Social Activism in the Age of Individualism
Publisher: Haymarket Books, Canada
Year Published: 2016 First Published: 2014
Pages: 200pp Price: $16 ISBN: 978-1-60846-570-5
Resource Type: Book
Cx Number: CX19229
Confronting Injustice is a call for collective action against the social causes of poverty and climate change, written by a socialist organizer for activists.
A new generation of activists working for economic and environmental justice, and against war and poverty, confronts critical questions. Why is the world so unjust and crisis-prone? What kind of world should we fight for? How can we win? In this panoramic yet accessible book, Umair Muhammad engages with these and other urgent debates. He argues that individual solutions like "buying green" are dead ends and that hope for the future lies in a radical expansion of democracy and the transformation of the economy from one based on profit to one that can meet human needs.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: The Age of Individualism
Democracy and the Corporation
2 + 2 = 5
The Age of Propaganda
Chapter 2: Inequality and activism
Inadequacies of Aid
The Origins of Inequality
Somalia: A Case Study
Solidarity, Not Charity
Chapter 3: Climate Change and Activism
Before the Cataclysm
Negotiating the Earth Away
What Needs to Be Done
Climate Change goes to War
Selling the Earth to Save it
Flip This Capital Eclipse
Chapter 4: The Way Forward
Possessive versus Creative Desires
The Meaning of Socialism
Filling a Gap
An Altered Position
Precisely at a time when we need it most, bold and imaginative activism has made itself difficult to find. It is not the case that activism in general is in short supply. One finds, in fact, that activist ideals and vocabulary have securely made their way into everyday life. But this has happened in a way that has left society fundamentally unchanged. By contrast, the messages communicated by activists have been distorted and have regularly found themselves being used to reinforce the social realities they were originally devised to change.
Living within a social system dominated by the market, it is no coincidence that so many of us have adopted an individualist outlook. The routine of market exchange between individuals who are driven by self-interest has conditioned us to see human society as a collection of disconnected and primarily self-interested individuals. What is troubling is that so many activists have reconciled themselves to this vision of society, and have set about working to reinforce its presence. They have come to champion the values and features of the existing arrangement. In other words, those who have set out to change things are instead working to keep them from changing.
... a political culture in which the use of radical-sounding language has come to replace actual radical politics. One does not have to know what anything means as long as one knows which words to use. Repetition of specific buzzwords passes for substantive discussion. And whereas the terms being repeatedly deployed -- capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, decolonization, and so one -- once had political significance, they now seem to only find meaning, if they have any meaning at all, in the individualized and interpersonal sense.