Key Texts

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The following list of books and articles are examples of publications about how to change society to create a more equal, fair, inclusive, democratic and sustainable world. This is not an inclusive list and only shows texts that some of the moderators experienced as helpful, but this is not representative of all moderators and of the full content and potential of the ActivistWiki website. Suggestions for other references welcome!

Alinsky, S.D, (1971). Rules for radicals: a pragmatic primer for realistic radicals. New York: Vintage. A description how community building can help to change society.  

Arquilla, J. & Ronfeldt, D. (2000). Swarming and the Future of Conflict. California. Rand. These guys are by no means supporters of radical activism but their explanation of how and why swarm action is so effective is spot on.

Baumgardner, J., Richards, A. & LadUke, W. (2005). Grassroots: a field guide for feminist activism. Paris: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The authors call this ‘a handbook for social justice’ , answering the question ‘what can I do’, based on experiences in feminist struggles but extending these experiences.

Bennett, W, L. and Segerberg, A. (2013). The Logic of Connective Action. Digital Media and the Personalisation of Contentious Politics. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. The KEY TEXT in the last few years on how new communication technologies are changing the structure of radical political activism. It outlines the nature of the bottom up politics which is emerging all round the world

Castells, M. (2009). Communication Power. Oxford. Oxford University Press. Castells is the main theorist of the emerging political power of participatory social movements which gain their power through these new communication technologies

Chambers, J. (2003). Roots for radicals: organizing for power, action and justice. Classic book on community building and direct action.

Chenoweth, E. & Stephan, M.J. (2011). Why civil resistance works. The strategic logic of nonviolent struggle. Columbia studies in terrorism and irregular warfare. New York: Columbia University Press. A scientific description of the reasons why nonviolent struggle is more effective than violent struggle.

Cooney, K. (2009). Change of heart: what psychology can teach us about spreading social change. Brooklyn: Lantern. How to use psychological strategies to create social change.

Dudouet, V. (ed.) (2015). Civil resistance and conflict transformation: Transitions from armed to nonviolent struggle. London: Routledge. Academic book with contributions from experts in the field of civil resistance and nonviolent revolt.

Earl, J. and Kimport, K. (2011). Digitally Empowered Social Change. Activism in the Internet Age.Cambridge Mass. MIT Press. Another great book of empirical research on how digital technology is increasingly enabling bottom up low cost activism

Easley, D. and Kleinberg, J. (2010). Networks, Crowds, and Markets. Reasoning in a Highly Connected World. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. Good text book on network theory and how social and political systems actually work.

Engler, M. & Engler, P. (2016). This is an uprising. How nonviolent revolt is shaping the twenty-first century. New York: Nation Books. Recommended for its clear description of the history of evidence-based and best-practice activism.

Fishkin, J.S. (2009). The People Speak. Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation. Oxford. Oxford University Press. A classic text on the practicalities of participatory deliberative democratic assemblies.

Freeman, J. (1970). The Tyranny of Structurelessness. Available at Accessed 3rd August 2013.  The KEY TEXTfor any people still under the illusion that structurelessness is cool and radical. No it’s a mess and creates hidden hierarchies.

Freire, P., Bergman Ramos, M., Macedo, D., & Shall, R. (2000/1986). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Describing the struggle for empowerment of oppressed individuals in society such as financially and socially marginalised groups.

Fung, A. and Wright, E. (2003) Deepening democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance. London. Verso. The main text in the last few years of how a synthesis of radical social movement action and state control can create innovative participatory structures. Details the Porto Alegri participatory budgeting system – the world’s most inspiring real world example of participatory democracy.

Gladwell, M. (2000). The Tipping Point. How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference. London. Abacus. The popularising book which brought to the world the reality of tipping points. Focuses on business and social areas – but the implications for radical politics should be obvious.

Jones, O. (2015). The Establishment and how they get away with it. London: Penguin. Recommended for its clear and shocking description how a small elite rules Britain.

Jones, P. (2007). Aftershock: confronting trauma in a violent world: a guide for activists and their allies. New York: Lantern Books. This book describes the traumas we experience in society and particular as activists, and how we could deal with these stressful experiences.

Kimberley, A.B., Kendall, J. & Max, S. (2001/1973). Organising for social change: Midwest academy manual for activists. New York: Seven Locks Press. This book has been described as helpful for organising actions. 

Klein, N. (2014). This changes everything: capitalism vs. the climate. New York: Simon & Schuster. An accessible book about the climate change and the struggle of environmentalists.

explaining how the idea of the commons is economically and socially feasible and possibly desirable.

MacLeod, J & Whelan, J. (2015). People power manual. Pasifica & The Change Agency. This manual has been self-described as "a resource created for organisers, activist educators and facilitators. Campaign strategy needn’t be mystifying, lonely or stressful. Social movements become more powerful as more people are equipped to analyse their political context, consider paths to change and mindfully plan tactics. This Campaign Strategy Guide equips activist educators to facilitate a range of participatory exercises with activists, organisers and citizens. It can also be used as a do-it-yourself guide for campaigners.".

Mason, P. (2015). Post-capitalism. A guide to our future. Milton Keyens: Penguin. A visionary book about how to create a different future, with suggestions for activists.

Martin, B. (2007). Justice Ignited. The Dynamics of Backfire. London. Bowman and Littlewood. Unfortunately the only book of I know of which explicitly examines examples of dilemma actions and the backfiring and subsequent mass mobilisations that happen when authorities overstep the mark. So the KEY TEXT on dilemma actions.
McAdam, D. (1982). Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930-1970. Chicago. Chicago University Press. A good examination of the high developed organisation and strategising behind the American black civil right movement

Mullainathan, S. and Shafir, E. (2014). Scarcity: the true cost of not having enough. London.Penguin. An example of the growing literature on behavioural economics and cognitive psychology, which shows how people really behave and why they do so. Not directly about activism but this literature has profound implications for the design of mobilisation. In this case the evidence shows that people are dumb because they don’t have enough attention. This is why we need to attract that attention and through open spaces direct that attention to realities of people’s political situation and to their collective ability to change it.

Olson, M. (1965). The Logic of Collective Action. Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Cambridge Mass. Havard University Press. The key political science text on why the masses – poor and marginalised – are buggered by small concentrated groups of elites who create collective action problems. The moral is that all activism has to work out how to overcome key problem in order to proceed.

Oswald, A. (2011). Herd Behaviour and Keeping up with the Jones. LSE lecture. Available at August 5th 2013. A fun but informative podcast which is a good introduction why people in groups act the way they do. I love the bit about dinosaurs entering the lecture theatre!

Piketty, T. (2014). Capital in the twenty-first century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. A modern classic academic book on economic and social inequality.

Klein, N. (2007). The shock doctrine. The rise of disaster capitalism. Canada: Knopf. A description how neoliberal capitalism has become the mainstream popular dogma in society.

Ostrom, E. (2015). Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Canto Classics. Academic book by a Noble Prize Winner in Economics,

Popovich, S. & Miller, M. (2014). Blueprint for Revolution. New York: Spiegel & Grau. Recommended for its accessible description about how to create creative actions, like those that ousted the dictator Milosovic in Serbia. 

Ricketts, Aidan. (2012). The activist's handbook. A step-by-step guide to participatory democracy. Zed Books: London, New York. Accessible book with examples for beginning activists. See full text:

Singer, P. (2009). The life you can save: acting now to end world poverty. London: Random House. This book provides a mixture of ethical and practical arguments and examples how we can help other people without over-exhausting ourselves.

Srnicek, N. & Williams, A. (2015). Inventing the future. Post-capitalism and a world without work. London: Verso books. A visionary book about how to create a different future, with suggestions for activists.

Seeds for Change. (2013). A consensus handbook, Co-operative activists, co-ops and communities. London: Seeds for Change. Specific, easy-to-do-use suggestions for democratic decision-making procedures in activist groups and society. Online for free:  See also other easy-to-use suggestions on this website about for instance how to  facilitate meetings.

Sharp, G. (2012). From dictatorship to democracy. Croydon: Serpent’s Tail. Recommended for its accessible suggestions how to create change in a dictatorship.

Sharp, G. (2005). Waging nonviolent struggle. 20th century practice and 21st potential. Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers. A classic book on how nonviolent protest can be effective in creating a better society.

Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody. The Power of Organising without Organisations. London. Penguin. The main text on how digital technologies open up new possibilities of bottom up organisation. Cheerfully liberal but a discerning reader can see the revolutionary potential which the author largely misses!

Stiglitz, J.E. (2012). The price of inequality. London: Penguin Books. Brilliant description of the evidence of structural socio-economic inequality in western societies, and why this is a bad thing.

Zuniga, M.M. & Kos, D. (2008). Taking on the system. Rules for radical change in a digital era. Inspiring description of changing society and using digital means.  

Useful pages 

CANVAS. Tactics from the activist group that ousted Milosovic in Serbia. 

Change Agency. Helpful tools for training in activism.

Citizen's Handbook A website with many practical suggestions how to create societal change.

Civic Practices Network. A website with practical suggestions. 

Community Toolbox. A website with suggestions for improving the community.

Einstein Institute Boston. The institute behind non-violent action, led by Gene Sharp. 

Green and Black Cross. Useful resource about the legal rights of activists and demonstrators in the UK; they also have a 24/7 phone line for support. 

Human Rights Tactics. Human rights activism. 

Marketing teacher. General marketing tools (not specifically for activists). 

Network for Climate Action: Good resource to learn how to organise direct action

Radical Routes. Netwoik of cooperatives, with useful publkications on how to set up coops. 

Seeds for Change.  Good resources with practical suggestions about organising activism, such as facilitation and decision making procedures. 

Social Movement Study. Information about the development and dynamics of social movements for activists.  

Training for change (also in Spanish).   Helpful practical tools for creating social change.

Turning the tide. Texts and training on changing society. 

Activist Trauma Net. Useful resource for activists who experienced traumatic events and/or activist burnout.