Nonviolence Ain’t What It Used To Be: Unarmed Insurrection and the Rhetoric of Resistance

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“Shon Meckfessel . . . brings a fresh perspective to the stubborn debates around violence and nonviolence and suggests a way to move beyond the left’s tactical impasse. Nonviolence Ain’t What It Used to Be won’t settle the old argument, but it may start a new one.”—Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America

Shon Meckfessel takes an innovative look at challenges faced by twenty-first century social movements in the US. One of their most important stumbling blocks is the question of nonviolence. Civil disobedience, symbolic protest, and principles of nonviolence have characterized many struggles in the United States since the Civil Rights era. But as Meckfessel argues, conditions have changed. We’ve seen the consolidation of the media, the militarization of policing, the co-optation and institutionalization of dissent, among many other shifts. The rules have changed, but the rhetoric, logic, and strategic tools we employ haven’t necessarily kept pace, and narratives borrowed from movements of the past are falling short.

Nonviolence Ain’t What It Used to Be maps the emerging, more militant approaches that seem to be developing to fill the gap, from Occupy to Ferguson. It offers new angles on a seemingly intractable debate, introducing terms and criteria that carve out a larger middle-ground between the two camps, in order to chart a path forward.

Shon Meckfessel is the author of Suffled How It Gush: A North American Anarchist in the Balkans as well as numerous essays and articles. He is a member of the English faculty at Highline College in Seattle, Washington.

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