Academic journal article American Studies

Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism

Academic journal article American Studies

Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism

Article excerpt

LIFESTYLE POLITICS AND RADICAL ACTIVISM. By Laura Portwood-Stacer. New York: Bloomsbury. 2013.

In anarchist studies (and informal conversations), there are often heated debates regarding the role of lifestyle in contemporary US anarchism. While some see lifestyl- ism as a manifestation of the practical everyday cultural work of political resistance intimately interconnected within a larger anarchist project, others discount it out-of- hand as misguided, self-aggrandizing theater. The debates easily become ideological shouting matches as both sides create much noise but offer no clear pathways to navi- gate toward an understanding of the state of US anarchism in the twenty-first century. Into this fray enters Laura Portwood-Stacer's timely and resourceful mediation that bridges these two vantage points by examining the context surrounding lifestylism. Taking the everyday lives of anarchists seriously but without romanticizing them, Lifestyle Politics and Radical Activism offers a lucid examination of both the pos- sibilities and limitations of anarchists attempting to enact their political ideologies within their quotidian lives.

Portwood's most significant contribution is that she situates lifestyle anarchism within the current historical-cultural conditions of neoliberalism that capitalizes on radical tendencies by framing them as individualistic and consumerist choices. Instead of easily equating lifestylism with neoliberalism (which many scholars do), Portwood investigates this relationship by using "strategic ethnography" to interview radicals who are struggling with the fact that to live an anarchist lifestyle inherently involves ethical compromise. But this struggle is articulated by the interviewees as they attempt to understand their lifestyles within a broader anarchist framework and as a direct response to living within a neoliberal state. …

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