Spaces of Quiet Radicalism

By Kate Botterill

In the current climate of election fervour where mainstream political candidates are claiming to offer a new set of ‘progressive’ politics for social change, there is growing interest for the alternative opinions on offer in a number of grassroots radical bookshops. There is optimism among booksellers about the resilience of grassroots activism for radical political alternatives and the re- energising of social movements in the context of economic crises.

Natalie Hanman reflects on the radical bookshop as a place of resistance to contemporary politics in an article in the Guardian. The heyday of radical bookselling was during the Thatcher era in the 1980s and while the number of stores has declined, Hanman claims there is a ‘fightback in the radical bookselling sector, and a mounting backlash among the public against mainstream chain book stores – and mainstream politics’.

Celebrating the birthday of Antipode this year, Michael J Watts writes about the development of the radical journal of geography, reflecting on what it means to be a radical geographer today. Watts traces the roots of Antipode, and it’s emergence into the ‘firmament of the 1970s’. He draws parallels between now and then reflecting that ‘this time around one might say that the firmament is defined by the catastrophic consequences of the capitalist project launched in the 1970s. First time tragedy, second time farce’.

Watts sets out a case for geographers to re-engage with the radical project. He draws on the ideas of David Harvey, Edward Thompson and Roberto Ungen in arguing the need to develop an alternative to a neoliberal hegemony. The ideas and activities taking shape in radical bookshops demonstrate that spaces of radicalism continue to resist what Ungen refers to as a ‘dictatorship of no alternatives’.

Read Watts, M.J. (2010) Now and Then. Antipode, 41:s1

Read Natalie Hanman’s article, ‘the return of radical bookshops’ in the Guardian

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