Radicals Chasing Utopia sets out to be your user guide to radical movements

Image: Kalispera Dell / CC 3.0

In a time of worldwide rebellion against the political norms, it can seem impossible to keep up with the onslaught of movements set to change the course of world history.

Thankfully, Jamie Bartlett’s Radicals Chasing Utopia: Inside the Rogue Movements Trying to Change World (Nation Books, June 13, 2017), seeks to connect readers to a handful of those movements. Bartlett brings readers deep inside the libertarian movement as they attempt to create a perfect libertarian utopia, filled with imaginary Bitcoins and so much freedom you’ll die because you can’t afford healthcare, to the pits of the far-right as Bartlett spends time with the former English Defense League’s Tommy Robinson.

When it comes to current events, the Robinson chapter that resonates the most as around the globe far-right, anti-immigration groups attempt to pass themselves off not as racist, but rationals. Bartlett embedded with Robinson through his attempt to launch Pegida-UK, an anti-Islam action group that Robinson hoped would be less controversial than his previous stint with EDL.

Bartlett paints the group, and Robinson with far too kind a brush, but does an excellent job of spelling out their beliefs, especially how they see themselves. Even venturing as far to claim they are not the fascists the world thinks they are.

Unfortunately for the reader, Bartlett seems slightly unaware of the history of the anti-fascist movement and doesn’t paint their interaction with Robinson in a favorable light. Instead, he paints the group as ignorant to Robinson’s positions and makes them out to be the antagonist against a man marching to remove rights from human beings.

While the reader can appreciate the honest reporting on working with Robinson, the book lacks a real leftist rebellion perspective and instead opens by telling readers other books have been written doing such. However, if this is the only book a reader opens on radical movements happening around the world, they are going to leave a slight sense of sympathy for Robinson, even when finding his views abhorrent, and will know nothing about the worldwide anti-fascist movement to stop him and those like him.

Perhaps the books most eye-opening moment comes when Bartlett brings the reader on a journey through the eyes of someone who leaves the comfort of their home to join ISIS or other radical Islamic movements.

This may be one of the hardest things for a Westerner to understand. How does someone become radicalized online? In their community? How are they convinced to leave it all behind to what may seem like an imminent death?

While politicians and famed atheists argue about the dangers of faith versus an aggressive foreign policy, young people are packing their bags and sneaking around the globe to fight for these extremist groups.

Few books and even fewer authors have the opportunity to bring you this close to those decisions and bring the reader right into the moment.

While the book may fall slightly short for its lack of the biggest leftist movements fighting for change, choosing instead to showcase fringe movements such as transhumanism, the book is enlightening in many ways.

It is said one of the best ways to fight your enemy is to know them, and reading about Robinson, Pegida-UK and getting to know the libertarian movement in a little more depth certainly prepares the reader to combat such dangerous ideologies.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of the right, or even just some out of the ordinary movements looking to change the world as we know it, Bartlett’s Radicals Chasing Utopia will deliver.

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