US social movements face many challenges. One of their most troublesome involves the question of nonviolence. Civil disobedience and symbolic protest have characterized many struggles in the US since the Civil Rights era, but conditions have changed. Corporate media has consolidated, the police have militarized, dissent has been largely co-opted and institutionalized, but the strategic tools radicals employ haven’t necessarily kept pace. Our narratives, borrowed from movements of the past, are falling short.
Nonviolence Ain’t What It Used to Be maps emerging, more militant approaches that are developing to fill the gap, from Occupy to Black Lives Matter. It offers new angles on a seemingly intractable debate, introducing ideas that carve out a larger middle-ground between camps in order to chart an effective path forward.
What People Are Saying
“Shon Meckfessel’s book explores how contemporary movements have moved beyond respectability politics and other flawed political frameworks, while also examining what has worked historically and how movements have evolved.… It clarifies the reasoning behind, and the importance of, social and political defiance and disruption.”—Mara Willaford, Black Lives Matter organizer
“At a time when profound crises are mounting … Shon Meckfessel drops a text that simultaneously challenges both the power structures fomenting calamities and the complacency that leaves them largely unchallenged. By focusing its analysis on moments when people do in fact collectively issue such challenges, this work brings forth a much-needed call to action.” —Randall Amster, author of Peace Ecology
“Taking us beyond the ahistorical, magical thinking so common in contemporary discourse, Meckfessel constructs a dialogue that looks clearly at the nature of twenty-first century power dynamics and the role of riots, property destruction, police clashes, and more. Without sectarian bias, he reviews the quasi-religious fervor with which too many approach nonviolence.… A soon-to-be classic.”—Matt Meyer, International Peace Research Association
"From Occupy encampments to urban rebellions against police violence, Nonviolence Ain't What it Used to Be provides a wide-ranging analysis of how social movements choose their tactics and to what ends. Rejecting the simplistic divide between violence and nonviolence, Shon Meckfessel strives for a more holistic accounting of radical action. Where else will you find Martin Luther King and Emma Goldman debating the French Revolution with Hannah Arendt and Angela Davis?"—Dan Berger, author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era
“Shon Meckfessel considers riot as rhetoric, articulating its discursive strategy and discerning its implicit meaning. His efforts pay off, bringing a fresh perspective to the stubborn debates about violence and nonviolence and suggesting a way to move beyond the left's tactical impasse. Nonviolence Ain't What It Used To Be won't settle the old argument, but it may start a new one.” —Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Why Did It Take So Long for People to Riot?
2. The Strange Magic of Nonviolence
3. The Eloquence of Public Property Destruction
4. The Eloquence of Police Clashes
5. The Characteristics of Movements to Come
About the Author
Shon Meckfessel has been active in disruptive social movements for nearly twenty-five years, beginning in his native Sacramento, CA. After blocking highways to stop the first Persian Gulf War, he was never again inclined to petitionary protest. He has since researched and participated in social movements across the US, Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. Shon is the author of Suffled How It Gush: A North American Anarchist in the Balkans as well as numerous essays and articles. He has appeared as a social movement scholar and advocate in the New York Times and on Democracy Now, Al Jazeera, CNN, NPR, BBC, Radio, and Fox News. Shon is a member of the English Faculty at Highline College.