“Necessary Trouble” and a Long, Hard Struggle: Talking Movements With Sarah Jaffe


By Joe Macaré
August 28, 2016

Sarah Jaffe's Necessary Trouble is one of the most essential books of the year — an extensive, vivid overview of "trouble-making" organizers and movements from the 2008 financial crisis until, if not quite today, then the moment the book went to press. Each chapter not only covers a movement or group of campaigns, but also provides a concise but nuanced historical summary of the issues at hand.

It's a book that feels "necessary" indeed, almost overdue. Whether we realized it or not, we have been in need of a book that traces the connections between the Wisconsin Capitol occupation and the campaigns waged by Walmart and fast-food workers, that looks honestly at what the Tea Party has had both in common and in conflict with protesters at Occupy Wall Street and in Ferguson, and that gives due credit to Moral Mondays and Black Lives Matter.

And we have been in need of someone like Jaffe to do it, someone who understands intersectionality and class struggle, who resists simplistic narratives and avoids backseat organizing or condescending lectures about strategy, instead largely letting the people who made these movements happen tell their own stories. She spoke to Truthout about some of the issues raised in Necessary Trouble including racism, horizontalism, and why climate change is a class issue.

Joe Macaré: Necessary Trouble is in many ways an optimistic book, one that on the whole celebrates a range of movements and campaigns. Was that a conscious choice or did you just find more to uplift than to critique?

Sarah Jaffe: This is a book with an overarching argument about this historical moment more than a book meant to be a deep dive into any particular movement. If I had 100,000 words to delve into Occupy Wall Street or Moral Mondays or any one in particular I might have spent more time diving into critiques of particular aspects of each one, but that just wasn't the book I was writing.

I don't think I'm uncritical or cheerleading in this book, yet I am optimistic. I remember the 1990s, the early 2000s, the things you just couldn't say in polite company. The world is a different place now. Things are still hard, people are still struggling, but people are fighting and that is, as Jane McAlevey says, the best news I've had in a long, long time.

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