Wonderful, quick, and practical volume on what mutual aid is, why it is important, and how to create and sustain a mutual aid program. Dean Spade writes with the clarity and confidence of a seasoned veteran of organizing and movement building. Mutual Aid is a nice companion to my favorite organizing books by adrienne maree brown. It lacks the holistic and spiritual qualities of doing social change work that brown’s Emergent Strategy series does, instead focusing on the practicalities of getting work done. Use them together to develop a robust approach to your own social change practice, that ideally places mutual aid—one of the most powerful strategies—at the heart of your efforts.
As an academic, I would have liked to see more references to literature on mutual aid because I know scholars have written about it and want to follow up on the sources. I also understand that this is not an academic volume and scholars are not (and should not be) the primary audience. The practical tools that are compiled here are formidable. I expect all folks engaged in changemaking will find something of value perhaps new in this book. The penultimate chapter “No Masters, No Flakes” was stuffed with practical ideas and frameworks. I learned about Mad Mapping there for the first time and love the idea of creating a guide to your future self for how to deal with burnout.
As Spade urges, we need more mutual aid efforts in the world and we need more folks reading this book and applying its ideas!
I had been looking forward to reading this book since it came out and finally cracked it on summer vacation. It’s an excellent popular sociology volume that mixes original research with literature review and journalistic storytelling. The core argument of the value and importance of our social infrastructure is inspirational to folks who design spaces and try to cultivate community through their work. It’s also a beautiful love letter to libraries, one of our best examples of social infrastructure. The value we place on libraries in the United States is really uneven. Like K-12 schooling, everyone has opinion about what libraries are good for because they went to one as a kid and it either was important to them or it wasn’t or they believe it worked for them in one way and that’s how it always should be or all libraries are like that and thus irrelevant today. We make a lot of assumptions about our social infrastructure in general. It’s hard to analyze one’s own environment. Thankfully, Eric Klinenberg helps us see what’s there and what’s not and what the potential of good social infrastructure design is. I highly recommend it!
S. Chowdhary, S. Daitzman, R. Eisenbud, E. Pan and E. Graeff, “Care and Liberation in Creating a Student-Led Public Interest Technology Clinic,” in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 50-52, Sept. 2021, doi: 10.1109/MTS.2021.3101915.
Engineers disengage from public welfare concerns during undergraduate engineering education . In her widely cited study, Erin Cech argued that this arises from a culture of depoliticization in engineering that dismisses “nontechnical” concerns and competencies, reifying a false technical/social dichotomy and meritocratic ideology that justifies existing social structures. Our college, Olin College of Engineering, was part of that study, displaying similar patterns to more traditional schools. We are resisting that trend by embracing “public interest technology” (PIT) , which we believe offers a response to the culture of disengagement. In our application, PIT represents a community of practice that encourages engineers to fully engage with context, inequity, and uncertainty; to connect technical work to their own lives and environment; and to prioritize the common good while minimizing public harms.
Thick is an excellent collection of Black feminist essays. We are lucky to have Tressie McMillan Cottom’s brain and pen. As an academic trained in sociology, I particularly appreciate Cottom’s approach of blending candid personal narrative, social theory, social scientific facts, and clear as day opinion. These essays are highly readable for a non-academic audience, yet she doesn’t dumb down the ideas or pull any punches. She is asking us to do the work.
The book revisits other pieces she has written. Some of the essays are revisions, others are new responses to conversations sparked by old essays. She writes to clarify her own thinking and make clear the social world surrounding us from the perspectives we usually don’t hear or ignore. Thus, her essays include narratives and metanarratives. Cottom helps us understand why and how she writes. And she explains her specific goals and vision for a society that listens to Black women, that takes their experience and wisdom seriously. There aren’t any hidden agendas here; they are out in the open. She wants us to discuss them. That’s the point.
I love her voice (she is also great in her interviews on television and radio), and I look forward to future collections of her writing.