Abolition’s First Issue: Abolishing Carceral Society

The hard-copy version of Abolition’s first issue is available to order from Common Notions or from AK Press.

An open access version (with print-quality PDFs) is available online as well.

“What is the most damage we can do—given our biographies, abilities, and commitments—to the racial order and rule of capital?” —Adapted from Joel Olson


“Abolishing Carceral Society is an immense contribution to contemporary struggles for freedom. The pieces in this collection provoke new questions that inform resistance strategies, and deepen our understandings of the systems we are seeking to abolish and the social relations we are working to transform. This collection will be a profoundly useful tool in classrooms and activist groups. The conversation happening in Abolition is essential reading for those participating in the thorny, complex debates about how we dismantle structures of state violence and domination. The writers and artists whose work makes up the inaugural issue of Abolition, rigorously explore the most pressing questions emerging in liberation struggles.”—Dean Spade, author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law.

 “Abolishing Carceral Society is a wonderful mix of provocative ideas married with art, to help us consider a world without prisons, policing, and surveillance. Many of the submissions, however, are less concerned with dismantling what exists than they are with taking seriously that abolition is a project interested in building and in practical organizing. This comes through particularly in David Turner’s essay, among others. Abolishing Carceral Society asks us some questions that we sometimes prefer to ignore, like ‘What does it mean to transform human relations?’ This inaugural issue from Abolition pushes us to ask a number of questions that are important to moving us toward an abolitionist horizon.”—Mariame Kaba, founder of Project NIA, and cofounder of Chicago Freedom School, Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women, and Love & Protect.

  “Abolition is a crucial contribution to radical social movements. While fighting against prisons and the death penalty as instruments of class rule, the journal amplifies the voices of the incarcerated, actively engages with organizers on the ground, and builds bridges across multiple movements. The first issue, Abolishing Carceral Society, presents incisive interventions in the current debates about prison abolition and abolitionism as a political principle. It is a bold beginning for what will become an essential forum for all insurgent thinkers.”—Silvia Federici, author of Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and the Feminist Struggle and Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation.

“From slavery to prisons, abolition has always been a project of courage and breadth. Abolishing Carceral Society brings to bear the reflective, transformative urgency needed to confront today’s violent world order. Of the struggle, by the struggle, and for the struggle: this auspicious collection offers not answers but pathways down which contemporary abolitionists travel en route to a future freedom. Check out their words, scope their visions—heed their calls.”—Dan Berger, author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era.

 “Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics continues the radical, democratic tradition started by abolitionists to speak truth to power. In these dismal political times, it is a matter of the greatest urgency to create and sustain a counter-public sphere and an alternative print culture to sustain and expand American democracy.  This remarkable and inspiring advocacy journal is poised to do precisely that for democratic activists as well as the broader lay public.”—Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition.

 “The Abolition Collective embodies the kind of work anybody interested in justice should aspire to reproduce. Astute, rigorous, and uncompromising, the collective seeks to bring radical perspectives to a wide readership within and beyond academe.  With the publication of its inaugural issue we are treated to the very best of revolutionary analysis.  Anybody interested in upending a carceral and colonial order will find plenty of inspiration here. Something we all need and do well to pass along.”—Steven Salaita, author of Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine.

 “The Abolition Journal project offers a unique, revolutionary lens through which to view, analyze and fight against capitalism and patriarchy on the terrain of the prison-industrial complex. It aims to combine an abolitionist message with a democratic production process that prioritizes participation of those directly affected by incarceration. What a welcome and needed approach! I am confident the project will help intellectuals build ties of solidarity across race, class, gender, nationality, and other borders that block liberation and in its finest moments will help teach us, as Mumia says, to ‘fight with light in our eyes.’”—James Kilgore, author of Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time.

 “Abolition: Journal of Insurgent Politics is a bold journal mapping new roads out of the inferno in which we live. As the editors’ Manifesto tells us, ‘abolition’ is a key strategy out of our carceral, slave-like society—the prison being the pivotal place for the perpetuation of an unjust political system. But the journal also sheds light on the many ways in which we’re imprisoned beyond the prison’s walls. With scholarly articles, poems and artwork, in a beautifully designed text, it asks us to open our eyes and support a liberation struggle against jails and jailers.”—George Caffentzis, author of In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism and No Blood For Oil: Essays on Energy, Class Struggle and War, 1998–2017.

About the first issue:

Beyond border walls and prison cells—carceral society is everywhere. In a time of mass incarceration, immigrant detention and deportation, rising forms of racialized, gendered, and sexualized violence, and deep ecological and economic crises, abolitionists everywhere seek to understand and radically dismantle the interlocking institutions of oppression and transform the world in which we find ourselves. These oppressions have many different names and histories and so, to make the impossible possible, abolition articulates a range of languages and experiences between (and within) different systems of oppression in society today.

Abolishing Carceral Society presents the bold voices and inspiring visions of today’s revolutionary abolitionist movements struggling against capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, ecological crisis, prisons, and borders.

In the first of a series of publications, the Abolition Collective renews and boldly extends the tradition of “abolition-democracy” espoused by figures like W.E.B. Du Bois, Angela Davis, and Joel Olson. Through study and publishing, the Abolition Collective supports radical scholarly and activist research, recognizing that the most transformative scholarship is happening both in the movements themselves and in the communities with whom they organize.

Abolishing Carceral Society features a range of creative styles and approaches from activists, artists, and scholars to create spaces for collective experimentation with the urgent questions of our time.  

Through essays, interviews, visual art, and poetry, each presented in an accessible manner, the work engages with the meaning, practices, and politics of abolitionism in a range of historical and geographical contexts, including: prison and police abolitionism, border abolition, decolonization, slavery abolitionism, antistatism, antiracism, labor organizing, anticapitalism, radical feminism, queer and trans politics, Indigenous people’s politics, sex worker organizing, migrant activism, social ecology, animal rights and liberation, and radical pedagogy. 

Order the hard-copy version from Common Notions or from AK Press.

HTML versions of most articles and intervention essays from the first issue have already been available on our website. Images of the art for the first issue are available on the art page here. We will also post open-access PDF versions of the articles and essays on our website soon.

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