On March 9th we had the third meeting of our Hegemony How-To reading group and talked about the third chapter of the book. Here’s a recap of its contents.
+++ Chapter 3 Summary +++
In the third chapter of Hegemony How-To Jonathan Matthew Smucker (JMS) introduces us to his concept of the „Life of the oppositional group“. He carefully introduces his critique with two stories in which he stressed the importance of pursuing and developing a group identity:
Carol Hanisch, author of the essay “The Personal is Political” strongly rejected the dismission of women’s caucuses and discussion circles as “therapeutic”.
„The phrase the personal is political was originally intended to mean that the oppression you experience as an individual is patterned“
It was crucial for many oppressed group to identify their individual struggles as collective struggles and JMS makes clear that he recognizes this as an issue of great importance.
He emphasizes this by also telling the story of Jose Vasquez, an ex-military, who first had to learn that his personal and isolated traumas are indeed a widespread phenomena and political matters. There’s no clear line for Vasquez to separate the therapeutic and the political aspects of his organizing.
The takeway that JMS has is that we should recognize political group as an opportunity to find a “sense of belonging” and a “space for healing”, but we shouldn’t stop there.
On February 1st we had the second meeting of our Hegemony How-To reading group and talked about the second chapter of the book. Comparisons with our experiences @DiEM25 came up in the discussion inevitably, as at least five participants were formerly (or still are) aligned with DiEM25. We decided to embrace this tendency as it fleshed-out the debate with some RL experience. (Note to myself: We have to be careful to not alienated future newcomers, tho.)
+++ Chapter 2 Summary +++
In the beginning I did my best to give a brief overview about the contents of the short but insightful 2nd chapter „The 99%: The symbol and the agent“.
In this chapter Jonathan Matthew Smucker (JMS) elaborates on his affiliations with the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) that he decided to use as a key study to guide his readers through this book. In his own words:
„Occupy succeeded in introducing a popularly resonant populist narrative about economic inequality and a rigged political system. How it did so is instructive and foreshadows key concepts that I will keep building upon in later chapters.“
When he first heard about the movement in September 2011 he couldn’t help to be a bit sceptical about the similarities of the OWS tactics (occupying a public space) with the events that took place during Arab Spring and Tahrir in the preceding years. It stroke him as a „lack of appreciation for context“. Soon enough JMS was proven wrong by the success of the events in New York and joined the movement.
On January 7th we had the first meeting of our Hegemony How-To reading group. In the last years many of us have stumbled upon this book during our political work, partly as members of DiEM25. Few of us are associated with DiEM25 anymore, but all of us want to learn how to improve our organising skills and understand what went wrong with political organising in the past.
+++ Chapter 1 Summary +++
We began the session with a brief summary of the first chapter „Political Orphans“. In this chapter Jonathan Matthew Smucker (referred to as JMS in the following passages) gives us a brief introduction of himself, his socialization as an organizer and political active person. Far from being a ‚red diaper baby‘ – as he puts it – he left home with 17 years to hitchhike ‚from Pennsylvania up into New England, and then across the Midwest‘. There in the American wilderness he had some kind of a religious epiphany that helped him to connect his christian beliefs with the social justice issues he encountered during his travels. After his return he held his first speech at Lancaster Mennonite High School as a mini-worship service talking about exploitation, sweatshops, union-busting and other issues. Other than he expected a lot of students and teachers were able to connect to his speech and it caused a lot of debates.