Donald Trump is the Thing-that-should-not-be.
The man lives, quite literally, in a building serviced by a golden elevator. Somehow, he presented himself as the scourge of the elites. For decades, he built a persona based on the most conspicuous consumption and the crassest of excess — and then he won the presidency on an anti-establishment ticket. The unlikely rise of Donald J. Trump exemplifies the political paradox of the twenty-first century.
In this new Gilded Age, the contrast between the haves and the have-nots could not be starker. The world’s eight richest billionaires control as much wealth as the poorest half of the planet — a disparity of wealth and political power unknown in any previous period. Yet not only have progressives failed to make gains in circumstances that should, on paper, favour egalitarianism and social justice, the angry populism that’s prospered explicitly targets ideas associated with the left – and none more so than so-called ‘political correctness’.
If Trump – and others like Trump – can turn hostility to PC into a winning slogan, how should the left respond? In the face of a vicious new bigotry, should progressives double-down on identity politics and gender theory? Must they abandon political correctness and everything associated with it to reconnect with a working class they’ve alienated? Or is there, perhaps, another way entirely?
In Trigger Warnings, Jeff Sparrow excavates the development of a powerful new vocabulary against progressive causes. From the Days of Rage to Gamergate, from the New Left to the alt-right, he traces changing attitudes to democracy and trauma, symbolism and liberation, in an exhilarating history of ideas and movements. Challenging progressive and conservative orthodoxies alike, Trigger Warnings is a bracing polemic and a persuasive case for a new kind of politics.
‘Standing on the front line of the culture war it’s clear the right are winning. In this new book, Jeff Sparrow draws lessons from contemporary debates and historical struggles to argue for an alternative to the seemingly oppositional binary of class or identity that dominates liberal discourse. Instead, Sparrow calls for a return to a “direct politics” approach that doesn’t rely on mainstream leaders but argues that a rebuilding of an activist left that sees strength in solidarity and strives for liberation is the only answer. In a time that increasingly feels like it’s now or never, this book is an urgently needed intervention. Don’t just read it, do it.’
Roz Ward, co-founder of Safe Schools Coalition
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‘A crisp, elegant and timely analysis of exactly how the world and everything in it turned to wallaby poop, also whose fault it is and how we might actually be able to do something about it.’
First Dog On The Moon, political cartoonist for the Guardian
‘Sparrow writes with a unique combination of dignified sensitivity and a concrete commitment to solidarity and movement building.’
Sam Wallman, political cartoonist
‘He’s one of Australia’s most crucial political thinkers … Trigger Warnings is perhaps his most polemic [book] yet, written with clear activist goals in mind: to intervene in the present, he insists we must understand the complex history that led us here.’
The Saturday Paper
‘Australian writer Jeff Sparrow succinctly explains in Trigger Warnings how Trump cleverly skewered his political enemies by appealing to their anger at the elite political and media classes (despite being a member of the elite himself) … Trigger Warnings is a rare book that takes a necessary scalpel to the leftist political persuasion of its author as much as, if not more than, the right-wing agenda he opposes.’
Antony Loewenstein, Weekend Australian
‘Sparrow’s book is a provocative reading of the culture wars that develops a distinction between ‘direct’ and ‘delegated’ politics.’
James Ley, ‘ABR’s Books of the Year 2018’