On October 8, the Radical Books Collective will be hosting a book club on A World Without Police: How Strong Communities Make Cops Obsolete, with -- as usual -- a guest visit from the author, Geo Maher. Maher is a writer and academic (with teaching credits from Vassar College, Drexel University, U.C. Berkeley, San Quentin State Prison, and the Venezuelan School of Planning in Caracas), as well as an organizer, public intellectual and translator. His public commentary has been the target of conservative backlash and public censure for its candidness about the connections between mass violence, white supremacist patriarchy, and powerful institutions like the police.
As the subtitle of A World Without Police makes clear, with it’s echoes of Angela Davis, reverberated in Mariame Kaba’s explosive NY Times piece last summer (“We don’t want to just close police departments. We want to make them obsolete.”), Maher is drawing in his work on a deep and growing body of abolitionist thought, historical scholarship on policing, and activist praxis. (He enumerates some of his key influences on Verso Books’ blog here.) But Maher’s work also speaks very specifically to the present political moment.
The book opens with the scene in Minneapolis May 28, 2020 when protestors surrounded the city’s third police precinct, forced officers to flee, and lit the building aflame. Maher writes that such radical acts of collectivity (both inspired by rage and generative of transformational joy) offer a “glimpse of a different kind of world.” But it is not only in the burning down that Maher locates inspiration. “Abolition is not simply an against...it is also a for.” The George Floyd rebellions also jump started a vibrant “ecosystem of mutual aid” across Minneapolis. It is Maher’s goal, through deep attention to such moments of radical action and their outcomes in Minneapolis, among other cities in the US and Latin America, to begin to elaborate the how of police abolition.
Two particularly quippy quotes that Freedom Dreams author Robin D. G. Kelley pulled out in a recent conversation with Maher about his book offer windows into some of Maher’s most central assertions:
If whiteness were a job, it would be the police.
Maher makes a powerful argument about the blurred lines between the formal institution of the police and the extra-institutional forces that uphold white supremacy. According to Maher: “police have never been distinguishable from white vigilantes.”
What is the thin blue line, if not a border.
Maher speaks not only to the specific US context in which Minneapolis protests exploded, but makes transnational links -- tying histories of colonial violence and dispossession, and border control, with domestic policing.
Have thoughts about defunding, disarming or dismantling the police, or abolishing carceral structures and white supremacy? Want to think through what safety and security might look and feel like in a world without these systems? Join us October 8.
Watch Geo Maher talk about A World Without Police