Cynthia Kaufman is the director of the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action, where she also teaches community organizing and philosophy. The author of Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope (Lexington Books, 2012), she is a lifelong social change activist, having worked on issues such as tenants’ rights, police abuse, union organizing, international politics, and most recently climate change.
Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change, 2nd Ed.
Author: Cynthia Kaufman
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 352
Subjects: Political Theory / Politics-Activism
Written in an engaging and accessible style, Ideas for Action gives activists the intellectual tools to turn discontent into a plan of action. Exploring a wide range of political traditions—including Marxism, anarchism, anti-imperialism, postmodernism, feminism, critical race theory, and environmentalism—Cynthia Kaufman acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of political movements and the ideologies inspired by or generated through them. Kaufman incorporates elements of her own activist experiences and presents a coherent analysis without pretending to offer “the final word” on complex issues. Instead, she helps orient a critical understanding of the social world and a glimpse of the excitement and rewards of serious intellectual engagement with political ideas.
Fully updated to confront pressing issues of today—from mass incarceration to climate change, from the war on terror to the national security state, from rising inequality to a global shortage of care, Ideas for Action also examines the work of diverse thinkers such as Adam Smith, Paulo Freire, Grace Lee Boggs, and Stuart Hall. Kaufman’s insights break the chains of cynicism and lay a foundation for more effective organizing.
“There’s a long-running conversation about what’s wrong with our world and how to fix it. Ideas for Action fills in the ‘backstory’ that can help you to join that conversation.”
—Jeremy Brecher, author of Strike!
"This an extraordinary book made attractive by its optimism, passion, and brainpower. Ideas for Action is unblemished, stimulating and unusually bold in its critiques and alternatives. It’s a profound and panoramic exploration work of the most powerful and practical ideas needed for a true, radical social change. Professor Kaufman not only points us to the right direction, but also articulates those practical steps in the context of a troubling globalized neoliberal politics."
—john a. powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, UC-Berkeley, and author of Racing for Justice
“Having cut her teeth in the 1980s Central American solidarity movement and continuing today as a local tenants’ rights activist, Cynthia Kaufman weaves her story into a brilliant and seamless theoretical work on radical activism in the United States. Although Kaufman holds a doctorate in philosophy, and her deep and extensive knowledge of political theory from Karl Marx to Stuart Hall is clearly presented, this book is no academic monograph, rather a manual for organizers and for the people. Kaufman’s modest yet sure voice is that of the best of feminist and social justice writing today.”
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Outlaw Woman
“What is remarkable about Cynthia Kaufman’s book Ideas for Action is how it steps back from our day-to-day struggles to gain historical and theoretical perspective, and then moves forward again to use these perspectives for the solution of specific, immediate problems. The book ranges broadly over many contemporary problems, and manages to be both theoretical and practical in the analysis of these problems.”
—Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States
“The world is in dire need of hope. Right now people are encouraged to be suspicious, authoritarian, belligerent, and hateful rather than to be hopeful. As intellectuals and scholars we are needed more than ever, especially by young people, to shine a light on the possibility of social change. Professor Kaufman does just that in this book. In her own words, she hopes to ‘stimulate thought and encourage wondering’—two things we are in desperate need of. A wonderful book well worth reading and giving to others.”
—Aída Hurtado, author of The Color of Privilege
“Ideas for Action makes it plain! This is an excellent and very readable overview of what’s wrong with the world and about how we can work to make it better. Kaufman explains a great deal—capitalism, globalization, racial and gender inequality, the threatened environment—in a way that is both accessible and sophisticated. She never loses sight of the practical issues: the need for change, and ways to make change for the better. I particularly liked her treatment of racism as an injustice to everybody. Ideas for Action will be a great textbook for many courses in many subject areas.”
—Howard Winant, author of The World Is a Ghetto
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Don’t Mourn, Organize…and Vote
Presidential elections are important. They are really important. If George Bush hadn’t been president, the US would not have bombed Iraq, ISIS would not exist. And yet around presidential election time, people get wrapped up in t...
- Making beautiful things where everyone gains and no one profits
My friend Annette Aylward is trying to make a living as a crafts person. She makes beautiful handmade linen towels. She believes in craft. She loves to make these things. To make a living making handmade things woven out of linen she needs to char...
- Making Rights Work
Making Rights Work: A Review of "The Human Rights Enterprise" A few years ago, when California was going through a major budget crisis and money for education was being cut back dramatically, many students protesting the cuts claimed t...
- An End of Power?
We are entering a period where the social structures and mechanisms that have channeled and controlled power for the past few hundred years are shifting radically. In The End of Power, Venezuelan politician and former director of the World Bank...
- Climate Action: Disrupting Business as Usual
Talk given to the California Student Sustainability Coalition’s annual convergence
Synopsis: Now in a fully updated and expanded second edition, Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change by Cynthia Kaufman (Director of the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action) explores a wide range of political traditions that includes Marxism, anarchism, anti-imperialism, postmodernism, feminism, critical race theory, and environmentalism. Kaufman fully acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of political movements and the ideologies inspired by or generated through them. She then offers a coherent analysis without pretending to offer "the final word" on complex issues. Instead, she helps orient a critical understanding of the social world and a glimpse of the excitement and rewards of serious intellectual engagement with political ideas. This new edition directly addresses the pressing issues of today ranging from mass incarceration to climate change, from the war on terror to the national security state, from rising inequality to a global shortage of care. Ideas for Action also examines the work of diverse thinkers such as Adam Smith, Paulo Freire, Grace Lee Boggs, and Stuart Hall. Kaufman's insights break the chains of cynicism and lay a foundation for more effective organizing.
Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, extraordinarily well written, organized and presented, Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change is unreservedly recommended for both academia and non-specialist general readers alike. While very highly recommended as a core addition to community, college, and university library Political Science collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should be noted that "Ideas for Action" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).