Survive and Resist

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Survive And Resist:The Definitive Guide To Dystopian Politics
by Amy L. Atchison & Shauna L. Shames
due 8-6-2019
Columbia University Press 
5.0 / 5.0

#netgalley  #surviveandresist

Atchison wrote this with the hope and belief that by using examples of dystopian fiction and their characters, it will help explain and make sense of key concepts in political science and Resistance to authoritarian rule, with non-violence. Using such novels as 'We', '1984', 'The Handmaids Tale', 'Parable of The Sower' and 'The Red Queen' series helped bring solidity and form to the definition of dystopia and Dystopian politics. 
She completely suceeds.
By giving concise and precise references and examples in both fiction, and world governments, and by sharing the essential elements of a violent vs. non-violent resistance, Atchison gives an easy to follow guide to governments, their philosophies and their preferences that is also fun to read.
She gives examples of how some governments engage in political games that are mean to limit civil liberties and control and define people, like the East Germans use if zersetzung. Or the use of satyagraha by Ghandi.
This is a useful and essential guide to resistance, government policies and world views. Well written and researched, this is must read.
Highly recommended. 
Thanks to Columbia University Press and Netgalley for this e-book ARC for review.
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First of all, it's nearly impossible to read this e-arc on the phone: the formatting errors include gems like "Vladimir Putin of the Lego Movie, Lord Voldemort of Russia." Hilarious? Yes. Confusing? Sometimes. 

The book itself is written in a style that just kept rubbing me the wrong way. I felt being constantly patronized, like I'm some kind of idiot who never reads the news. The authors would regularly say something like, "you think this can't happen in real world? Think again! *Give a wildly known news story as the example*" Like... Who is your target audience? I just couldn't get used to their tone of voice.

To summarize, I liked the idea of the book, but didn't love the execution. I am willing to give the book another chance, once I have a physical copy in my hands.
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Despair is the greatest enemy in surviving dystopian state.
Controlling the flow of information, united through fear, scapegoated through anxiety, conflicted by forcing others to follow the leader rather than become one.
This is just part of the process utilized against the masses. Those who blindly follow right off the cliff.
Those who aren't familiar with malignant narcissist and the power and control needed to run the gig efficiently and effectively.
To isolate, to create panic, to use propaganda as a weapon is only the beginning.
We live in a world united by fear, anxiety, panic, and distortion.
What is the truth?
What is fake news?

What can we do as citizens when our own government is working against us?
It's a nation of 'Us V Them' mentality and the elite, the top 1%, those in powerful positions are the only ones happy with the current state of the nation.
It's a dog eat dog world. Every man for himself. (notice I didn't mention women on purpose).
Women are now secondary citizens having their rights broadly declining with each new day.
In order to win over what we've now lost including our rights as citizens we need to unite.
We need to vote.
We need to become actively involved in politics.
We must place ourselves in the arena and not allow further destruction of the Constitution.
Keep a sense of humor but be proactive not reactive.
Allow arts and humanity to lighten your world.
Keep in mind that even fool's gold sparkles.
Trust actions not words and you'll never be fooled.
I'm a malignant narcissist survivor.
I know the end result and I pray for our country and our president (though I'll never call him my president).
God Bless the USA!
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Survive and Resist: The Definitive Guide to Dystopian Politics by Amy L Atchison and Shauna L Shames is that rare breed of academic writing that is both accessible and valuable to every reader.

There are probably a couple of ways for a reader to read this book, ideally we combine these in our reading(s). One is a straightforward discussion of dystopian literature, to include movies and television in addition to novels and short stories, and how they relate to some real authoritarian regimes. While this level of reading is interesting, it serves as just the foundation for the real value of the book: what constitutes good versus bad governance and what we can do about regimes that might be approaching authoritarian.

The writers do a wonderful job of barely acknowledging the trend toward authoritarianism in the US while pointing out the many instances from history and fiction that, to a reader living through this evil regime, reflects the attempts by the current "President" to undermine democracy and rule of law while lining his pockets at every turn. So while this volume no doubt speaks to this situation, it is not directed at this joker's regime specifically.

In first discussing the things that can lead to authoritarian rule, then delving into what those in power will do to maintain and expand that power, examples are drawn from almost every work of dystopian fiction with wide readership or viewership as well as examples from real situations from the past, both distant and near. The political theory is explained with a minimum of jargon, using little inset boxes to explain some terms the reader might not know, or might not know in the way the writers are using them.

In discussing what can be done, they state explicitly and repeatedly that they advocate nonviolence and some form of democratic rule as an ultimate goal. The same format is used for both what authoritarian governments will do and what we can do to resist, namely breaking things into strategies and tactics. This approach works very well because it relates all action, on all sides of the events, to the overarching desired results.

One valuable part of the book, and the one with the fewest examples from fiction, is what to replace the ousted government with. While it is here that the political science aspect of the book is most prevalent, it is also the part that serves as either a refresher or an introduction to types of government that are most likely to serve the people best. In popular discourse terms and concepts are often tossed around that, upon consideration, make little real sense pragmatically. Usually cases of taking a term and using one small aspect of the term's meaning and making it the entire meaning. We all do it on occasion and it does not help because misuse of a concept makes it open to easy rebuttal which derails the conversation that needs to be taking place.

I would highly recommend this to several types of readers. Clearly, from what I have already written, anyone wanting to get a nice framework for resisting authoritarianism, any place in the world, will gain wonderful insight into what is most likely to work and what is likely doomed to failure. So activists can gain a lot from this volume. Additionally, readers with an interest in dystopian fiction, from 1984 to The Lego Movie, will find much to interest them, whether from a literary perspective or from a political science perspective. Casual fans of dystopian works will find that looking at the works from these perspectives gives each work a more stimulating appearance, so future readings or viewings will offer even more insight.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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Dystopian fiction has been created at an alarming rate over the last few years. We do not know how this all will turn out so fiction writers are creating dark worlds of the future to ponder.   The originality of this non fiction study of political systems is that it uses the immense backlog of better known fictional tales to take the reader on a deeper dive into an instructional manual for how good government should work.  They accomplish this by weaving in and out of some of the dire realities of real authoritarian governments and parallels with well known fictional worlds. From the eloquence of  Ursula Le Quin to simpler themes of Star Wars, the authors switch back and forth from the themes of democracy is difficult to maintain to without it we could be in an even worse position than In those fictional worlds.  The agenda here is maybe  to prove that if the rebels are always fighting for in dependence from tyranny but meanwhile  absorbing some wonkier political science details makes for good citizens. As they say there should be no free riders in the making and keeping of democracies.  This book would have appeal as a basis for a "civics" course for any age.
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Survive & Resist is an interesting, easy-to-understand book that uses a selection of more popular dystopian fiction (film & novels) to explain and make sense of key political science concepts, such as the study of government, governance, state power, public policy, people's political behaviour, the role of economics, and social movements.  The author's use dystopian fiction to explain what good governance is supposed to look like and how to resist bad governance.  The book also includes a chapter on the strategies and tactics used by dictators to achieve and maintain their power; and chapters on how to survive or resist a dystopian state, as an individual and as a collective resistance group/movement, with an enphasis on non-violent resistance.  The author's also cover how to rebuild society after the collapse of a dystopian government.  The book provides food for thought, though I would not call this a definitive guide, and I found the historical case studies oversimplified the issues involved.  An informative book.
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