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The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life

by George Katsiaficas

Overview:George Katsiaficas's account covers the period 1968-1996 and pays special attention to the role of autonomous feminist movements, the effects of squatters and feminists on the disarmament movement and on efforts to shut down nuclear power, and the antifascist social movements developed in response to the neo-Nazi upsurge.

In addition to providing a rare depiction of these often overlooked movements, Katsiaficas develops a specific notion of autonomy from the statements and aspirations of these movements. Drawing from the practical actions of social movements, his analysis is extended into a universal standpoint of the species, a perspective he develops by uncovering the partiality of Antonio Negri's workerism, Seyla Benhabib's feminism and notions of uniqueness of the German nation.

Reviews:  "As a long-term and perceptive observer of the autonomous scene in Europe, George Katsiaficas provides a comprehensive and well-informed narrative history of the autonomous movements in Europe. This elegantly written and lively account has been meticulously researched and reveals startling insights. Katsiaficas focuses on the movement in Germany and traces back the sources of autonomous politics as far back as the 1960s to the SDS, sponti and women movements.

But his book goes beyond just accounting the history of European movements (which has been largely ignored by the US audience). His book is at the same time a sophisticated analysis of postmodern and postfordist capitalism which - by discussing theories of modern scholars such as Antonio Negri and Sheila Benhabib - makes us understand that any analysis which is limited to focusing exclusively on gender, ethnic, or workerist categories fails to unravel the goal of the autonomous movements: to find new antisystemic forms of participating democracy for achieving a greater control of individuals and communities over everyday life. Thus the book’s most notable value is to acknowledge the important role of the autonomous movements by offering us some perspective on how to limit the damaging effects of global capitalism on our lives."

--Professor Susanne Peters, University of Giessen

"At a time when the dominant trends in politics and culture are toward the right, it is important to be aware that there are also counter-trends. With the knowledge and understanding of an insider, George Katsiaficas describes the Autonomen, the loose network of European young people who live collectively on the margins of society, and who combine the pursuit of a communal life with social action against racism and repressive politices of the right. This book is an important corrective to the all-too-common view that global capitalism is triumphant, that there is no basis for opposing the values that it promotes."

--Professor Barbara Epstein, University of California, Santa Cruz