know a few isolated parts. L.A. Kauffman has connected a vast field of dots to create an overview, and she has done so with dispatch, clarity, and elegance. Her book is essential reading for today, and will be for tomorrow.

    Luc Sante, author of The Other Paris
  • As the new political reality settles in, resisters are asking a follow-up question: What else can I do? L.A. Kauffman’s new book Direct Action provides some answers.

    Vogue
  • L.A. Kauffman may have the best-timed book release in years.

    The Atlantic