In Defense of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action

October 31, 2020
In Defense of Looting: A Riotous History of Uncivil Action

A radical argument for why rioting and looting are ourmost powerful tools of dismantling white supremacy.Looting--a crowd of people publicly, openly, and directlyseizing goods--is one of the more extreme actions that take canplace in the midst of social unrest. Even self-identified radicalsdistance themselves from looters, fearing that violent tacticsreflect badly on the broader movement.However, in this deftly argued corrective, Vicky Osterweilargues that while looting is often maligned in today's society, itis, and has always been, one of our most powerful tools ofdismantling capitalism and white supremacy. Stealing goods anddestroying property are a direct means of wealth redistribution anda practical, immediate way of improving life for the workingclass-- not to mention a brazen message to the police, the state,and an unjust society. All our beliefs about the innaterighteousness of property and ownership, Osterweil explains, arebuilt on the history of anti-Black and settler oppression--meaningthat belief in the right to own property is innately, structurallywhite supremacist.From the slave revolts that started a social revolution in theSouth to the more recent #BlackLivesMatter and climate changemovements, Osterweil makes a convincing case for rioting andlooting as weapons that bludgeon the status quo while uplifting thepoor and marginalized. In Defense of Looting is a history ofviolent protest sparking social change; a compelling reframing ofradical activism; and a practical vision for the redistribution ofwealth, a new relationship to property, and a radicallyrestructured society.