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If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution

On sale

3rd October 2023

Price: £25

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Selected: Digital (deliver electronic) / ISBN-13: 9781035412297

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This book is phenomenal … It’s about as good as journalism gets …The highest praise I can give If We Burn is to say that it would be criminally negligent not to read it if you’d like to change the world. – ROB DELANEY

Bevins’s clear-eyed, sympathetic account of the unfulfilled promise of these protests leaves his reader with a bold vision of the future. – MERVE EMRE

A stunning history of now. – GREG GRANDIN

From 2010 to 2020, more people took part in protests than at any other point in human history. Why has success been so elusive?

From the so-called Arab Spring to Gezi Park in Turkey, from Ukraine’s Euromaidan to student rebellions in Chile and Hong Kong, the second decade of the twenty-first century was propelled by explosive mass demonstrations. But few people got what they wanted. In too many cases, the protests led to the opposite of what they asked for.

If We Burn is a stirring work of global history built around that strange but fundamental paradox. Acclaimed journalist Vincent Bevins interviewed hundreds of people around the world, and weaves their insights and recollections into a fast-paced, gripping narrative. We follow his own troubling experiences in Brazil, where a protest movement ignited by leftists and anarchists led to an extreme-right government that torched the Amazon.

In the mass protest decade, humanity demonstrated a deep desire for change, and brave individuals started something that has been left unfinished. In this ground-breaking study of an extraordinary chain of events, protesters and major actors offer urgent lessons for those who wish to understand geopolitics today, and create a better world tomorrow.

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Reviews

Rob Delaney, author of A Heart that Works
This book is phenomenal. A thrilling, blow by blow (and often live on-the-ground) analysis of how the various people-led movements and revolutions over the last decade succeeded or failed. Incalculably useful to anyone who'd like to make substantive, enduring changes to their town, country or even the world. It's an incredible follow up to The Jakarta Method - which focused on the development of the CIA and the seismic and often horrific global consequences - and sees Bevins applying his near-heroic methods of investigation to more recent events. It's about as good as journalism gets and Bevins is uniquely positioned to get the goods, just due to the sheer amount of time he spends in the places he writes about, fostering relationships and suffering from unquenchable curiosity. I cannot think of a book that so soberly and forensically analysed the very recent past and looked at what went right and what went terribly wrong. The highest praise I can give If We Burn is to say that it would be criminally negligent not to read it if you'd like to change the world. And why wouldn't you?
Eamon Whalen, Mother Jones
The best book I read this year.
Merve Emre, Wesleyan University, critic for The New Yorker
In this remarkably assured and sweeping history of the present, Vincent Bevins asks some of the most urgent questions for contemporary life: How can a multitude of ardent, angry, and hopeful people harness their energies for profound political change? And what happens if they fail? If We Burn travels the world in search of an answer and, along the way, introduces us to the activists, hackers, punks, martyrs, and the millions of ordinary people whose spontaneous acts of bravery spurred the mass protests of the last decade. Bevins's clear-eyed, sympathetic account of the unfulfilled promise of these protests leaves his reader with a bold vision of the future - one in which his book's lessons are used to transform an uprising into a true revolution.
Benjamin Moser, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sontag
This book is outstanding.
Greg Grandin, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The End of the Myth
Vincent Bevins' compelling new book, If We Burn, is a wondrous work of mystery writing, an effort to solve the riddle: why has a decade of large-scale rolling revolts produced no revolution, no significant structural reform? I can't think of any journalist other than Bevins who would dare to ask such a question, or be capable of weaving together seemingly discrete global events into a stunning history of now. Have we planted seeds for a better future or have the gears of change frozen for good? Bevins lets the people he talked to, those on the street, answer.
Los Angeles Review of Books
Crucially, the book draws deeply on protestors' own words. If We Burn thereby offers both a postmortem of the last decade of mass protest and a blueprint for the inevitable next. In searching for the missing revolution, Bevins may help others find it after all.
New York Times Book Review
The critically acclaimed Jakarta Method was a scathing exposé of the central role the C.I.A. played in orchestrating Indonesia's savage 1965 anti-communist pogrom. If We Burn is both more ambitious and more wide-ranging.
Ryan Grim, The Intercept
Tremendous.
Jonathan Guyer, Vox
Vincent Bevins emerged as a leading chronicler of US empire in his 2020 book The Jakarta Method, in which he explored the dirty legacy of the Cold War. His new book, If We Burn, is more personal and even more urgent. And somehow, a little hopeful, too.
Dazed
A riveting, almost novelistic narrative.
The New Republic
Bevins has spent the last 10 years or so following and interviewing in search of answers. 'The point was not just to notice that the mass protest decade hasn't really worked out,' he muses toward the end of the book. 'The idea was to understand why.' Fortunately, he comes away from his globe-trotting search with critical lessons for activists both here and abroad.