Over the past couple days I’ve gone through the four body chapters of the book manuscript, and attempted to identify the major arguments I’m making/want to make with this book. As a writing exercise, this sets me up to know exactly what needs to be communicated in my introduction and conclusion chapters, and to be reassured that these are the points guiding the content of everything that comes in between. Here they are:
- Lifestyle practices are communicative; they especially establish self-identification and group membership.
- Identity performance, as well as community cohesion and distinction, are major motivators (and effects) of lifestyle practices.
- Postmodern political identities are centrally constituted through lifestyles. This leaves them open to contestation, which may be strategically advantageous and in fact internally consistent with anarchist political philosophy.
- Lifestyle tactics (e.g. anti-consumption) “do” more than simply fulfill material, strategic goals (like subverting capitalism). They thus need to be analyzed, critiqued, and evaluated for all their potential effects.
- Lifestyle practices may also be imagined as symbolic communicators of political philosophy, but this is perhaps a less effective form of “work” done by subcultural styles, since they may be difficult to interpret for outside audiences.
- Certain tactics (i.e. certain lifestyle practices) may be more attractive, practicable, and legible for non-marginal subjects. This can lead to internal homogeneity within activist movements, as well as the reproduction of mainstream patterns of identity hierarchy within the activist subculture.
- The “lifestylization” of radical activist movements brings both diffusion of their political ideals and defusion of them. This tension is unresolvable – the only solution is to evaluate very specific situations and to decide whether the trade-off is worth it for any particular lifestyle-based tactic in any particular context.
- The expressive versus instrumental effects of lifestyle practices need to be distinguished and considered when weighing the intent and success of these practices as activist tactics.
- A solution to the problem of lifestyle activism sliding into neoliberal individualism is collective, reflexive, intersectional, and strategic critique, along with ethical discipline around preferred tactics, tempered by situational adaptability and moral humility.
This is 9 major points right now. I think that by the time I finish the final chapter it will be an even 10. That does sound like a lot of arguments for one book, but I’m sure some of these could be combined. I will have to eventually figure out the one, major, overarching point, to tell people when I meet them in elevators, but I’ll wait on that for now.