The history of the United States is a history of oppression and inequality, as well as raucous opposition to the status quo. It is a history of slavery and child labor, but also the protest movements that helped end those institutions. Protesters have been the driving force of American democracy, from the expansion of voting rights and the end of segregation laws, to minimum wage standards and marriage equality.
For much of the last half-century, policymakers in both major US political parties have been guided by the “pro-business” tenets of neoliberalism. Dubbed “casino capitalism” by its critics, this economy has ravaged the environment, expanded the for-profit war and prison industries, and built a global assembly line rooted in sweatshop labor, while more than doubling the share of American wealth and income held by the country’s richest 1 percent.
The Defiant explores the major policy shifts of this new Gilded Age through the lens of dissent—through the picket lines, protest marches, and sit-ins that greeted them at every turn. Barrett documents these clashes at neoliberalism’s many points of impact, moving from the Arizona wilderness, to Florida tomato fields, to punk rock clubs in New York and California—and beyond. He takes readers right up to the present day with an epilogue tracing the Trump administration’s strategies and policy proposals, and the myriad protests they have sparked.
Capturing a wide range of protest movements in action—from environmentalists’ tree-sits to Iraq War peace marches to Occupy Wall Street, #BlackLivesMatter, and more—The Defiant is a gripping analysis of the profound struggles of our times.
"Here is an indispensable manual for the defiant ones—the organizers and the activists, the rebels and resisters, the dissidents and the disobedient—and, in fact, for anyone paying attention to the gathering catastrophe, dreaming of a more just and joyful world, and willing to step into history now as an actor on behalf of humanity. The Defiant is a book of the resistance—where to find it and how to organize it. It’s an antidote to cynicism and despair, a map toward building our own agency, and a crucial companion to carry along to the militant blockade or the picket line, into the classroom or onto the barricades."
—Bill Ayers, author of Fugitive Days, Public Enemy, and Demand the Impossible
"Can insurgency from below change American politics? The question has never been more important, and Dawson Barrett helps us to answer that question with a penetrating series of case studies of contemporary protests from the margins of American society."
—Frances Fox Piven, author of Challenging Authority and Poor Peoples' Movements
"Dawson Barrett has written an important book for our times. The Defiant reads like a continuation of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, picking up where Zinn left off. Anyone interested in the resistance that led to 'The Resistance' today should read this book."
—Stephen Duncombe, New York University
"The Defiant is both a jargon-free primer on the politics of neoliberalism and a critical consideration of the panoply of social movements – from punk squatters to immigrant farmworkers and anti-imperialist veterans – that have resisted neoliberal threats to justice and well-being at every turn. It is a valuable contribution to the urgent task of mapping and assessing the fragmented post-1960s American Left."
—Andrew Cornell, author of Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the 20th Century
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