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End of an Era: Books for the Obama years

Emmett Rensin included Necessary Trouble in his round-up of books to read to understand the Obama era, at Bookforum.

Necessary Trouble is a book that’s virtue lies primarily in the willingness of author Sarah Jaffe to perform the actual work of a journalist and go investigate these movements in person.. She explores all kinds: the reactionary, the revolutionary, the mundane, and shows that residents of fly-over states clad in red trucker hats are not the only demographic that has escaped the notice of Washington. The hidden chaos of the Obama era has also produced viable movements for revolutionary change, including movements that are perhaps more threatening than their reactionary counterparts to the power of liberal technocracy because these left-wing movements cannot be fought in the open without betraying the conservative instincts of many notionally liberal progressives and Democrats.

Read more.

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A Diary of Protest for the Days to Come: Review at The Indypendent

Michael Hirsch at the Indypendent had the first post-Trump-election review of Necessary Trouble and concludes that trouble is, yes, even more necessary:

Perhaps, but we knew a Clinton administration would be no springtime in paradise. Neoliberalism is an uninspiring alternative to Trumpism, and the neoliberal order is cracking up, even if it is doing so in a manner few imagined possible. A finely written book such as Jaffe’s is not just a palliative of hope: The stories she reports of people building power through struggle offer a healthy direction forward.

Read the rest at the Indypendent.

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The Revolution Will Be Intersectional: Labor Journalist Sarah Jaffe Writes of a New Radicalism

The excellent Katie Klabusich reviewed Necessary Trouble at Rewire. This came out before the election, but remains relevant:

As someone who got involved, in part, because I could see that I wasn’t the only who was frustrated and wanted better, Jaffe’s thesis that this is a “new time” resonates with me.

If she’s right—and I think that she is—we’re at a precipice, which the outcome of next week’s election will only amplify.

“Anger continues to simmer just under the surface, and occasionally, when enough people are angry enough to overcome their reasons for holding back, it explodes,” writes Jaffe.

Read the rest at Rewire.

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Movements, Not Presidents: The Nationwide Fight Against Neoliberalism: Review at Common Dreams

Jake Johnson at Common Dreams reviews Necessary Trouble and picks up on some really great threads, like the below:

While examining this space, Jaffe recalls, she met an emergency medical technician, there generously offering her services to the protesters.

“So far we’ve given out lots of Band-Aids,” she told Jaffe, “because everyone has blisters, lots of cough drops because nobody has a voice.”

Perhaps inadvertently, in her description of the nagging physical ailments that accompany tireless protest, this unnamed EMT nicely underlined the political reality that drove thousands to join the burgeoning movement in the first place.

The public has long been without a voice—at least, without a voice powerful enough to justify America’s official classification as a representative democracy. While democratic forms remain, any lingering residue of the popular will has long since been driven out of the political process. The results, while devastating, have not been entirely surprising.

Read the whole thing at Common Dreams. One of my favorite reviews thus far.

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Necessary Trouble: A Necessary Read: Review at Jobs With Justice

One of the fun experiences of writing this book has been people who are normally on the receiving end of my interviews and coverage in turn covering the book. The folks at Jobs With Justice posted a lovely review of Necessary Trouble, by Kyle Friend:

Jaffe delves deeply into the nuances of American capitalism throughout the book, providing the reader a roadmap to understanding the rebirth of American activism. She saunters through a short history of Walmart, the retail giant which has effectively been able to set substandard labor practices by very virtue of its size, and the efforts to organize its employees. She also explains and shows how credit has been used as a crutch to stave off stagnating wages since the 1970s; and she rightfully connects disastrous austerity policies in the European Union to the policies pursued by conservative statehouses across the United States.

Read the rest at Jobs With Justice.

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How do we make America great? ‘Necessary Trouble’ and ‘Against Democracy’ take contrasting views: Review at the Los Angeles Times

That lovely warm feeling when reviewers get what you were trying to do, times 100 with this review from Molly Sauter at the Los Angeles Times:

Yet with the election looming, Jaffe’s “Necessary Trouble” reminds us that even now the political stage is much wider and richer than pulling a lever every couple of years, choosing between candidates whose differences increasingly have more to do with labels than politics. We have more options than what’s on offer.

Contrasted with “Against Democracy,” which works out far better than I would have expected. Read the whole thing here.

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9 Books for Back-to-School That Times Editors Think You Should Read: More love from the NYT!

So pleased that Necessary Trouble made the New York Times Book Review editors’ list of nine books for back-to-school reading! Excellent company, too.

NECESSARY TROUBLE: Americans in Revolt,by Sarah Jaffe. (Nation Books, $26.99.) Jaffe examines the rebirth and re-envisioning of activism over the past decade by groups on both right and left. There’s a reason for all the tumult.

 

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Beyond the Ballot Box: Review at the London Review of Books

Tim Barker, comrade from the Dissent days and elsewhere, writes a lovely review of Necessary Trouble at the London Review of Books. I couldn’t ask for a better reviewer.

Jaffe is committed to the basic job of reporting, in ‘meeting activists where they lived and worked and organised’. Her prolonged engagement (she spent, for example, four years covering union efforts at Walmart) gives her rare authority in describing the ethos of the movement. It has also yielded dozens of revealing interviews with a wide range of participants, whose explanations of their own activism provide a different perspective on the new protests than the familiar analysis of the chattering classes. We hear two kinds of story again and again. The first describes the moment when previously apolitical people take action in response to some insupportable element of everyday life – a vicious boss, a foreclosure, the sight of police officers pointing guns at neighbours. In the second, established activists, dedicated but accustomed to frustration, realise that this time it’s not just ‘another Madison protest’ or ‘just another young man in St Louis being gunned down’. Movements, Jaffe suggests, require both unpredictable and experienced organisers. (She reinforces this point by showing how important leftist cadres have been historically, and how devastating anti-communism has been to social movements in general.)

The rest is (paywalled, unfortunately) at the LRB.

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The Revolution is Not in Bernie’s Hands: Review/Interview at The New Republic

I can’t say enough good things about David Dayen–he’s generous with his time, knows more than any human should about the inner workings and scams of finance capital, he wrote an incredible book (buy it now, seriously, you will not regret it) and now he’s written a lovely piece on my book at TNR, connecting it to the launch of Bernie Sanders’s “Our Revolution” and the question of where the energy goes next. We had a great phone chat about it all last week and some of those thoughts make it in here, too.

The point that Jaffe’s book underscores, ultimately, is that “politics” as practiced in America has never been confined to Election Day or a single vote in Congress. Turnout cratered in the 2014 midterms, Jaffe notes, at the same time protest movements expanded nationwide. The activists Jaffe profiles are not bound by the realities of counting votes on Capitol Hill or maximizing donations. They see their goal as envisioning the world they want, and making those in power uncomfortable until they get it. The vehicle for that will not be “Our Revolution” delivered in 30-second ad bites, but a sustained movement, 24 hours a day.

Read the rest at The New Republic.

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One Nation, Under Stress: Review at the New York Times(!!!!)

Well, wow! Vann Newkirk II reviewed my book for the New York Times, alongside Zachary Roth’s The Great Suppression. It’s an honor.

Necessary Trouble depicts the country as a pot set above the flames of economic discontent, ready to boil over. Jaffe, a journalist and a fellow at the Nation Institute, posits that what agitates these groups is economic injustice, and the book does well to set up the financial collapse of 2008 as the beginning of the great conflagration that set them all in motion. … Necessary Troubleshines in its assessment of why these fault lines exist in the first place. Capitalism, Jaffe argues, promotes instability and class divisions… and her book finds the thread of economic injustice in every tapestry it weaves.