Burnout: The Emotional Experience of Political Defeat

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    Hannah Proctor

    Publisher: Verso

    Year: 2024

    Format: Paperback

    Size: 273 pages

    ISBN: 9781839766053

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How to maintain hope in the face of despair

In the struggle for a better world, setbacks are inevitable. Defeat can feel overwhelming at times, but it has to be endured. How then do the people on the front line keep going? To answer that question and to help readers roll with the punches, Hannah Proctor draws on historical resources to find out how revolutionaries and activists of the past kept a grip on hope.

Burnout considers former Communards exiled to a penal colony in the South Pacific; a young Bolshevik fleeing the city in despair; an ex-militant on the analyst’s couch relating dreams of ruined landscapes; a trade union organiser seeking advice from a spiritual healer; and a group of feminists padding a room with mattresses to scream about the patriarchy. Jettisoning therapy talk and its stranglehold on our language, Proctor offers a different way forward - neither denial nor despair. Her cogent exploration of the ways militants make sense of their own burnout demonstrates that it is possible to mourn and organise at once, and to do both without compromise.
What People Are Saying
"Hannah Proctor is one of the best writers on the left today, and this is an extraordinary and extremely timely book – a kaleidoscopic work of revolutionary history on what happens when our day doesn’t come and we have to cope with the consequences. Refusing both the easy temptations of left melancholia and forced ‘just another push, comrades!’ optimism, this is a book full of unromantic communist longing, deadpan humour and hard-won wisdom." Owen Hatherley, author of The Ministry of Nostalgia

"Not since Freud first described war neurosis have we been treated to such an astonishing taxonomy of the human mind. In
Burnout, Hannah Proctor takes that feeling we all have, and names it again and again, helping us to resee the past and present of revolutionary struggle. A must-read." Hannah Zeavin, Founding Editor, Parapraxis

"Achieves commendable synthesis between its argument and sources ... The more people are writing books like
Burnout, the better we might overcome our pains, and remain in the struggle." Juliet Jacques, ArtReview

"Brilliant ... an invigorating reader experience. Activists will find strange comfort in knowing that burnout is a collective affliction that has loomed large over our social movements for centuries ... While its effects can be profoundly personal, it can unite us too." 
Janey Starling, Unison Magazine

"Proctor deftly dismantles contemporary 'self-care' edicts that aim to 'streamline' our participation in capitalism." 
Decca Muldowney, New Internationalist
About the Author
Hannah Proctor is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, interested in histories and theories of radical psychiatry. She is a member of the editorial collective behind Radical Philosophy, and has been published in Jacobin, Tribune, The New Inquiry and elsewhere.

Tags: (anti-)psych ....... feminism ....... Hannah Proctor ....... history ....... Paris Commune ....... russian revolution ....... Verso .......