On Compromise: Art, Politics, and the Fate of an American Ideal
A strident argument about the dangers of compromise in art, politics, and everyday lifeOn Compromise is an argument against contemporary liberal society's tendency to view compromise as an unalloyed good--politically, ethically, and artistically. In a series of clear, convincing essays, Rachel Greenwald Smith discusses the dangers of thinking about compromise as an end rather than as a means. To illustrate her points, she recounts her stint in a band as a bass player, fighting with her bandmates about "what the song wants," and then moves outward to Bikini Kill and the Riot Grrrl movement, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Poetry magazine, the resurgence of fascism, and other wide-ranging topics. Smith's arguments are complex and yet have a simplicity to them, as she writes in a concise, cogent style that is eminently readable. By weaving examples drawn from literature, music, and other art forms with political theory and first-person anecdotes, she shows the problems of compromise in action. And even as Smith demonstrates the many ways that late capitalism demands individual compromise, she also holds out hope for the possibility of lasting change through collective action. Closing with a piercing discussion of the uncompromising nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and how global protests against racism and police brutality after the murder of George Floyd point to a new future, On Compromise is a necessary and vital book for our time.
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About the Author
"Rachel Greenwald Smith is the cool, funny, intellectual older sister you never had. . . . This is a nuanced and thought-provoking book for our times."--Chloe Caldwell
"Rachel Greenwald Smith's On Compromise is an invigorating and blessedly defiant book, full of sharp observations and funny asides. . . . Smith is an incisive and searching critic of our culture's eagerness to sacrifice difficult goals in favor of easy compromises."--Jess Row
"On Compromise is beautifully uncompromising. Smith's prose is relentlessly perceptive, funny, and self-deprecating, without an ounce of pretension or preciousness."--Merve Emre