Jason Del Gandio is an indispensable guide for any activist, and his Rhetoric for Radicals promises to be
as essential for this generation of political organizers as Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals was for previous ones."

-- Stephen Duncombe, author of Dream:
Re-Imagining Progressive Politics
in an Age of Fantasy

"This how-to book is a must for sophisticated radicals, pragmatic dreamers and activists of all persuasions."

-- Patrick Reinsborough, Co-founder smartMeme
Strategy and Training Project

"Jason Del Gandio has written a courageous, original and provocative book of the importance of rhetoric and communication for radical social change. For those inside the revolution, this is must reading. For those outside the revolution, read this book and see a world you never imagined."

-- Robert W. McChesney, author of The Political
Economy of Media

"In a brilliant book that works well for both theory and practice, he gives us tools that show us how to be more powerful and more consistent with our values."

-- George Lakey, activist and co-founder
of Training for Change and the
Movement for a New Society.

Click on image to purchase the book.

RHETORIC FOR RADICALS: A Handbook for Twenty-First Century Activists

Radicals have important messages to deliver but are too often caught up in the passion of their causes that they lose sight of effective communication—which is their biggest tool. Crucial to the cause is the ability to speak with clarity and intelligence and not to underestimate the challenge of breaking new ground and winning new converts.

Activists often suffer from a credibility gap because of their lack of a coherent message and lack of strategic delivery. Rhetoric for Radicals addresses and helps solve these problems. It provides the all-important communication skills necessary to be effectively heard. If you accept that communication creates the social world, then you will agree that changing the way we communicate can change the world.

Rhetoric for Radicals provides practical guidelines for public speaking, writing, conversation, persuasion, political correctness, propaganda analysis, street theatrics and new languages.


• Streets, Rhetoric, and Revolution

• A Call for Rhetorical Action

• Skills for the Multitude

• The Power of Language

• Body Rhetoric

• Twenty-First Century Radical Rhetoric


Chapter One situates rhetoric as a communicative labor. While rhetoric is an ever-present issue, “good rhetoric” is labor intensive. It takes time, thought and energy. Bypassing this labor contributes to the rhetorical crisis discussed in the above excerpt. But we can improve our rhetoric and traverse this crisis. This mending process begins with a conceptual overview of rhetoric for radicals. Chapter One provides three different but related definitions of rhetoric, situates rhetoric at the center of social change, connects rhetorical practice to activism and organizing and asks us to approach our activism through the lens of rhetoric. Activism, as the conscious act of changing society, is inherently rhetorical. Political campaigns, social movements, direct actions, petitioning, lobbying, demonstrations, rallies and parades of resistance are rhetorical constructions. But Chapter One goes deeper and agues that all human realities are rhetorically constructed. Such a framework depicts the world as a pliable process and our activism as a communicative labor for recreating realties. If this is true, then our activism isn’t about changing but about creating the world. This insight is foundational to rhetoric for radicals.

Chapter Two is a hands-on chapter, providing plenty of guidelines and suggestions for developing your rhetorical skills. It begins by addressing two basic skills: public speaking and writing. These skills, while not what everyone wants or needs, easily transfer to other activist related issues, e.g., designing websites, running public campaigns, creating T-shirt and poster images, developing visual art, petitioning on street corners and having everyday conversations. In each case we need to develop a clear message that can be effectively communicated to other people. This chapter tackles that concern head-on. The chapter also provides instructions for creating a “rhetorical package,” which includes a message, audience, strategy, situation and goal. The chapter then addresses different rhetorical approaches, like persuasion, argumentation, storytelling, and invitational rhetoric. Understanding how to use these approaches is important, but we must also develop our rhetorical knowledge. This involves using current events, history, and self-knowledge to your rhetorical advantage. Chapter Two provides a solid starting point for improving your communication skills, your rhetorical skills and your rhetorical knowledge.

Chapter Three discusses the power of language, particularly how language shapes people’s perceptions and understandings. Mainstream media, political strategists and advertising and marketing agencies understand this all too well. Activists need to take heed and consciously consider the wording of every slogan, sentence and demand. Language, thus understood, becomes a tool for radical social change. Deploying the right language can mean the difference between success and failure. This chapter helps you understand how language shapes people’s views, how it is used and abused, how it relates to issues of self-identity and propaganda, how to appreciate political correctness without being stifled by it, and how to utilize the rhetorical power of new words and languages. By the end, you’ll understand how language not only shapes consciousness, but also, and more profoundly, how it shapes reality. You’ll see how changing your language helps change the world.

Chapter Four expands the scope of rhetoric by addressing body rhetoric. At the very least, body rhetoric involves the look, feel, and style of your physical gestures, the messages of your nonverbal communication and the meanings and effects of your bodily actions. And just as you can improve your verbal rhetoric, you can also improve your body rhetoric. Since your body is the site of your everyday living, you can cultivate it into a site of radical activity and rhetorical engagement. Chapter Two helps you accomplish that by looking at three things: embodied argumentation, rhetorical style and the human vibe as bodily emanation. The chapter provides examples of and guidelines for improving these forms of rhetoric.

Chapter Five, the last chapter, summarizes and extends the purpose of the entire book: it provides guidelines for building twenty-first century radical rhetoric. The chapter begins with ten observations of contemporary activist rhetoric. Understanding our current actions helps pave the way for future actions. The chapter then discusses “network rhetoric,” which is a paradigmatic figure of today’s activism. We discuss some examples of network rhetoric and then ways to improve as well as move beyond this rhetorical form. The chapter ends by proposing a new approach to radical thought and action. This approach, called neo-radicalism, sets forth a new orientation toward activism that is based on the immaterial and communicative labors of the twenty-first century. Neo-radicalism is a rhetorically-centered activism that encapsulates the nature and purpose of Rhetoric for Radicals.

Excerpt: Why Rhetoric for Radicals?

Twenty-first century activism advocates for a single world composed of many realities. Different types of organizational structures, communicative approaches and ways of living are explored as we try to change the world without taking power. Swarms of people, identities, orientations, wants and needs are linked by desires for social justice and more meaningful ways of being in the world. Our political actions are grounded in our experiences of hunger, discrimination, unemployment, bombing, occupation, brutality and empire. Diverse movements rise up in opposition to these conditions and we insist that another world is not only possible but absolutely necessary. We improvise, strategize and experiment as we organize local and global resistances, rebellions, revolutions and liberations. Our methodology of revolution is individualist and communal, supportive without suffocating, and expresses a non-reductive and non-universalizing solidarity. Such twenty-first century radicalism is beautiful and handsome, exciting and invigorating. But there is an unintended residual effect: our twenty-first century radicalism suffers from a rhetorical crisis.

We continuously work, act and communicate for better realities, and we undoubtedly succeed in many of our efforts. But the general population lacks a widespread sense of the urgent need for action, which means that our movements lack the critical masses necessary for profound social change. This is standard for most radical projects and most sociopolitical eras. We’re always working with limited resources and reaching beyond our presumed capacities. But each project is unique and each era is different. We must look at our own situation and evaluate the efficacy of our efforts. For instance, our ideas, words and arguments, while widely circulated among our own communities, are often absent from the wider sphere of public talk. Our activism and organizing, while helpful in altering micro-relations and alleviating immediate situations, seem to fall upon too many deaf ears and too many blind eyes. Our direct actions, while promoting worldwide justice and individual self-empowerment, are easily obscured by the media’s decontextualized accounts and easily dismissed by political pundits. And our political philosophies and ideologies, while thought-provoking and heart-felt, struggle for wider exposure, acceptance and mobilizing force. Basically, there is a communicative gap between our efforts and the public’s reception of those efforts. This gap is a rhetorical issue needing attention and redress. If we are to change the world, we must remedy this situation. That remedy can begin by rigorously attending to the communicative aspects of our twenty-first century radicalism.