If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution (Hardcover)
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The story of the recent uprisings that sought to change the world - and what comes next
From 2010 to 2020, more people participated in protests than at any other point in human history. Yet we are not living in more just and democratic societies as a result. IF WE BURN is a stirring work of history built around a single, vital question: How did so many mass protests lead to the opposite of what they asked for?
From the so-called Arab Spring to Gezi Park in Turkey, from Ukraine’s Euromaidan to student rebellions in Chile and Hong Kong, acclaimed journalist Vincent Bevins provides a blow-by-blow account of street movements and their consequences, recounted in gripping detail. He draws on four years of research and hundreds of interviews conducted around the world, as well as his own strange experiences in Brazil, where a progressive-led protest explosion led to an extreme-right government that torched the Amazon.
Careful investigation reveals that conventional wisdom on revolutionary change is gravely misguided. In this groundbreaking study of an extraordinary chain of events, protesters and major actors look back on successes and defeats, offering urgent lessons for the future.
About the Author
Vincent Bevins is an award-winning journalist. He reported for the Financial Times in London, then served as the Brazil correspondent for the Los Angeles Times before covering Southeast Asia for the Washington Post.
His first book, The Jakarta Method, was named one of the best books of 2020 by NPR, GQ, the Financial Times, and CounterPunch, and has been translated into fifteen languages. Vincent lives in São Paulo.
“This 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.”—Greg Grandin, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The End of the Myth
“In this remarkably assured and sweeping history of the present, Vincent introduces us to the activists, hackers, punks, martyrs, and the millions of ordinary people whose small 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.”—Merve Emre, critic, New Yorker
“Ambitious, diligently researched, and provocative, If We Burn will transform the way you think. Vincent Bevins’ detailed, comparative reporting offers a riveting look at the contradictions, unexpected consequences, and lessons of mass protests.”—Alexa Hagerty, author of Still Life with Bones
“I was not expecting this, but I think If We Burn is even better than The Jakarta Method.”—Benjamin Fogel, editor, Jacobin
"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.”—The New Republic
“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. I cannot think of a book that so soberly and forensically analysed the very recent past. If We Burn is about as good as journalism gets.”—Rob Delaney, author of A Heart that Works
“A must-read for anyone trying to make sense of the profound global transformations since 2008. If We Burn brilliantly interweaves lived experiences and historical context to explain the confusing and effervescent years that changed not only Brazil, but the world as we know it. And the prose is delightful. I started reading and could not stop.”—Rosana Pinheiro-Machado, author of Amanhã Vai Ser Maior and The Rise of the Radical Right in the Global South
“Once you have read this incredible new book, you will start seeing its lessons absolutely everywhere, all around you.”—Dharna Noor, climate reporter at The Guardian
“The best book I read this year....If We Burn is a globetrotting journey of historical reportage. Bevins conducted more than 200 interviews in 10 countries. Attentive to local particularities, he diligently retells how each protest developed before zooming out to ponder the implications for the 'mass protest decade' and consider what would be required for such movements to succeed in the future”—Eamon Whalen, Mother Jones
“[This is] hands down the best account – scholarly or journalistic – of the protest decade (2010-2020) across the world. Absolutely brilliant, sensitive, thoughtful, and so wonderful to think with.”—Laleh Khalili, author of Sinews of War and Trade
“This insightful study should prove valuable to future activists across the globe.” —Kirkus
“Bevins’s colorful reportage captures the élan of militants…and he’s also incisive in his critique….The result is an illuminating postmortem on a decade of false dawns.”—Publishers Weekly
“Tremendous”—Ryan Grim, The Intercept
“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.”—Jonathan Guyer, Vox
“[A] remarkable new history….For a full decade, mobilized by social media and inflamed by the inequities of globalization, the world was on fire with mass protest.”—David Wallace-Wells, New York Times Magazine
“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.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“A riveting, almost novelistic narrative."—Dazed
“This book is outstanding."—Benjamin Moser, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sontag
“Outstanding….[Bevins] cares enough about his subjects to do them justice. His memorable descriptions are among the book’s chief pleasures. It’s hard to forget the ‘rowdy and gregarious’ Mayara, fan of the all-woman Brazilian punk band Menstruação Anarquika (Anarchic Menstruation), or Bahar, the ‘wry and impish scientist’ who joined Turkey’s uprising.”—Current Affairs
“Bevins honed his skill for unpacking complicated political history in his last book, The Jakarta Method, a masterful account….In If We Burn, he sets the table for each mass uprising in a way that often feels like a conversation with an encyclopedically informed globetrotting friend.”—Los Angeles Times
"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."—The New York Times Book Review
“This book tries to solve perhaps the most important puzzle posed by recent history"—Daniel Denvir, n+1 magazine book recommendations
“If We Burn achieves its very difficult aim – quite like what Naomi Klein’s landmark No Logo did as the last millennium closed – of getting a grip over events spread across the globe with solid reportage….This book is essential reading.”—The Wire (India)