Hegemony How-To is a practical guide to political struggle for a generation that is deeply ambivalent about questions of power, leadership, and strategy. Hopeful about the potential of today’s burgeoning movements, long-time grassroots organizer Jonathan Smucker nonetheless pulls no punches when confronting their internal dysfunction. Drawing from personal experience, he provides deep theoretical insight into the all-too-familiar radical tendency toward self-defeating insularity and paralyzing purism. At the same time, he offers tools to bridge the divide between anti-authoritarian values and hegemonic strategies, tools that might just help today’s movements to navigate their obstacles—and change the world.
Jonathan Smucker is the Director of Beyond the Choir and has worked for more than two decades as an organizer and strategist in grassroots social movements. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, The Sociological Quarterly, and elsewhere.
Praise for Hegemony How-To:
“A powerful, rigorous, and clear-eyed guide to building social justice movements.” —Publishers Weekly
"Smucker brings hard-won wisdom, theoretical heft, and a welcoming style to this book, helping us think through the most important question of our time: how do we build enough collective power to not only demand a better world, but actually create one?" —Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine
"As the world faces the horrors of a Trump presidency, many good people are asking, 'What can I do?' Jonathan Smucker's book provides an urgent field manual for answering that question. Drawing on twenty years of grassroots organizing experience, Smucker has written a modern version of Saul Alinsky’s classic, Rules for Radicals. By bypassing the vapid debate over who to vote for in a system that offers only two choices, Smucker focuses on the need for a dedicated commitment to social change that begins in each of our own backyards. He deftly weaves together ideas for tactical organizing with personal stories of their real life application. We live in a time of endless wars and a government rigged to serve only the few — fueled by both Democrats and Republicans. Smucker challenges us to think big and to carefully embrace a form of collectivism that, if taken seriously, could well change the world." —Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestsellers Blackwater and Dirty Wars
“Jonathan Smucker asks the important question: How can the movements on which we rely in our pursuit of a more just and democratic world be sustained and enlarged over time? And he engages us because he writes so well, and because he draws in part on his own fascinating biography in his search for answers. Most valuable to me, Smucker insists on regarding movements not only as expressions of collective anguish or desire, but as strategic interventions aimed at changing the world.” —Frances Fox Piven, author of Challenging Authority and Poor People’s Movements
“Hegemony How-To challenges the Left to fight to win. After years of being on the defensive, much of the Left has accepted that little can be done other than awaiting a spontaneous eruption. Smucker suggests that there is a pro-active role, but it depends on the Left getting outside of its comfort zones and fox holes and, instead, deepening itself among the dispossessed. This book is as compelling as it is insightful. I thought that I could skim it but instead I read it page by page and loved it.” —Bill Fletcher, Jr., talk show host and author of Solidarity Divided
"Principles + Pragmatic Organizing = People Power. That's the pithiest summation of Jonathan Smucker's argument — but he's quick to show that radicals too often fetishize principle, disdain pragmatism, and eschew real power, and so never really change anything. Smucker wants to actively heal society; if that's you, too, study this fantastic book." —Ian Haney López, author of Dog Whistle Politics
"Jonathan Smucker grapples in a deeply theoretical and also practical way with the question of how power is exercised in American society — and why movements must take questions of state power much more seriously. Thoroughly grounded in modern political theory, and rooted in years of work in radical grassroots movements, Smucker's book is a critical contribution to the debate about how recent social upsurges like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter can translate their movement energy into political power that will produce enduring social change." —Bob Master, Legislative & Political Director, District One, Communications Workers of America
"In Hegemony-How To, Jonathan Smucker gives a powerful and personal account of how the radical left often undermines its own political aims. But rather than just offering a critique, Smucker also recommends practical and constructive ways forward. The book reminds us that movements for change must meet the social world where it is, while also avoiding insularity and self-marginalization. Written in an elegant, engaging style, Smucker’s book is a must-read for all those seeking progress in our troubled world today." —Erica Chenoweth, co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works
"If Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign showed anything, it's a broad appetite for deep change. But turning that hope into effective action will require thinking about social movements and how they work (and don't). There's much grist for the organizer's mill in these pages.” —Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy
“One of the most creative organizers in the country has eloquently articulated the next generation's Rules for Radicals. A must read!” —Sally Kohn, political commentator at CNN
"At least 60% of the American people consistently favor progressive solutions to our current crisis. Yet we have almost no influence on policy. Jonathan Smucker bravely combines his decades of organizing experience with profound philosophical and psychological reflections to help us understand what needs to be done to attain political power and transform society. Here are practical suggestions on how we build a mass movement to replace the dominant and debilitating individualism of the last 40 years with the "common sense" of social solidarity. And Smucker's inside view of Occupy Wall Street is absolutely not to be missed. Aspiring change-makers please take note." —Mark Rudd, author of Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen
“Smucker’s theoretically informed and passionate discussion of leaderlessness will pave the way for a new understanding and practice of organization. This insider’s critique will also incite scholars touched by poststructuralism to rethink their strong suspicion of collective power.” —Cihan Tuğal, author of Passive Revolution
“Hegemony is a big word. Making revolutionary change is an even bigger task. Hegemony How-To doesn’t cower from hard work. By grappling with big ideas in a rigorous and historical way, Jonathan Smucker pushes the next Left to take itself seriously, to combine action with theoretical clarity, and to build movements powerful enough to change the world.” —Steve Williams, co-author of Towards Land, Work & Power
“Hegemony How-To is a homage to our ancestors and the path they have walked in the struggle for racial justice, peace, and Native sovereignty… His insights will be a guide for generations who follow that path. Hawwih!” —Judith LeBlanc, member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, Director of Native Organizers Alliance
“Smucker shows how we might turn popular disaffection into a powerful force for change. This book is desperately needed.” ”—Astra Taylor, director of Žižek! and Examined Life
“Jonathan Smucker is a critical voice within an important emerging political project whose aim is to move the next Left generation from symbolic and often self-marginalizing strategies toward approaches that can lead to effective main-stage intervention.”—Max Elbaum, author of Revolution in the Air
“If Saul Alinsky and Antonio Gramsci somehow had a bastard lovechild, he might be named Jonathan Smucker.… He has trained thousands of grassroots activists in campaign strategy concepts and leadership skills, and now he’s finally breaking it all down in a book that wrestles with moral, strategic, and practical questions about power.”—Andrew Boyd, co-editor of Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution.
"This is a valuable book for organizers for exactly this moment, when we need hope for the way ahead. Smucker provides so many important insights." —Heather Booth, founding Director and President of the Midwest Academy
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