25.1.09

RISING UP ANGRY. I've resurrected a title from my college years (it's also the name of a more recent band) to present David Sirota's The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington. Book Review No. 5 will characterize the work as oddly incomplete and despite its 2008 publication date, overtaken by events. Mr Sirota is a former aide to Vermont's Bernie Sanders, and much of his focus is on his onetime boss's attempts to build common ground with other disaffected people who might not be able to stay one contradiction ahead of Leon Trotsky or his latter-day wannabees at the elite campuses. (The goatees, granny glasses, and Greek fisherman's caps have never gone completely out of fashion). In that focus, his work is very much in the original Rising Up Angry tradition.
“The initial target audience was ‘greasers,’ white working class youth with their Ban-lon shirts or A-1 Stay-Pressed pants,” says [founder and Rogers Park cafe owner Michael] James, and “the key was a thing called Stone Grease Grapevine, vignettes on what was happening in individual parks, schools, clubs, gangs or neighborhoods. In the early issues there was also a lot of stuff about cars, a movie review of Bullitt, talk about the GI rebellions. People liked the content.
There's also an extended case study of shareholder activism, focusing on religious interests that work to change corporate culture by drawing popular attention to corporate follies.

That's standard community-organizer fare. The book falls down, however, in a number of ways. First, Mr Sirota's ideology interferes with his ability to understand the right-populist elements of the uprising that he sometimes engages. (The short form of what he misses includes at least these: the common schools have been dumbed down, monjudgementalism enables self-destructive behaviors, and government experts can get things wrong.) Second, his work is already overtaken by events. Shareholder discontent can focus on the loss of shareholder value or the failure of managements to manage, things of more immediate interest than the green technologies and affirmative action hiring the churches find so important. The government itself is under a new management with a confidence in its experts that is likely to be undone by the failure of its efforts. Tellingly, Mr Sirota makes only three mentions of one Barack Obama, none of them favorable, none of them with any reference to his usefulness to the uprising or to his possible role in preserving the inside-the-beltway consensus.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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