Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Van Jones

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-56858-714-1
Publisher: Nation Books

Staunch advocacy for the Rebuild the Dream movement by its co-founder, who argues that to rebuild America's economy requires not simply a strong leader but a mass social movement.

Jones (The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems, 2008), an environmental activist and former special advisor to the Obama administration on clean-energy jobs, begins by examining the movements that preceded and helped to elect Obama and those that emerged to challenge him. As he scrutinizes the Tea Party, the author asks what can be learned from its success and what the Occupy movement needs to do to achieve its goals. Jones sifts through both the accomplishments and the mistakes of the Obama administration. In the second section, the author presents a neat framework that he calls the Heart Space/Head Space Grid for interpreting events and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of movements. Political success stories, he writes, must contain four elements: villain, threat, hero and vision. He demonstrates the presence or absence of these four factors in the Obama campaign, the Obama administration, the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement. To understand the mechanics behind these movements, he turns to swarm theory, the idea that decentralized, self-organized groups harness a sort of collective intelligence that renders them more resilient than vertical hierarchies. Jones describes how the Rebuild the Dream movement seeks consensus and bottom-up direction through community organizing, "crowd-sourcing," online petitions, digital projects and conferences. In the final section, the author introduces the Contract for the American Dream, a 10-point consensus-based program for reviving the economy based on local production, thrift, conservation and ecological restoration. Magazine-style sidebars accentuate the text, and simple diagrams illustrate the essential points of Jones’ arguments.

A confident clarion call sure to arouse controversy in this election year.