Publisher: AK Press
Released: January 24, 2017
A conceptual guide to political struggle for a social movement and generation that is deeply ambivalent about power, Hegemony How-To makes a moral and strategic case for the intentional cultivation of collective power, organization, and leadership.
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.
Praise for Hegemony How-To
“A powerful, rigorous, and clear-eyed guide to building social justice movements.”
"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
"Work like Hegemony How-To is needed to bring us forward, and I hope that as many radicals as possible will read, discuss, and build on it."
—Gabriel Kuhn, Alpine Anarchist Productions and LeftTwoThree
"Jonathan Matthew Smucker, author of Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals...wrestles with the Left’s more insular and self-limiting habits. A not-insignificant number of leftists, he argues, have come to fetishize their position as righteous outsiders and have lost faith in the ability to win power at the highest levels. “Do we believe that power will be inspired by our brave acts of eschewing power?” he prods. Instead, he urges the Left to mainstream the movement and embrace power."
—Kate Aronoff, In These Times
"Hegemony How-To is Smucker’s tough-love letter to this American left, a diagnosis of its self-undermining tendencies and an ambitious guide to overcoming them. Most of all, the book is a defense of power and a polemic against the left’s crippling ambivalence about contesting for and wielding it."
—Sam Adler Bell, The New Republic
"Smucker’s Hegemony How-To is a timely call for us to think collectively about social movement strategy and how to build political power. I agree with Smucker that the most imperative task for U.S. organizers is to rebuild our social movement infrastructure. This book has already started to facilitate a discussion about how we should proceed in this process."
—Rebecca Tarlau, Berkeley Journal of Sociology
"Jonathan Smucker’s new book Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals is a fascinating work on social movmements… Smucker uses many interesting concepts that can be very useful to the study of social movements."
—Leonard A. Steverson, Journal for the Study of Radicalism
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.