A guide to political struggle for a generation that is deeply ambivalent about power. While many activists gravitate toward mere self-expression and identity-affirming rituals at the expense of serious political intervention, Smucker provides an apologia for leadership, organization, and collective power, a moral argument for its cultivation, and a discussion of dilemmas that movements must navigate in order to succeed.
Smucker, a longtime grassroots organizer, debuts with a powerful, rigorous, and clear-eyed guide to building social justice movements. He draws from years of personal experience and thorough research into history and social theory, from renowned organizer Martin Luther King Jr. to postmodern theorist David Harvey. The book disavows the term "activism" in favor of political organizing that "persuades more people to join or align with a larger movement." Arguing that advocates for a more just and equal society "have to learn to wield power and... become hegemonic" in place of the current political order, Smucker examines both effective and ineffective strategies of Occupy Wall Street in a section bolstered with firsthand experience. The ultimate goal laid out in the book is the creation of a sustainable and effective "radical left zeitgeist." With incisive insight, Smucker proposes such tactics as "reject the leaderless ideology" he sees in Occupy and other grassroots movements, and developing effective "branding." Going against the grain, he argues that leftists tend to marginalize themselves and make widespread social change less likely by adopting a counterculture mentality. His writing is personable and accessible even as he engages with complicated social theory. Left-wing political organizers and those interested in social movements will find this book instructive and potent.