Dreampolitik, with author Stephen Duncombe

Dreampolitik, with author Stephen Duncombe

The Change You Want to See is thrilled to host author and activist Steve Duncombe for a presentation and discussion of his acclaimed manifesto Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy. Beyond talk, this is also an applied strategy session – irrigate the irrational, practice your “spectacular vernacular”, exercise your imagination as we craft a creative street action in support of the Coalition of Imakolee Workers’ campaign against McDonald’s.
BYOB encouraged, as brainstorm and beer are like butter and bread.

Tuesday, March 27, at 7:30pm
The Change You Want to See Gallery and Convergence Stage
L to Bedford, G to Metropolitan, J/M/Z to Marcy
84 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn NY 11211

What do Paris Hilton, Grand Theft Auto, Las Vegas, and a McDonald’s commercial have in common with progressive politics? Not much. And, as Stephen Duncombe brilliantly argues, this is part of what’s wrong with progressive politics. According to Duncombe, culture — and popular fantasy – can help us define and actualize a new political aesthetic: a kind of dreampolitik, created not simply to further existing progressive political agendas but help us imagine new ones.

Dream makes the case for a political strategy that embraces a new set of tools. Although fantasy and spectacle have become the lingua franca of our time, Duncombe points out that liberals continue to depend upon sober reason to guide them. Instead, they need to learn how to communicate in today’s spectacular vernacular — not merely as a tactic but as a new way of thinking about and acting out politics. Learning from Las Vegas, however, does not mean adopting its values, as Duncombe demonstrates in outlining plans for what he calls “ethical spectacle.”

An electrifying new vision of progressive politics by a lifelong political activist and thinker, Dream is a twenty-first-century manifesto for the left, reclaiming the tools of hidden persuaders in the name of spectacular change.


Two opposite conclusions can be drawn from the fact that enjoyment is a political factor in late capitalism, that its politics are politics of fantasies: either a purist withdrawal into dessicated rationality or…or what Stephen Duncombe proposes, beating the enemy at its own terrain and thereby opening up a new field for radical politics. The book is simply the sine qua non for any renewal of Leftist politics – a must for anyone who wants the Left to overcome its purist shame!
— Slavoj Zizek

Imagination is central to all successful political projects and yet the mainstream left has allowed its imaginative faculty to atrophy in recent years. Duncombe shows how the methods of some of today’s most creative social movements can teach the left how to dream again and, by exercising its imagination, to create a winning progressive politics.
— Michael Hardt, co-author of Empire and Multitude

Stephen Duncombe teaches the history and politics of media and culture at the Gallatin School of New York University, where he is an associate professor. He co-founded the community activist organization the Lower East Side Collective and was one of the main organizers for the New York City chapter of the international direct action group Reclaim the Streets. He is the author of Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, the editor of the Cultural Resistance Reader, and the co-author of The Bobbed Haired Bandit.

2007 McDonald’s Truth Tour: Behind the Golden Arches

“Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for the fast-food industry are among this country’s most exploited workers. They face sweatshop conditions every day in the fields, have earned the same sub-poverty wages for the last 30 years, and are denied fundamental labor rights. Since 1997, federal officials working with the Coalition of Imakolee Workers (CIW) have uncovered and prosecuted five operations of modern-day slavery in the fields, freeing over 1000 workers.

In 2005, CIW, an organization of farmworkers based in Florida, reached an historic agreement with Taco Bell to address the ever-deepening poverty and decades of degradation faced by farmworkers. Over the past two years, however, fast-food giant McDonald’s has refused to work with the CIW to address the human rights crisis in its tomato supply chain. We are tired, as Martin Luther King said, of “relying on the good will and understanding of those who profit by exploiting us.”


March 27, 2007


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