Riot. Strike. Riot: The New Era of Uprisings

Political theorist Joshua Clover theorizes the riot as the form of the coming insurrection

Baltimore. Ferguson. Tottenham. Clichy-sous-Bois. Oakland. Ours has become an “age of riots” as the struggle of people versus state and capital has taken to the streets. Award-winning poet and scholar Joshua Clover offers a new understanding of this present moment and its history. Rioting was the central form of protest in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and was supplanted by the strike in the early nineteenth century. It returned to prominence in the 1970s, profoundly changed along with the coordinates of race and class.

From early wage demands to recent social justice campaigns pursued through occupations and blockades, Clover connects these protests to the upheavals of a sclerotic economy in a state of moral collapse. Historical events such as the global economic crisis of 1973 and the decline of organized labor, viewed from the perspective of vast social transformations, are the proper context for understanding these eruptions of discontent. As social unrest against an unsustainable order continues to grow, this valuable history will help guide future antagonists in their struggles toward a revolutionary horizon.

 

“Riot, in this absolutely necessary book, is considered as differential procedure and rigorous improvisational method, as essential repertoire on the way from general malaise to general strike. But then this conception folds tightly yet disorderly into a new and open set of questions. It’s not that the raging, ragged entrance to the new golden age is the new golden age. It’s not that theory can’t bear a riot. It’s just that riot makes new ways of seeing what theory can and can’t do and imposes upon us a kind of knowledge of our own embarrassing and already given resources of enjoyment. Joshua Clover says riot deserves a proper theory but here—sly, stone cold—he gives us more than that. Now we have some guidelines for the new and ongoing impropriety that fleshes forth and fleshes out our optimal condition.”

– Frederick Charles Moten, University of California, Riverside, author of The Feel Trio