The Emotional Experience of Political Defeat

In the struggle for a better world, setbacks are inevitable. Defeat can feel overwhelming at times, but it has to be endured. How then do the people on the front line keep going? To answer that question, Hannah Proctor draws on historical resources to find out how revolutionaries and activists of the past kept a grip on hope.

Burnout considers despairing former Communards exiled to a penal colony in the South Pacific; exhausted Bolsheviks recuperating in sanatoria in the aftermath of the October Revolution; an ex-militant on the analyst's couch relating dreams of ruined landscapes; Chinese peasants engaging in self-criticism sessions; a political organiser seeking advice from a spiritual healer; civil rights movement activists battling weariness; and a group of feminists padding a room with mattresses to scream about the patriarchy. Jettisoning self-help narratives and individualizing therapy talk, Proctor offers a different way forward - neither denial nor despair. Her cogent exploration of the ways militants have made sense of their own burnout demonstrates that it is possible to mourn and organise at once, and to do both without compromise.

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Verso Books


Adult Non Fiction

History and Politics and Mind, Body and Spirit

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