David Swift

Apr 16, 2020

A Left for Itself

Left-Wing Hobbyists and Performative Radicalism

Zero Books 2019

Why has the recent crisis of capitalism benefitted the nationalist right rather than the left? Is there a tension between socio-economic realities and the politico-cultural views of leftists? In his new book A Left for Itself:Left-Wing Hobbyists and Performative Radicalism (Zero Books, 2019), David Swift argues that the left is dominated by what he terms hobbyists and performative radicals. An overwhelmingly white, middle class, elite educated left is, according to Swift, searching for a past-time rather than fighting for basic needs. Building on earlier work on the left during WWI, Swift combines a deep knowledge of the political science and history literature with archival work and contemporary interviews with activists and those who reflect on their work. He finds activists on the left to be in search of an identity: a past-time that will enhance their image. The book looks at ethnic identity politics, immigration, the debate over Israel and Palestine, the trans movement, cultural elitism, and feminism. Swift uses these case studies to demonstrate how leftist activists often mistake online posturing for policy, undercut committed activists, and alienate centrists who might facilitate a broader left coalition. The podcast includes wide-ranging discussion of UK and US politics – including some thoughts on how COVID-19 might shape the future narratives of leftist politicians and activists.
Susan Liebellis associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013).

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Susan Liebell

Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

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