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Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy

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'Dream' makes the case for a progressive political strategy that embraces a new set of tools. Although fantasy and spectacle have become the lingua franca of our time, Duncombe points out that liberals continue to depend upon sober reason to guide them and suggests ways in which they can adopt the new when producing policies. 'Dream' makes the case for a progressive political strategy that embraces a new set of tools. Although fantasy and spectacle have become the lingua franca of our time, Duncombe points out that liberals continue to depend upon sober reason to guide them and suggests ways in which they can adopt the new when producing policies.


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'Dream' makes the case for a progressive political strategy that embraces a new set of tools. Although fantasy and spectacle have become the lingua franca of our time, Duncombe points out that liberals continue to depend upon sober reason to guide them and suggests ways in which they can adopt the new when producing policies. 'Dream' makes the case for a progressive political strategy that embraces a new set of tools. Although fantasy and spectacle have become the lingua franca of our time, Duncombe points out that liberals continue to depend upon sober reason to guide them and suggests ways in which they can adopt the new when producing policies.

30 review for Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rukshana

    this book makes a lot of good arguments that progressives/leftists need to hear. the argument is more complex than activists simply appropriating strategies used by corporations and their advertising teams. we need to learn to tap into people's emotions, hopes, dreams, and passions the same way that corporations successfully do (to make us feel inadequate, and buy their products!). moreover, we need to tap into our own so that we can bring people into our organizations and movements. many of us this book makes a lot of good arguments that progressives/leftists need to hear. the argument is more complex than activists simply appropriating strategies used by corporations and their advertising teams. we need to learn to tap into people's emotions, hopes, dreams, and passions the same way that corporations successfully do (to make us feel inadequate, and buy their products!). moreover, we need to tap into our own so that we can bring people into our organizations and movements. many of us who have organized before have heard this argument - we know it, yet our current methods aren't working to build the type of movement we need to win campaigns and change the world. duncombe also makes a pretty strong critique of enlightenment values (specifically, the appeal to reason), arguing that progressives' belief that the truth will prevail has proved to be untrue. rather, the truth needs to be narrative-ized (yes, i made up that word) to reach a broader audience and create an impact. he also advocates heavily for participation, inclusiveness, fun (!), playfulness, and joy in our actions and movements. all of this is difficult for a self-serious leftist like myself, but i am willing to listen, pay attention, and change if necessary because we need to be effective - our lives and future depend on it. duncombe's argument is nuanced and worth reading this very accessible and short book. BTW, duncombe was interviewed on KPFK here in los angeles.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    There's less to be frustrated with here than in Duncombe's zine history, but I ultimately suspect that this is because it is difficult to disagree with Duncombe's politics when they are so like my own. His overall argument that progressive politics needs to abandon rational and divisive thought in favor of embracing fantasy and dreams in order to cater to humans' innate desires is interesting, but not quite fleshed out enough to suggest exactly how it might happen. Further, his imaginings of par There's less to be frustrated with here than in Duncombe's zine history, but I ultimately suspect that this is because it is difficult to disagree with Duncombe's politics when they are so like my own. His overall argument that progressive politics needs to abandon rational and divisive thought in favor of embracing fantasy and dreams in order to cater to humans' innate desires is interesting, but not quite fleshed out enough to suggest exactly how it might happen. Further, his imaginings of participatory politics and ethical spectacles are clearly only favorable on the terms that he imagines them: that is, when their purpose is to advance his liberal agenda. All of this begs the question: if Duncombe is correct in his assumption that we must take fantasy more seriously in order for progressive politics to flourish, what type of society might we expect to emerge? In other words, how would the total abandonment of rational, Enlightenment subjectivity look, and would Duncombe (or anyone else for that matter) be happy with a society that thrived entirely on people embracing a belief in fantasy (which sounds, to me, an awful lot like a society full of religious zealots)? I suspect not, and think he might have done a better job suggesting exactly how far the imaginative ends of his theory might stretch.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tait

    Duncombe’s “Dream” comes close to articulating an critical perspective shift of looking beyond the rational materialism that hampers progressive politics in the United States, but ultimately fails to reach its goal by being unable to imagine the purpose and possibilities of fantasy and dreams outside of the very rationalist lens that he decries. For Dumcombe, fantasy seems to equate to spectacle, and his argument is essentially that progressives need to re-package their messages in a more specta Duncombe’s “Dream” comes close to articulating an critical perspective shift of looking beyond the rational materialism that hampers progressive politics in the United States, but ultimately fails to reach its goal by being unable to imagine the purpose and possibilities of fantasy and dreams outside of the very rationalist lens that he decries. For Dumcombe, fantasy seems to equate to spectacle, and his argument is essentially that progressives need to re-package their messages in a more spectacular form that better speaks to people’s desires or emotions. What he doesn’t grasp, however, is that the true power of fantasy is that it commands belief—and all of the oppositional perspectives he addresses (conservativism, capitalism, fascism) are effective not because they present spectacles, but because they utilize narratives and imagery that don’t just have the appearance of reality but that people believe are actually real or could become real. For instance, Duncombe’s critiques of the use of fantasy by both conservatives and fascists relies on pointing out the falsity of a single photo-op or propaganda video. However, conservatives martialize fantasy through their appropriation of the Christian religion to legitimize a millenarian and corporatist agenda that allows their followers to believe they are part of a thousands year old, god-ordained tradition. The Nazis also deployed apocalyptic mythological narratives to sanction belief in the absolute necessity of their supremacy. An equivalent progressive utilization of fantasy is not simply a rebranding of Enlightenment ideals in a sensationalized form. Instead one must either reclaim traditional belief systems that embody those ideals (for example one might consider Liberation Theology), or to create new narratives and images that engender belief—essentially a radical mythology, not necessarily religious, but which speaks to the soul and it’s hopes for the future.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kayleigh

    It took a few chapters for me even to be able to describe the gist of the book, but it ended up being a worthwhile read. Duncombe makes great points about how progressives can create more relatable political goals and actions, and how insisting on staying grounded in 'reality' can do more harm than good. It took a few chapters for me even to be able to describe the gist of the book, but it ended up being a worthwhile read. Duncombe makes great points about how progressives can create more relatable political goals and actions, and how insisting on staying grounded in 'reality' can do more harm than good.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rob Christopher

    Think of everything that's happened politically and culturally since this book was first published in 2007. And yet, reading it now, I found it timely and insightful. Many of the protests this year *have* been the sort of "ethical spectacles" that Duncombe advocates for in this book; and as such, they've been incredibly effective. He's definitely onto something here. Think of everything that's happened politically and culturally since this book was first published in 2007. And yet, reading it now, I found it timely and insightful. Many of the protests this year *have* been the sort of "ethical spectacles" that Duncombe advocates for in this book; and as such, they've been incredibly effective. He's definitely onto something here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Onnesha

    Pretty interesting analysis of how progressive politicians need to embrace the tools of manufacturing reality: advertising. The book was a little rambly and irritating (a lot of "it is, but it isn't..") but made solid points. The book takes off from that freaky quote that Ron Suskind extracted from someone in the Bush administration about how he [Suskind] and others don't get it because they're living in the "reality-based" community whereas he and the Bush admin create reality. I'm sort of obse Pretty interesting analysis of how progressive politicians need to embrace the tools of manufacturing reality: advertising. The book was a little rambly and irritating (a lot of "it is, but it isn't..") but made solid points. The book takes off from that freaky quote that Ron Suskind extracted from someone in the Bush administration about how he [Suskind] and others don't get it because they're living in the "reality-based" community whereas he and the Bush admin create reality. I'm sort of obsessed with the quote and have it on my wall, so I was happy to see someone really exploring the implications. The book, in short, is well worth reading. It's an interesting and unique perspective from someone who has a decent grasp of theory and who works as an activist as well. My biggest bone to pick is his fixation on using pop culture examples. Las Vegas and Grand Theft Auto as THE tools to understanding what people's desires really are. For me, these represent more what people want to indulge in in large part as escapism. Duncombe's point is that fantasy and "dream" needs to be made part and parcel of the progressive political agenda. Fair enough, but I could have used a little more nuance.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    This book was a bit on the academic-y side for me, but it tackled a lot of issues that i think about a lot, namely: how to better incorporate our ideas of a better society into our methods of protest, how to make a point and have fun doing it, and how to use the system to defeat itself... It's not a "how-to" book but an exploration of the issue, which I liked. But the author didn't mention Bread and Puppet once, which I thought was silly. My sweetheart Kevin is one of the organizers of the HONK! This book was a bit on the academic-y side for me, but it tackled a lot of issues that i think about a lot, namely: how to better incorporate our ideas of a better society into our methods of protest, how to make a point and have fun doing it, and how to use the system to defeat itself... It's not a "how-to" book but an exploration of the issue, which I liked. But the author didn't mention Bread and Puppet once, which I thought was silly. My sweetheart Kevin is one of the organizers of the HONK! streetband festival and practically considers this book his bible (those are my words, not his!). This book is a good starting point for a necessary conversation: how to protest effectively in the world today without burning out and hating it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steev Hise

    Really inspiring, at least that someone in academia is recognizing and deeply thinking about this serious need for rejuvenating left activism through play, art, spectacle, infotainment, what have you. It's a little LESS surprising or educational than I had hoped - basically all the examples he used were old, stuff i already knew about - the zapatistas, reclaim the streets, billionaires for bush, etc. but the frame he puts it all in makes it worth reading. Really inspiring, at least that someone in academia is recognizing and deeply thinking about this serious need for rejuvenating left activism through play, art, spectacle, infotainment, what have you. It's a little LESS surprising or educational than I had hoped - basically all the examples he used were old, stuff i already knew about - the zapatistas, reclaim the streets, billionaires for bush, etc. but the frame he puts it all in makes it worth reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lizard

    an insightful look into the efficacy (or lack thereof) of the contemporary left, Dream is a deeply inspiring and highly readable call to action for art activists, teachers, and social justice leaders everywhere.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kavita

    Most recent book written by my grad advisor. Well researched and thought out analysis of what it means to a progressive or radical activist/organizer in the "Age of the Spectacle." Plus, I'm listed in the acknowledgement, so I gotta represent. :P Most recent book written by my grad advisor. Well researched and thought out analysis of what it means to a progressive or radical activist/organizer in the "Age of the Spectacle." Plus, I'm listed in the acknowledgement, so I gotta represent. :P

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    made me want to take off my clothes and run in the streets to make a better world.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ida

    recommended by Ben S

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    It's always a good time to have professional wrestling compared to Bretchian theater. It's always a good time to have professional wrestling compared to Bretchian theater.

  14. 5 out of 5

    teresa

    found this book while looking for the smart meme collectives book called "ReImagining Change." and it ain't no coincidence that this book is in bibliography for the book that i was initially for. found this book while looking for the smart meme collectives book called "ReImagining Change." and it ain't no coincidence that this book is in bibliography for the book that i was initially for.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Molly Ferguson

    This book argues that progressives need the type of engaging spectacles (ahem, the RNC) that conservatives have dazzled people with for several decades. It was a pretty interesting read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh Loar

  17. 4 out of 5

    AK

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elise

  19. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  20. 5 out of 5

    Fermin Vasquez

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicklally

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rose

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tianna kennedy

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  26. 5 out of 5

    jonathan berger

    liking it so far

  27. 4 out of 5

    michael

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kudrat

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Gold

  30. 5 out of 5

    Johannah

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