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Fuck Neoliberalism... And Then Some!


Abstract and Figures

In a long history of ruination and destruction, neoliberalism is the most recent and virulent form of capitalism. This pamphlet is a call to action against the most persistent and pestilent disease of our time. Watch your back neoliberalism, we’re coming to fuck you up!* *armed with high impact factor pitchforks and well-referenced battle songs.
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In a long history of ruination and destruction,
neoliberalism is the most recent and virulent form of
capitalism. This pamphlet is a call to action against
the most persistent and pestilent disease of our time.
Watch your back neoliberalism, we’re coming to fuck
you up!*
£1 Simon Springer & Levi Gahman
...And Then Some!
*armed with high impact factor pitchforks and well-referenced
battle songs
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Simon Springer and Levi Gahman
Fuck Neoliberalism…
And Then Some!
fuck-neoliberalism-kb.indd 1fuck-neoliberalism-kb.indd 1 20.9.2016 21:47:4620.9.2016 21:47:46
Published by
Active Distribution
London, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-909798-36-6
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Simon Springer: Fuck Neoliberalism
Levi Gahman: “Listen Neoliberalism!” A
Personal Response to Simon Springer’s:
“Fuck Neoliberalism”
Simon Springer: Stop Being An Asshole:
Fuck Neoliberalism Redux
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Simon Springer
Fuck Neoliberalism
Abstract: Yep, fuck it. Neoliberalism sucks. We don’t need
Keywords: fuck neoliberalism; fuck it to hell
Fuck Neoliberalism. That’s my blunt message. I could
probably end my discussion at this point and it wouldn’t
really matter. My position is clear and you likely already
get the gist of what I want to say. I have nothing positive
to add to the discussion about neoliberalism, and to be
perfectly honest, I’m quite sick of having to think about
it. I’ve simply had enough. For a time I had considered
calling this paper ‘Forget Neoliberalism’ instead, as in
some ways that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve been
writing on the subject for many years (Springer 2008, 2009,
2011, 2013, 2015; Springer et al. 2016) and I came to a
point where I just didn’t want to commit any more energy
to this endeavor for fear that continuing to work around
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this idea was functioning to perpetuate its hold. On further
re ection I also recognize that as a political maneuver it
is potentially quite dangerous to simply stick our heads in
the sand and collectively ignore a phenomenon that has
had such devastating and debilitating effects on our shared
world. There is an ongoing power to neoliberalism that is
dif cult to deny and I’m not convinced that a strategy of
ignorance is actually the right approach (Springer 2016 b).
So my exact thoughts were, ‘well fuck it then’, and while a
quieter and gentler name for this paper could tone down the
potential offence that might come with the title I’ve chosen,
I subsequently reconsidered. Why should we be more
worried about using profanity than we are about the actual
vile discourse of neoliberalism itself? I decided that I wanted
to transgress, to upset, and to offend, precisely because
we ought to be offended by neoliberalism, it is entirely
upsetting, and therefore we should ultimately be seeking
to transgress it. Wouldn’t softening the title be making
yet another concession to the power of neoliberalism?
I initially worried what such a title might mean in terms
of my reputation. Would it hinder future promotion or
job offers should I want to maintain my mobility as an
academic, either upwardly or to a new location? This felt
like conceding personal defeat to neoliberal disciplining.
Fuck that.
It also felt as though I was making an admission that
there is no colloquial response that could appropriately
be offered to counter the discourse of neoliberalism.
As though we can only respond in an academic format
using complex geographical theories of variegation,
hybridity, and mutation to weaken its edi ce. This seemed
disempowering, and although I have myself contributed to
the articulation of some of these theories (Springer 2010),
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I often feel that this sort of framing works against the type
of argument I actually want to make. It is precisely in the
everyday, the ordinary, the unremarkable, and the mundane
that I think a politics of refusal must be located. And so I
settled on ‘Fuck Neoliberalism’ because I think it conveys
most of what I actually want to say. The argument I want
to make is slightly more nuanced than that, which had me
thinking more about the term ‘fuck’ than I probably have
at any other time in my life. What a fantastically colorful
word! It works as a noun or a verb, and as an adjective it is
perhaps the most used point of exclamation in the English
language. It can be employed to express anger, contempt,
annoyance, indifference, surprise, impatience, or even
as a meaningless emphasis because it just rolls off of the
tongue. You can ‘fuck something up’, ‘fuck someone over’,
‘fuck around’, ‘not give a fuck’, and there is a decidedly
geographical point of reference to the word insofar as you
can be instructed to ‘go fuck yourself’. At this point you
might even be thinking ‘ok, but who gives a fuck?’ Well, I
do, and if you’re interested in ending neoliberalism so should
you. The powerful capacities that come with the word offer
a potential challenge to neoliberalism. To dig down and
unpack these abilities we need to appreciate the nuances of
what could be meant by the phrase ‘fuck neoliberalism’. Yet
at the same time, fuck nuance. As Kieran Healy (2016: 1)
has recently argued, it “typically obstructs the development
of theory that is intellectually interesting, empirically
generative, or practically successful”. So without fetishizing
nuance let’s quickly work through what I think we should
be prioritizing in fucking up neoliberalism.
The rst sense is perhaps the most obvious. By saying
‘fuck neoliberalism’ we can express our rage against
the neoliberal machine. It is an indication of our anger,
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our desire to shout our resentment, to spew venom back
in the face of the noxious malice that has been shown to
all of us. This can come in the form of mobilizing more
protests against neoliberalism or in writing more papers
and books critiquing its in uence. The latter preaches to the
converted, and the former hopes that the already perverted
will be willing to change their ways. I don’t discount that
these methods are important tactics in our resistance, but
I’m also quite sure that they’ll never actually be enough
to turn the tide against neoliberalism and in our favour.
In making grand public gestures of de ance we attempt
to draw powerful actors into a conversation, mistakenly
believing that they might listen and begin to accommodate
the popular voice of refusal (Graeber 2009). Shouldn’t we
instead be done talking? Here is the second sense of ‘fuck
neoliberalism’, which is found in the notion of rejection.
This would be to advocate for the end of neoliberalism (as
we knew it) in a fashion advanced by J.K. Gibson-Graham
(1996) where we simply stop talking about it. Scholars in
particular would discontinue prioritizing it as the focus of
their studies. Maybe not completely forget about it or ignore
neoliberalism altogether, which I’ve already identi ed as
problematic, but to instead set about getting on with our
writing about other things. Once again this is a crucially
important point of contact for us as we work beyond
the neoliberal worldview, but here too I’m not entirely
convinced that this is enough. As Mark Purcell (2016: 620)
argues, “We need to turn away from neoliberalism and
towards ourselves, to begin the dif cult – but also joyous
– work of managing our affairs for ourselves”. While
negation, protest and critique are necessary, we also need
to think about actively fucking up neoliberalism by doing
things outside of its reach.
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Direct action beyond neoliberalism speaks to a
pre gurative politics (Maeckelbergh 2011), which is the
third and most important sense of what I think we should be
focusing on when we invoke the idea ‘fuck neoliberalism’.
To pre gure is to reject the centrism, hierarchy, and authority
that come with representative politics by emphasizing the
embodied practice of enacting horizontal relationships and
forms of organization that strive to re ect the future society
being sought (Boggs 1977). Beyond being ‘done talking’,
pre guration and direct action contend that there was never
a conversation to be had anyway, recognizing that whatever
it is we want to do, we can just do it ourselves. Nonetheless,
there has been signi cant attention to the ways in which
neoliberalism is able to capture and appropriate all manner
of political discourse and imperatives (Barnett 2005; Birch
2015; Lewis 2009; Ong 2007). For critics like David Harvey
(2015) only another dose of the state can solve the neoliberal
question, where in particular he is quick to dismiss non-
hierarchical organization and horizontal politics as greasing
the rails for an assured neoliberal future. Yet in his pessimism
he entirely misunderstands pre gurative politics, which are
a means not to an end, but only to future means (Springer
2012). In other words, there is a constant and continual
vigilance already built into pre gurative politics so that
the actual practice of pre guration cannot be coopted. It
is re exive and attentive but always with a view towards
production, invention, and creation as the satisfaction of
the desire of community. In this way pre gurative politics
are explicitly anti-neoliberal. They are a seizing of the
means as our means, a means without end. To pre gure is
to embrace the conviviality and joy that comes with being
together as radical equals, not as vanguards and proletariat
on the path towards the transcendental empty promise of
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utopia or ‘no place’, but as the grounded immanence of the
here and now of actually making a new world ‘in the shell
of the old’ and the perpetual hard work and reaf rmation
that this requires (Ince 2012).
There is nothing about neoliberalism that is deserving
of our respect, and so in concert with a pre gurative
politics of creation, my message is quite simply ‘fuck it’.
Fuck the hold that it has on our political imaginations. Fuck
the violence it engenders. Fuck the inequality it extols as a
virtue. Fuck the way it has ravaged the environment. Fuck
the endless cycle of accumulation and the cult of growth.
Fuck the Mont Pelerin society and all the think tanks that
continue to prop it up and promote it. Fuck Friedrich
Hayek and Milton Friedman for saddling us with their ideas.
Fuck the Thatchers, the Reagans, and all the cowardly, self-
interested politicians who seek only to scratch the back
of avarice. Fuck the fear-mongering exclusion that sees
‘others’ as worthy of cleaning our toilets and mopping our
oors, but not as members of our communities. Fuck the
ever-intensifying move towards metrics and the failure to
appreciate that not everything that counts can be counted.
Fuck the desire for pro t over the needs of community.
Fuck absolutely everything neoliberalism stands for, and
fuck the Trojan horse that it rode in on! For far too long
we’ve been told that ‘there is no alternative’, that ‘a rising
tide lifts all boats’, that we live in a Darwinian nightmare
world of all against all ‘survival of the ttest’. We’ve
swallowed the idea of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ hook,
line and sinker; when in reality this is a ruse that actually
re ects the ‘tragedy of capitalism’ and its endless wars of
plunder (Le Billon 2012). Garrett Hardin’s (1968) Achilles
heel was that he never stopped to think about how grazing
cattle were already privately owned. What might happen
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when we reconvene an actual commons as a commons
without presuppositions of private ownership (Jeppesen
et al. 2014)? What might happen when we start to pay
closer attention to the pre guration of alternatives that are
already happening and privileging these experiences as the
most important forms of organization (White and Williams
2012)? What might happen when instead of swallowing
the bitter pills of competition and merit we instead focus
our energies not on medicating ourselves with neoliberal
prescriptions, but on the deeper healing that comes with
cooperation and mutual aid (Heckert 2010)?
Jamie Peck (2004: 403) once called neoliberalism a
‘radical political slogan’, but it is no longer enough to dwell
within the realm of critique. Many years have passed since
we rst identi ed the enemy and from that time we have
come to know it well through our writing and protests. But
even when we are certain of its defeat, as in the aftermath
of the 2008 nancial crisis and the subsequent Occupy
Movement, it continues to gasp for air and reanimate
itself in a more powerful zombi ed form (Crouch 2011;
Peck 2010). Japhy Wilson (2016) calls this ongoing power
the ‘neoliberal gothic’, and I’m convinced that in order
to overcome this horror show we must move our politics
into the realm of the enactive (Rollo 2016). What if ‘fuck
neoliberalism’ were to become a mantra for a new kind
of politics? An enabling phrase that spoke not only to
action, but to the reclamation of our lives in the spaces and
moments in which we actively live them? What if every
time we used this phrase we recognized that it meant a
call for enactive agency that went beyond mere words,
combining theory and practice into the beautiful praxis
of pre guration? We must take a multipronged approach
in our rejection of neoliberalism. While we can’t entirely
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ignore or forget it, we can actively work against it in ways
that extend beyond the performance of rhetoric and the
rhetoric of performance. By all means let’s advance a new
radical political slogan. Use a hashtag (#fuckneoliberalism)
and make our contempt go viral! But we have to do more
than express our indignation. We have to enact our resolve
and realize our hope as the immanence of our embodied
experiences in the here and now (Springer 2016 c). We
need to remake the world ourselves, a process that cannot
be postponed.
We’ve willfully deluded and disempowered ourselves
by continuing to appeal to the existing political arrangement
of representation. Our blind faith has us waiting endlessly
for a savior to drop from the sky. The system has proven
itself to be thoroughly corrupt, where time and time again
our next great political candidate proves to be a failure. In
this neoliberal moment it’s not a case of mere problematic
individuals being in power. Instead, it is our very belief in
the system itself that epitomizes the core of the problem.
We produce and enable the institutional conditions for ‘the
Lucifer effect’ to play itself out (Zimbardo 2007). ‘The
banality of evil’ is such that these politicians are just doing
their jobs in a system that rewards perversions of power
because it is all designed to serve the laws of capitalism
(Arendt 1971). But we don’t have to obey. We’re not
beholden to this order. Through our direct action and
the organization of alternatives we can indict the entire
structure and break this vicious cycle of abuse. When the
political system is de ned by, conditioned for, enmeshed
within, and derived from capitalism, it can never represent
our ways of knowing and being in the world, and so we
need to take charge of these lifeways and reclaim our
collective agency. We must start to become enactive in
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our politics and begin embracing a more relational sense
of solidarity that recognizes that the subjugation and
suffering of one is in fact indicative of the oppression of
all (Shannon and Rouge 2009; Springer 2014). We can
start living into other possible worlds through a renewed
commitment to the practices of mutual aid, fellowship,
reciprocity, and non-hierarchical forms of organization that
reconvene democracy in its etymological sense of power to
the people. Ultimately neoliberalism is a particularly foul
idea that comes with a whole host of vulgar outcomes and
crass assumptions. In response, it deserves to be met with
equally offensive language and action. Our community, our
cooperation, and our care for one another are all loathsome
to neoliberalism. It hates that which we celebrate. So when
we say ‘fuck neoliberalism’ let it mean more that just words,
let it be an enactment of our commitment to each other. Say
it loud, say it with me, and say it to anyone who will listen,
but most of all mean it as a clarion call to action and as
the embodiment of our pre gurative power to change the
fucking world. Fuck Neoliberalism!
I owe my title to Jack Tsonis. He wrote me a wonderful
email in early 2015 to introduce himself with this message
as the subject line. Blunt and to the point. He told me
about his precarious position at the University of Western
Sydney where he was trapped in sessional hell. Fuck
neoliberalism indeed. Jack informs me that he has since
gained employment that is less precarious, but seeing the
beast up close has made him more disgusted and repulsed
than ever. Thanks for the inspiration mate! I’m also grateful
to Kean Birch and Toby Rollo who listened to my ideas
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and laughed along with me. Mark Purcell motivated greatly
with his brilliant delight in thinking beyond neoliberalism.
Thanks to Levi Gahman whose playful spirit and support
demonstrated an actual pre guration of the kinds of ideas
I discuss here. Peer reviews from Farhang Rouhani,
Patrick Huff and Rhon Teruelle demonstrated tremendous
unanimity giving me reason to believe that there is still some
ght left in the academy! Special thanks to the translators
Xaranta Baksh (Spanish), Jai Kaushal and Dhiraj Barman
(Hindi), Ursula Brandt (German), Fabrizio Eva (Italian),
Anonymous (French), Eduardo Tomazine (Portuguese),
Haris Tsavdaroglou (Greek), Sayuri Watanabe (Japanese)
Gürçim Yýlmaz and Nezihe Başak Ergin (Turkish), Tang
Ling (Simpli ed and Tradicitonal Chinese), Bogna Konior
(Polish) and Veronika Stepkova (Czech), as well as Marcelo
Lopes de Souza, Myriam Houssay-Holzschuch, Ulrich Best,
and Adam Goodwin for helping to organize the translations.
Finally, thanks to the many people who so kindly took
the time to write to me about this essay and express their
solidarity after I rst uploaded it to the Internet. I’m both
humbled and hopeful that so many people share the same
sentiment. We will win!
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Levi Gahman
“Listen Neoliberalism!” A Personal Response to Simon
Springer’s: “Fuck Neoliberalism”
Drawing upon the recent ame-war that Anarchist
Geographer Simon Springer (2016 a) recently unleashed
upon neoliberalism (a violent logic and sadistic discourse
that promotes a diabolically horrid set of economic policies
and self-making practices), which he promptly shredded
to pieces, laid waste to, and subsequently set ablaze, the
following critical expose provides a comprehensive and
penetrating radical af rmation that details how anyone who
promotes neoliberalism is, indeed, a chickenshit.
yup; yep; uh-huh; YAAASSSSSSS; nailed it!; BOOM.;
Simon drops the mic; pinche neoliberalismo; “Are you
listening, Administration?”; things that prompt slow
demonstrative head-nods; live by (arti cial) impact factors,
die by them; the Zapatistas concur! Everyday! Since 1983!;
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does this mean academics will stop undermining each other
now!? (Oh wait, who am I kidding...); students’ con dence
should matter more than publication lists and grants
accumulated, perhaps?; read Fanon; hiring committees:
CVs aren’t real/hire more feminist rage; peer reviewers:
quit hiding; hug your local sessional worker!!! (and by
“hug” I mean “ ght for”); more kids! less metrics!;What’s
that? The Academy’s bourgeois decorum??? ...NOT
TODAY!!!!!!! (tips cap to bell hooks)
Introduction (Methodology/Analysis/Discussion/
Yeah. What he said.
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Simon Springer
Stop Being An Asshole: Fuck Neoliberalism Redux
Abstract: Fuck it again. Neoliberalism still sucks. We need
to end it.
Keywords: fuck neoliberalism; fuck it to hell and make it
stay there
Who the fuck supports neoliberalism? Only assholes…
and by that I mean every last one of us, myself included.
We all prop it up in our complacency, our indifference, our
cognitive dissonance and the uncanny human ability to
turn our backs on the suffering of others. Fuck that shit.
Enough already! Stop being an asshole. Stop ignoring your
own implication in the nightmare of the present. Look in
the mirror, stare into your own soul, acknowledge your
failures, and then get about the business of making things
right by getting active. Say hello to your neighbours. Form a
cooperative. Take to the streets. Play hooky. Monkeywrench
the machine. Practice mutual aid. Unschool your children.
Engage a DIY ethic. Organize your workplace. Boycott
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big business. Establish a tenants association. Share peer-
to-peer. Resist the normative. Smile at a stranger. Defy
authority. Fall in love. Refuse patriarchy. Reclaim the value
produced by your labour. Occupy a rooftop or a boardroom.
Stop occupying stolen land. Dare to dream. Volunteer your
time. Start a community kitchen. Form a peace camp.
Eradicate racism. Do someone a favour. Take up guerilla
gardening. Acknowledge the agency of ‘Others’. Sing in
unison. Stand in solidarity. Support Indymedia. Decolonize
your mind. Push for reparations and the repatriation of
indigenous territories. Abolish meritocracy. Educate to
emancipate. Celebrate all sexualities. Sit in a tree. Recruit
a blockade. Dodge a draft. Freecycle. Reject gentri cation.
Invite your friends over for dinner. Hold a wildcat strike.
Gaze at the stars. Welcome refugees. Tear down the fences.
Default on your student loans. Give of yourself and expect
nothing in return. Treat children as fully autonomous
equals to adults. Disobey your boss. Launch a knitting
collective. Embrace open access and Creative Commons.
Join a pride parade. Insist on food for people not pro t.
Radicalize your pedagogy. Blow the whistle. Tell your
family what they mean to you. Recognize that 99 is a bigger
number than 1. Open all the cages. Go vegan. Accept that
the subjugation of one represents the oppression of all.
Demand the impossible. Rise up and revolt. Destroy what
destroys you. Smash capitalism. Laugh in it’s face and
dance on it’s motherfucking grave! Let’s be done with this
violent fucking system of domination once and for all. Fuck
fuck-neoliberalism-kb.indd 17fuck-neoliberalism-kb.indd 17 20.9.2016 21:47:4720.9.2016 21:47:47
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Yep, fuck it. Neoliberalism sucks. We don't need it.
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The Anarchist Roots of Geography sets the stage for a radical politics of possibility and freedom through a discussion of the insurrectionary geographies that suffuse our daily experiences. By embracing anarchist geographies as kaleidoscopic spatialities that allow for non-hierarchical connections between autonomous entities, Simon Springer configures a new political imagination. Experimentation in and through space is the story of humanity's place on the planet, and the stasis and control that now supersedes ongoing organizing experiments is an affront to our very survival. Singular ontological modes that favor one particular way of doing things disavow geography by failing to understand the spatial as an ongoing mutable assemblage that is intimately bound to temporality. Even worse, such stagnant ideas often align to the parochial interests of an elite minority and thereby threaten to be our collective undoing. What is needed is the development of new relationships with our world and, crucially, with each other. By infusing our geographies with anarchism we unleash a spirit of rebellion that foregoes a politics of waiting for change to come at the behest of elected leaders and instead engages new possibilities of mutual aid through direct action now. We can no longer accept the decaying, archaic geographies of hierarchy that chain us to statism, capitalism, gender domination, racial oppression, and imperialism. We must reorient geographical thinking towards anarchist horizons of possibility. Geography must become beautiful, wherein the entirety of its embrace is aligned to emancipation. © 2016 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
This article offers a critical response to Simon Springer’s ‘Why a Radical Geography Must Be Anarchist’. From a Marxist perspective, the autonomist and anarchist tactics and sentiments that have animated a great deal of political activism over the last few years (in movements like ‘Occupy’) have to be appreciated, analyzed, and supported when appropriate. To the degree that anarchists of one sort or another have raised important issues that are all too frequently ignored or dismissed as irrelevant in mainstream Marxism, dialogue—let us call it mutual aid—rather than confrontation between the two traditions is a far more fruitful way to go. Conversely, Marxism, for all its past faults, has a great deal to offer to the anti-capitalist struggle in which many anarchists are also engaged. Judging from his piece, however, Springer would want no part in such a project. He seems mainly bent on polarizing the relation between anarchism and Marxism as if they are mutually exclusive if not hostile. There is, in my view, no point in that. Honest disagreements should not be a barrier to fertile collaborations in anti-capitalist struggles. So the conclusion I reach is this: let radical geography be just that: radical geography, free of any particular ‘ism’, nothing more, nothing less.
Anarchism is notoriously difficult to define. It has been referred to as an ideology, a discourse (Williams, 2007), a political culture (Gordon, 2008), a utopian philosophy and even a ‘definite trend’ in the history of humankind (Rocker, cited in Chomsky, 2005: 9). And that is just among its supporters. Here, I want to add to this polyvocal effort to understand and explore anarchism with a complementary notion: that of anarchism as an ethics of relationships. Ecological and social, embodied and symbolic, interpersonal and interspecies, of class and race and gender and nation, anarchist ethics apply to relationships of all sorts.
In the best tradition of participant-observation, anthropologist David Graeber undertakes the first detailed ethnographic study of the global justice movement. Starting from the assumption that, when dealing with possibilities of global transformation and emerging political forms, a disinterested, "objective" perspective is impossible, he writes as both scholar and activist. At the same time, his experiment in the application of ethnographic methods to important ongoing political events is a serious and unique contribution to the field of anthropology, as well as an inquiry into anthropology's political implications. The case study at the center of Direct Action is the organizing and events that led to the dramatic protest against the Summit of the Americas in Québec City in 2001. Written in a clear, accessible style (with a minimum of academic jargon), this study brings readers behind the scenes of a movement that has changed the terms of debate about world power relations. From informal conversations in coffee shops to large "spokescouncil" planning meetings and teargas-drenched street actions, Graeber paints a vivid and fascinating picture. Along the way, he addresses matters of deep interest to anthropologists: meeting structure and process, language, symbolism, representation, the specific rituals of activist culture, and much more.