Saturday, January 15, 2005

Crucial Texts of Democratic Thinking

(reposting--I'm still loking for good texts to use)

After reading the post below I conducted some research for the best introductory readers that collect many American "essential texts" of democratic radicalism. The best ones that I found were:

McCarthy, Timothy Patrick and John McMillan, eds. The Radical Reader NY: The New Press, 2003.

It would be great to teach this collection with a contemporary volume that has an international perspective, perhaps something like:

'We Are Everywhere: The irresistable rise of global anticapitalism' edited by Notes from Nowhere and published by Verso

It is described as '... a whirlwind collection of writings, images, and ideas from direct action by people in the frontlines of the global anticapitalist movement' and involved the untold stories of resistance, reclaiming and subversion all in a positive and life-affirming fashion.

Its a huge, inexpensive collection of activist statements/reports from around the world. It covers the years 1994-2002.

an excerpt says:

It's a radical intervention in publishing - a celebration of direct action movements across the planet, unfiltered by the mainstream media, and told through the words and images of the people who were (and still are) there. Framing and connecting their stories are seven essays , written by the editors, which explain some of the defining characteristics of this movement. We've also included how-to boxes on direct action tactics. Running along the bottom of each page is a time-line of actions and victories which spans from 1994 with the Zapatista uprising to the present. Interspersed amongst everything else are gorgeous photographs, which capture the diversity and playfulness of our actions. These elements all add up to a real overview of the movement: where we came from, what we want, who we are, and where we're going. We Are Everywhere is history as it should be told.

The website includes excellent links, essays and references to inspire:

We Are Everywhere

I would enjoy hearing other ideas/courses/plans...

Houghton-Mifflin has a nice little thumbnail sketch of radicalism

and lets not forget the patron saint of community activism, Saul Alinsky:

Rules for Radicals

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy


The original posting at CULTSTUD-L that sent me on my search:

I have to disagree that the question of what "essential" texts undergraduates should receive is no longer worth asking. As I watch American universities increasingly move toward vocational training--as the liberal arts mission becomes unraveled and students take 70 hour majors in Physical Therapy that give limited options for electives and as requirements for students to take a broad range of courses that expose them to different traditions and ideas get increasingly watered-down--it
bothers me that students leave college without ever having read The Communist Manifesto or Thoreau's Resistance to Civil Government or King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail or the American Declaration of Independence or Darwin or Freud or *anything* that challeges the mindset which they bring with them to college or makes them uncomfortable. In fact, if current world events demonstrate anything, it's that students *need* to be exposed to "revolutionary" texts, texts that challenged and continue to challenge the status quo, texts that make them uncomforable, that ask them to reassess their beliefs. College in my opinion should be a glorious time during which students have the wonderful opportunity to read as much and as widely as possible--and to encounter startling ideas, different ideas, ideas that force them to think.

I do think there are texts that have changed the world (for better and for worse). I do believe that there are thinkers that have opened up new directions for exploration (what Foucault refers to as "founders of discursivity" in "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History"). I'm playing with the idea of a course that would emphasize such world-changing texts and my initial posting was to solicit suggestions as to what texts list members would include in such a course.

I agree that, ideally, any text can stimulate critical thinking. But I do believe that there are texts that are crucial for understanding the development of Western culture and that open up avenues of exploration and "lines of flight" in stunning ways.


Jeffrey Weinstock

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