Our events are free to attend, though we will collect donations to cover the costs of venue hire on a donate-what-you-can-afford basis. We try to ensure the discussions are welcoming to new people, including people who have never been to a reading group before – and you don’t have to have been to university. You don’t even have to have read any of the book – you can just come along and listen to the discussion. Some free resources including a sample chapter we’ll focus our discussion on are included below though, and we’d encourage people to read/listen to as much as they can ahead of the session.
“Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag when Alicia Garza wrote what she calls ‘a love letter to Black people’ on Facebook. But hashtags don’t build movements, she tells us. People do.
Interwoven with Garza’s experience of life as a Black woman, The Purpose of Power is the story of how she responded to the persistent message that Black lives are of less value than white lives by galvanizing people to create change. It’s an insight into grass roots organizing to deliver basic needs – affordable housing, workplace protections, access to good education – to those locked out of the economy by racism.
It is an attempt not only to make sense of where Black Lives Matter came from but also to understand the possibilities that Black Lives Matter and movements like it hold for our collective futures. Ultimately, it’s an appeal to hearts and minds, demanding that we think about our privileges and prejudices and ask how we might contribute to the change we want to see in the world”
– Publisher information about the book
We will focus our discussion on Chapter 1 – which is available free. We encourage people to buy a copy of the book and read as much as possible, but appreciate not everyone can afford this in terms of either money or time – or may prefer audio/visual content. Below we provide links to another excerpt from the book, and two interview with Alicia Garza (one a video, the other text), which are all freely available.
The Exchange has step-free access. We will keep windows open for ventilation, hand sanitiser is provided, and we ask people who are ill to stay away (whether they are ill with covid or something else). Attendees do not generally wear masks but we will be respectful to anyone who chooses to and other members may wear masks at request of other attendees – let us know your preferences in advance. Please contact us if you have any accessibility requirements – or other questions about how the events work.
Click to buy The Purpose of Power from The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop – add the book to your basked, click to ‘view your basked’, where you’ll see a ‘coupon code’ option – enter code “StroudRadical”, then proceed to the checkout where £1.20 will be taken off the RRP of £9.99 to make the price to pay £8.79 (before any delivery costs – you can pick up for free from Nailsworth, Chalford or Tetbury).
‘The black people killed by police are just one piece of a larger structural problem’ – a 2015 piece published by The Guardian featuring comment by Alicia Garza, as well as Patrisse Cullors and Darnell L Moore, all involved with Black Lives Matter.
Our monthly events in spring 2020 will form a series on “Debates around social ecology”. Each of these three events will be held on the last Wednesday of the month, 7.30-9.30pm – online via Zoom. See poster and text below it for more details.
29th April: Ecological Marxism and environmental neo-Malthusianism
While we will focus on the Introductory section, I recommending reading more of the text if you are able to. You down the 10,000 word closing section of the book as an ODT file. This is made up of two essays from Bookchin and Foreman on their reflections on the debate, written one year later (10,000 words). This might be of particular interest.
Our monthly events in early 2020 will form a series on “Praxis: activism, social movements, and revolution”. Each of these three events will be held on Wednesdays, 7.30-9.30pm at The Exchange Stroud (GL5 1DF). Dates and links to full information below
We will focus our discussion on Chapter 4: “Practice-Oriented Thinking: ‘The Philosophers Have Only Interpreted the World’ (you will need to email us for the text, but are encouraged to read the full book, which can be ordered for next day delivery from Stroud Bookshop, £19.95). Why Social Movements Matter explains social movements for a general educated readership, shows how much social movements are part of our everyday lives, and how in many ways they have shaped the world we live in over centuries.
We will focus our discussion on Chapter 5 “A Women’s Revolution” (pages 82-102) of Revolution in Rojava – Democratic Autonomy and Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan (pdf, 4.7Mb) by Michael Knapp, Anja Flach, and Ercan Ayboga (translated by Janet Biehl). Since a 2012 revolution, and following the wider civil uprising in Syria beginning in 2011, Rojava is an autonomous region in northeastern Syria with direct democratic ambitions based on an anarchistic and libertarian socialist ideology – promoting decentralization, gender equality, environmental sustainability and pluralistic tolerance for religious, cultural and political diversity. We recommend you also read the Foreword (by David Graeber) and Introduction if you are unfamiliar with Rojava (pages 12-25). Copies of the book are available from Pluto press priced at £17.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook.
We will discuss “What’s Fat Activism?” (pdf) by Charlotte Cooper, exploring what we can learn from the history of fat activism, as well as touching on how we can unpick the ways we’ve been shaped by harmful, moralising discourses around food and weight that surround us. The article covers similar ground to Cooper’s book Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement (HammerOn press, paperback £16, ebook £10), a rare insider’s view of fat people speaking about their lives and politics on their own terms. As ever, we have selected a shorter text to focus our discussion but recommend readers read the full book if they are able.
We will explore what we can learn from the history of fat activism, as well as touching on how we can unpick the ways we’ve been shaped by harmful, moralising discourses around food and weight that surround us.
Charlotte Cooper is a psychotherapist, cultural worker and para-academic living and working in London. She is a founding proponent of Fat Studies. By lifting the lid on a previously unexplored social movement and offering a fresh perspective on one of the major problems of our times, Cooper’s expansive grassroots study:
Reveals details of fat activist methods and approaches and explodes myths
Charts extensive accounts of international fat activist historical roots going back over four decades
Explores controversies and tensions in the movement
Shows that fat activism is an undeniably feminist and queer phenomenon
Explains why fat activism presents exciting possibilities for anyone interested in social justice.
To kick off our 2020 series on “Praxis: activism, social movements and revolution” We will focus on Chapter 4 of Why Social Movements Matter by Laurence Cox, one of Europe’s leading social movement researchers: “Practice-Oriented Thinking: ‘The Philosophers Have Only Interpreted the World’” (email us for the text). We encourage you to read the full book, which can be ordered for next day delivery from Stroud Bookshop, £19.95, though we will focus our discussion on the chapter, and welcome people who have not done the reading to listen to the discussion.
About the book: Social movements and popular struggle are a central part of today’s world, but often neglected or misunderstood by media commentary as well as experts in other fields. Why Social Movements Matter explains social movements for a general educated readership, shows how much social movements are part of our everyday lives, and how in many ways they have shaped the world we live in over centuries. It explores the relationship between social movements and the left, how movements develop and change, the complex relationship between movements and intellectual life, and delivers a powerful argument for rethinking how the social world is constructed. Drawing on three decades of experience, Why Social Movements Matter shows the real space for hope in a contested world.
Author Laurence Cox is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and Associate Researcher at the Collège d’Etudes Mondiales, Paris. He has published widely on different aspects of social movements, including We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism, Voices of 1968: Documents from the Global North, Understanding European Movements, Marxism and Social Movements and Silence Would Be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
He has been involved in many different kinds of movement since the 1980s, including ecological, international solidarity, human rights and organising against repression, antiwar, community activism, radical media, self-organised spaces, alternative education and the alter-globalisation ‘movement of movements’.
If you’re not able to read the text, or prefer an audio-visual source, you may be interested in a 36minute podcast from the New Books Network, or the short videos with Laurence Cox produced by the publisher of the book.