Nerf Anarchy

By ignoring the more radical cases, Ferrell manages to gloss over the contemporary crisis in anarchism as it relates to social activism. Is violence against property a legitimate tactic, or the equivalent of violence against people, and thus anathema to an essentially pacifist movement? While the book may function as a kind of PR for the anarchist cause, it's unfortunate that it ignores what is debatably most exciting or repugnant about the current scene: the liberatory moment of the riot, the music of smashing windows.

Jeff Ferrell's commitment to lived experience fuels the book's rhetorical fire.
photo: Jeff Ferrell
Jeff Ferrell's commitment to lived experience fuels the book's rhetorical fire.

Details

Tearing Down The Streets: Adventures In Urban Anarchy
By Jeff Ferrell
Palgrave, 246 pp., $24.95
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Ferrell's version is less smashing. When he quotes biker Beth Verdekal's description of Critical Mass, it might as well stand for his own version of resistance: a "perfect combination of do what you want to do but be a nice person." This is a far cry from the Situationist celebration of looting as insurrection, "a natural response to the society of abundance" in the wake of the Watts riots; instead of breaking glass, we get a Nerf anarchy which keeps the stakes of everyday life troublingly low.

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