Emergent Strategy: Book Review

A way to look at life that doesn’t allow for complacency, but also invites trust into the process

Adrienne maree brown describes herself and her work in many ways, and the beauty of this book is how she weaves the different parts of herself together within it all. Her love for sci-fi, her work as an activist and movement builder for justice, her magic and witchcraft, her love of the world all make appearances throughout the book.

Emergent Strategy is a compilations of lessons from her work in movement building, as well as lessons from others and how biomimicry (mirroring the natural world for solutions) is imperative in these movements:

“Cell may not know civilization is possible. They don’t amass as many units as they can sign up to be the same. No- they grow until they split, complexify. Then they interact and intersect and discover their purpose- I am a lung cell! I am a tongue cell! — and they serve it. And they die. And what emerges from these cycles are complex organisms, systems, movements, societies.”

Explain the World with your Fingerprint

One of the first concepts Brown introduces us to within Emergent Strategy is the fractals, which are never ending patterns. Brown explains that what we practice at small scales sets the pattern for the larger scales:

“Tune into the prevalence of spiral in the universe- the shape in the prints of our fingertips echoes into geological patterns, all the way to the shape of galaxies. Then notice that the planet is full of these fractals- cauliflower, yes and broccoli, ferns, deltas, veins through our bodies, tributaries, etc…”

Brown also encourages us to learn from the way that birds move together through murmuration: building deep trust and working toward right relationship. She also discusses interdependence between species, and notes that movement work must always work toward being mutually beneficial. She also speaks about the embrace of chaos:

“Uprisings and resistance and mass movement require a tolerance of messiness, a tolerance of many, many paths being walked on at once.”

Building our own monsters

In regards to transformative justice, her friend Shira hassan writes:
“I need us to acknowledge more that we have no idea what we are doing — that we are birthing a new collective consciousness out of the pain of losing too many people to colonialist justice… no one is disposable and yet people have a right to make boundaries.”

Reminds me of truths I have tried to live by past 10 years, but have been slipping on as of late…

“Transformative justice, in the context of emergent strategy, asks us to consider how to transform toxic energy, hurt, legitimate pain, and conflict into solutions. To get under the wrong, find a way to coexist, be energy moving towards life, together.”

Brown encourages us to “relinquish Frankenstein,” and that visual might be my next tattoo.

You are not creating people to be with, or work with, some idealized individuals made of perfect parts of personality that you discovered on our life jounrey. You are meeting individuals with their own full lives behind and ahead of them. Stop trying to make and fix others, and instead be curious about what they have made of themselves.”

Working And Learning Together with Joy

I have written other pieces about consensus, and Brown does a deep dive into facilitation and consensus:

“Make sure the people who will be doing the work agree on what is being done, why and how. This is the heart of efficiency- that there is nothing dragging or diverting the energy of the work.”

As noted before, throughout the book Brown references the wisdom of other leaders. A quote by Loretta Ross she shared really stuck with me:

“When people think the same idea and move in the same direction, that’s a cult. When people think many different ideas and move in one direction, that’s a movement.”

At the end of Emergent Strategy, Brown alludes to the idea for her most recent book, titled Pleasure Activism, which is on my next to read list:

“I suspect that to really transform our society, we will need to make justice one of the most pleasurable experiences we can have.”

midwestern librarian, writer, activist. subscribe — http://eepurl.com/cZoiG9

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store