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Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America Paperback – November 9, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Ben Dangl breaks the sound barrier, exploding many myths about Latin America that are all-too-often amplified by the corporate media in the United States. Read this much-needed book.—Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!

Dancing with Dynamite dares to navigate the cloudy waters of Latin American social movements in the wake of the neoliberal wave, something which increasingly fewer thinkers and activists dare to do, but which turns out to be urgent.—Raúl Zibechi, Uruguayan journalist and author of Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces

Dangl brings complicated politics to life by infusing them with the magic, mystery and unbridled joy that invigorate social movements and permeate Latin American life in general.—Kari Lydersen, author of Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover and What it Says About the Economic Crisis

The relationship between mass movements and left-leaning governments is enormously complex. The subject requires careful handling. You don’t have to agree with all of Dangl’s characterizations of Latin American leaders to get a great deal from this thoughtful and well-reported book. Dancing succeeds in illuminating the gray zones between passion and power that must be negotiated on the road to building a humanist society everywhere.—Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus

Dancing with Dynamite is more than a simple romantic fascination with far-off, exotic revolutions. It offers a glimpse of what we might find beyond the crisis that has paralyzed us, the first inklings of that process that, should it come to fruition, is guaranteed to strike terror in the hearts of the Great Men of History.—Clifton Ross, for CounterPunch

On the whole, Dangl guides the reader through a rapid and fascinating survey of South America’s “pink tide”, capturing the vicissitudes of today’s relationships between social movements and states. That the book is more a combination of journalism and polemic than an academic text generally works to its advantage in terms of readability and accessibility, although it does miss opportunities to dialogue with, and be informed by a broader body of thought on the nature of the state and its relationship to society. However, Dancing with Dynamite serves as a good primer for the newcomer to the region’s contemporary politics, while its revealing interviews add additional texture for closer observers of Latin America.—Jason Tockman, North American Congress on Latin America

This book is important and, I dare say, necessary for everyone who cares about the potential of social movements to take the lead in their dance with power.—Malcolm Bell, Interconnect

The book prompts the reader to think about what we mean when we talk about social movements being co-opted or undermined by ‘the state’. The state is complex and if we treat it as an undifferentiated institution we may not identify clearly enough what the problem is.

The lessons of this book for us in the UK concern both the possibilities and the pitfalls of the dance – as well as the need to support the progressive changes now sweeping Latin America.
—Mike Geddes, for Red Pepper

Dangl’s latest offering provides an opportunity for the subjects of the social changes underway in Latin America to speak for themselves and tell their own story.—Federico Fuentes, for Green Left

At the moment South America is a laboratory of practice. Dancing with Dynamite is a fascinating account of the experiments happening there.—Matt Wasserman, for The Indypendent

About the Author

Benjamin Dangl is an independent journalist with one foot in Latin America and the other in the United States. He is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, which offers progressive perspectives on world events and UpsideDownWorld.org, an online magazine uncovering activism and politics in Latin America. He won a 2007 Project Censored Award for his reporting on US military operations in Paraguay.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: AK Press (November 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849350159
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849350150
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In recent years, hopes rose high among long-oppressed peoples across South America, only to be disappointed as one new, supposedly leftist leader after another moved towards the predatory right. What happened? In this short, dense, fascinating book, Benjamin Dangl brings on-the-scene reporting, pertinent history, and informed analysis to the shifting and often problematic relationships - the dances - between the governments of seven nations and the popular movements that helped put them in power.

Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay Venezuela, Brazil, and Paraguay each get a chapter. Apart from Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, which have their own issues, the question is, Why have these governments shifted to the right of these movements, sometimes becoming merely "the lesser of two evils," sometimes actually betraying the movements and the people? I asked as I read, Why has Obama done this too?

The answers are complex, vary from nation to nation, and to some extent remain state secrets. Mr. Dangl describes each dance well and goes far to explain it. Bureaucracy, corruption, the perceived need to get along with international capitalism and to woo moderate voters, the ever-present threat from the right and pro-exploitation pressures from the US all help to call the tune. Yet except perhaps in hapless Paraguay, the peoples of all these nations seem to be largely better off than they were before. US corporations still poison land, water, and humans, though in fewer places than before. And hope remains, especially to the extent that popular movements maintain their integrity, autonomy, and effectiveness. The last chapter makes a strong case for activist movements in the US.

"The challenges for movements are similar in the north and south," Mr. Dangl writes.
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Benjamin Dangl could well be writing about North American Labor History in describing the conflicts between owners supported by the police, private armed forces and thugs and laborers especially miners in sections of his book. Or about the sit-ins in our auto industry locking the owners out and leading to the formation of industrial unions across the economy. These conflicts have deliberately been lost in memory in the North of our continent but are still in process in the South, and what is interesting, may tell us something about our own future, if the turbulence of discontent within the U. S. -- as it has twisted over time-- is not resolved.
Latin America may lead from the front stead follow from behind because the Oligarchs' greed was so great that real change is now occurring in many countries.
His country by country account shows that when leftist governments finally come to power the results can be more than disappointing as social movements are politicized by association with political parties and lose their drive, less their criticisms aid the opposition. Vote for lesser evil and hope, existing power does not just drift away. This is a reoccurring theme.

He gives one clear example of this not happening in Brazil where the MST Landless Movement helps the PT party of President Lula win elections but then refuses to be absorbed, maintains independence and achieves goals without government support or approval including the expropriation of some thirty-five million acres of land occupied by nearly 400,000 families, building schools and health facilities and wielding independent political influence.
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If you want to have a timely assessment of Central and south America, and how things got to where they are, this is a great read.
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