Examines how radical bookstores and similar spaces serve as launching pads for social movements
How does social change happen? It requires an identified problem, an impassioned and committed group, a catalyst, and a plan. In this deeply researched consideration of seventy-seven stores and establishments, Kimberley Kinder argues that activists also need autonomous space for organizing, and that these spaces are made, not found. She explores the remarkably enduring presence of radical bookstores in America and how they provide infrastructure for organizing–gathering places, retail offerings that draw new people into what she calls “counterspaces.”
Kinder focuses on brick-and-mortar venues where owners approach their businesses primarily as social movement tools. These may be bookstores, infoshops, libraries, knowledge cafes, community centers, publishing collectives, thrift stores, or art installations. They are run by activist-entrepreneurs who create centers for organizing and selling books to pay the rent. These spaces allow radical and contentious ideas to be explored and percolate through to actual social movements, and serve as crucibles for activists to challenge capitalism, imperialism, white privilege, patriarchy, and homophobia. They also exist within a central paradox: participating in the marketplace creates tensions, contradictions, and shortfalls. Activist retail does not end capitalism; collective ownership does not enable a retreat from civic requirements like zoning; and donations, no matter how generous, do not offset the enormous power of corporations and governments.
In this timely and relevant book, Kinder presents a necessary, novel, and apt analysis of the role these retail spaces play in radical organizing, one that demonstrates how such durable hubs manage to persist, often for decades, between the spikes of public protest.