Pacific Standard Review

How Leftist Activists Can Avoid Burnout Under Trump

A new book offers an alternative to the kinds of “rigid radicalism” that tend to wear you out

“The book is arranged around a series of complex questions, such as: “What makes radical spaces and movements feel transformative and creative, rather than dogmatic, rule-bound, or stifling? What sustains struggles, spaces, and forms of life where we become capable of living and fighting in new ways?” The authors use the term “rigid radicalism” to denote the type of group outlook that can breed negative feelings like shame and anxiety, and suggest three possible origins for rigid radicalism: a hardening of Marxist, or Marxist-Leninist ideology; Christian morality; and a system of schooling that promotes constant evaluation. To “un-do” rigid radicalism, which the authors argue hinders leftist struggles, they suggest adopting instead a “joyful militancy,” which encourages interactions that are more tolerant of doubt—and of personal and political growth.”