Direct Action
Direct Action
Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism



L. A. Kauffman
City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 7:00 p.m.

 

discussing her new book

Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism

from Verso Press

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.

L.A. Kauffman has spent more than 30 years immersed in radical movements, as an organizer, strategist, journalist, and observer. Her writings on grassroots activism and social movement history have been published in The Nation, Mother Jones, n+1, The Baffler, and many other outlets. Kauffman was the mobilizing coordinator for the massive anti-war marches of 2003-2004; she has been called a "virtuoso organizer" by journalist Scott Sherman for her role in saving community gardens and public libraries in New York City from developers. Visit L.A. Kauffman's twitter-feed

What has been said of L.A. Kauffman's work:

"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 with dispatch, clarity, and elegance. Her book is essential reading for today, and will be for tomorrow."

"You could not ask for a better guide through recent social movement history than L. A. Kauffman. A champion of radical causes with decades of experience on the frontlines of civil disobedience, she chronicles the fascinating evolution of a set of protest tactics today's activists take for granted. Kauffman has done a tremendous public service: by helping us better understand the past, in all its glory and folly, we can be more effective dissidents and rabble rousers tomorrow. This startling, inspiring book is for anyone who has ever felt the urge to put their body on the line and shut things down for something they believe in."