Neither Vertical Nor Horizontal: A Theory of Political Organization


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$29.95  $27.85
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.1 X 0.9 inches | 0.8 pounds

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About the Author

Rodrigo Nunes is professor of modern and contemporary philosophy at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), Brazil. He is the author of Organisation of the Organisationless: Collective Action After Networks and of numerous articles in publications such as Les Temps Modernes, Radical Philosophy, South Atlantic Quarterly, Jacobin, Al Jazeera and The Guardian. As an organizer and popular educator, he has been involved in several initiatives in Brazil and in Europe, including the first editions of the World Social Forum.


"This is the book we've been waiting for: Rodrigo Nunes systematically assesses the problems the left has faced since the Occupy movement and its failure. A must-read for the activists of our time."
--Franco 'Bifo' Berardi, author of Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility

"This is quite an achievement: one of those period-defining books that turns all usual assumptions upside down."
--Wu Ming, authors of Q and Altai

"This is an exciting, innovative book. Rodrigo Nunes has utterly revitalised the stale theory of political organisation with new evidence, new thinking and new strategic concepts. All of the suffocating clichés of both horizontalists and vanguardists are briskly overturned here. Everyone can learn something from this book."
--Richard Seymour, author of Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics

"How is to be done? With whom? With what? Soberly reckoning with the limits of a decade of mass movements against austerity and authoritarianism, and writing in the harsh glare of our warming condition, Nunes enjoins us to revisit the theory of organisation beyond the party as fetish or bogeyman. Drawing on a rich trove of sources - from Spinoza to Bogdanov, cybernetic theory to contemporary activism - Neither Vertical nor Horizontal is an indispensable critical and clinical intervention into the principal political problem of our time."
--Alberto Toscano, author of Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea

"A tremendous book - a thoughtful, deep synthesis of lessons learned over the last twenty years of struggle for a world beyond capital. I was not only constantly struck by the many insights you generate from a novel theoretical collocation (I love the second-order cybernetics plus Spinozist Marx combination), but also deeply moved. Reading the book was therapeutic: after completing it I felt partially healed from the political disappointments, traumas and feuds of the last two decades, because you demonstrate how something can be learned from it all, something that goes forward. It's a courageous and brilliant volume."
--Nick Dyer-Witheford, University of Western Ontario, author of Cyber-Proletariat: Global Labour in the Digital Vortex

"A crucial part of our thinking on the future of organisation is rooted in Rodrigo Nunes' work."
--Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, authors of Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work

"In Neither Vertical Nor Horizontal, Rodrigo Nunes has handed a great gift to anyone attempting to create a more just world. Both theoretically rich and intensely practical, Nunes's book is not a guide to what is to be done. Rather, it is much more important: it is a guide to thinking more honestly, clearly, and generously about the work of social movements. It will help us to ask better questions and to be better comrades, to be more willing to admit to and learn from mistakes as well as successes. Most importantly, it will help the thing we call "the movement" not just to fail better but to have a real chance to win."
--Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble and Work Won't Love You Back

"The sudden explosions, fleeting victories, and apparent failures of the last fifteen years have raised very difficult questions for people committed to building a better world. This book provides many of the answers."
--Vincent Bevins, author of The Jakarta Method and If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution

"Neither Vertical Nor Horizontal charts a clear path out of the conceptual and tactical impasse within which much of the radical left has found itself stuck for decades. Clear, rigorous and readable, this is one of the most important books to have been published at the junction between political theory and political strategy for many years."
--Jeremy Gilbert, University of East London, co-author of Hegemony Now: How Big Tech and Wall Street Won the World (and How We Win it Back)

"In this book Rodrigo Nunes brings classic issues of political organisation back to the table in light of the experiences that social movements have encountered in the first decades of the 21st century. With a style that stresses provocations and contradictions as a method for transcending exclusive dichotomies between horizontality versus verticality and between the subjective versus the objective, this book updates for the struggles of the present debates that cannot be taken for finished, let alone settled. Full of useful formulas for synthesising contemporary debates, this work is an exhaustive analysis of how "diversity of strategies" can coexist with the search for structural effects on various scales. The non-linear and combined strategy that emerges from Nunes' proposal is of both philosophical and political interest, and a key contribution to the movements facing the urgent dilemmas of our day."
--Verónica Gago, University of Buenos Aires, author of Feminist International: How to Change Everything

"This is a book born out of a passionate participation in movements and struggles over the last twenty years in different parts of the world. It makes key contributions to the vexed question of organization, revisiting it in a world made up by complex dependences, circuits, and connections. Rethinking organization and political action ecologically, Rodrigo Nunes displaces alternatives that have haunted debates on the left for some time now, as for instance the between vertical and horizontal, movement and party, micro and macropolitics. In so doing, he opens a new space for political experiments on the field of organization -- that is, for the effectiveness (or "fitness") of transformative political action."
--Sandro Mezzadra, University of Bologna, co-author of Border as Method and The Politics of Operations

"Don't Mourn, Organize is a slogan that gained popularity in the wake of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. However, the imperative to organize contains its own divisions and contradictions: between notions of organization from outside and within, hierarchy and spontaneity, vertical and horizontal. Rodrigo Nunes examines the unstated philosophical presuppositions underlying these divisions in order to advance a new theory of organization based on a diverse ecology of different forces and factors, overcoming those dualisms for good. In doing so, Nunes engages with thinkers as diverse as Spinoza, Bateson, and Lenin, demonstrating that such concepts as affect, transindividuality, and ecology are not philosophical distractions from the political but necessary to rethink the basis of politics itself."
--Jason Read, University of Southern Maine, author of The Politics of Transindividuality

"Political theory and philosophy have relegated the question of organization to the social sciences and management. In breaking this mold, Rodrigo Nunes releases the debate on organization from historical experiences of trauma and melancholia. Neither Vertical nor Horizontal opens vistas in which the left can win, not once and for all but here and now."
--Brett Neilson, Western Sydney University, co-author of Border as Method and The Politics of Operations

"Is vertical or horizontal organisation more desirable for social movements and left-wing parties? Rodrigo Nunes intervenes in this longstanding debate about more hierarchical and participatory forms of organisation by thoughtfully revealing how organisational decisions always need to be taken in light of a broader ecology of organisations and relations. No man is an island, an no organisation exists in the void."
--Paolo Gerbaudo, King's College London, author of The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic

"Neither Vertical nor Horizontal provides compelling insights about several key issues of contemporary militancy, in particular the need for social movements to organize ecologically in order to be effective. It also assesses the link between the rise of complexity theory and the process of increasing depoliticization since the 1980s in such a way that a radical 'reclaiming strategy' becomes not only possible, but necessary."
--Emanuele Leonardi, University of Bologna

"Rodrigo Nunes's triple background as philosopher, journalist, and activist make him the ideal person to write this wonderful book. Nunes deftly sidesteps the stagnant debates structured by the "horizontalism" vs "party" distinction, showing that organization is essential, but has many forms beyond that of the party. The most interesting move for me is the way Nunes places intentional political organization in a wider field of natural self-organizing processes. With this move, Nunes is able to bring to bear an astonishingly wide variety of scientific and philosophical investigations, from thermodynamics to Spinoza, from cybernetics to Simondon, and more besides. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a second look at their system of thought and practice."
--John Protevi, Louisiana State University, author of Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic

"A compelling book that alternates the critique of classic and contemporary authors of the revolutionary tradition with an analysis of the social movements that have disrupted the past decade. Rodrigo Nunes' beautiful and dense book deserves to be read and discussed collectively."
--Davide Gallo Lassere, Contretemps

"Neither Vertical nor Horizontal is neither just a book of political theory, nor just a critique of organizational failures. Nunes takes theory seriously while also never losing sight of the precise limitations and challenges that organizers and political actors confront."
--Kevin Potter, Jacobin

"Nunes creates a vocabulary to begin conversations about what organization there is, and therefore what organization we may desire, as agents seeking a particular change. (...) Neither Vertical nor Horizontal should be crucial reading for those attempting to overcome the impasses we face on the left."
--Alex James, Cosmonaut

"Neither Vertical nor Horizontal offers a sober theory of organisation that builds on an eclectic mix of theorists and historical experience. It does not provide an ideal model to be followed but prompts the scholar/activist/organiser to ask, 'what can we do now, in these circumstances?' instead of the disengaged 'what should be done?' Indeed, the greatest strength of the book lies in Nunes's skilfulness at offering practical tools for activists and organisers while retaining scholarly rigour, without compartmentalising theory from practice."
--Birgan Gokmenoglu, LSE Review of Books