The Politics of Resistance

Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Science and emeritus editor of Dissent, builds upon his article "The Idea of Resistance," published by the magazine in 1960.

Resistance is a very old form of political action—much older than democracy itself. Long before political theorists conceived of a plastic political order that could be reformed or refashioned at will, they had elaborated ways of responding to oppression. These responses were not aggressive or transformative but rather defensive and limited.

. . . Resistance is often a spontaneous action, as the sit-ins in the 1930s and in 1960 were; they took labor leaders and black leaders by surprise. But spontaneity does not win elections; it doesn’t reshape the National Labor Relations Board or enforce voting rights laws. For that we need organization, strategic thinking, and tactical discipline. Alongside local resistance, we need a national political campaign. . . . The politics of resistance just might produce a left with legs.

Read more at Dissent.