Confronting a wide range of examples from Occupy and Anonymous to the Tea Party and ACT UP, Smucker documents recurring patterns of marginalization, abuse, and irrelevance.
He draws on his own experience with anarchist affinity groups in doing so, reflecting deeply on what went wrong and where.
Replete with vivid anecdotes and concrete examples of how social movements fail to connect with people’s day-to-day experiences, Hegemony How-To helps readers self-reflect on their own organizing processes.
“It felt as if having the right line about everything was more important than making measurable progress on anything.”
“Building community, for example, is a worthy pursuit. But these motivations become a problem when they trump our motivation to accomplish our ostensible political goals.”
“Now I could see how the flyer decrying US imperialism—with its raised fist and edgy font—was designed to reflect our narrative and identity back to us, not to reach beyond our small insular circle. Our tactics were not really tactics, in the sense that a tactic is one step to move forward a strategy to achieve a measurable goal. More so, our actions were collectively performed rituals to express our values and ourselves.”
“A central argument of this book is that the larger social world (i.e., society) must always be our starting place and our touchstone. We have to meet people where they are at. The other side of this coin is that underdog groups have to vigilantly resist the tendency of insularity and self-enclosure.”
“The right seems to have learned more lessons of political strategy from the civil rights movement than the left has.”
“When activists enter a special cultural space where activism takes place among likeminded activists, what happens is that some of the most idealistic and collectively minded young people in society remove themselves voluntarily from the institutions and social networks that they were organically positioned to influence and contest.”
“Our work is not to build from scratch a special sphere that houses our socially enlightened identities (and delusions). Our work is, rather, to contribute to the politicization of presently de-politicized everyday spaces; to weave politics and collective action into the fabric of society.”
“Here we are making explicit a conceptual distinction that is as basic as it is elusive: that knowledge of what is wrong with a social system and knowledge of how to change the system are two completely different categories of knowledge.”
“Revelations of misdeeds of the powerful induce only popular resignation if there is no viable counter-power to seize the opening.”
“To build a movement is to listen to people, to read the moment well, and to navigate a course that over time inspires whole swaths of society to identify with the aims of the movement, to buy in, and to take collective action.”