Resisting Illegitimate Authority

A Thinking Person’s Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian―Strategies, Tools, and Models

The capacity to comply with abusive authority is humanity’s “fatal flaw.” Fortunately, there are anti-authoritarians—people comfortable questioning the legitimacy of authority and resisting its illegitimate forms. However, as Resisting Illegitimate Authority reveals, these rebels are regularly scorned, shunned, financially punished, psychopathologized, criminalized, and even assassinated. Profiling a diverse group of US anti-authoritarians—from Thomas Paine to Ralph Nader, Malcolm X, Lenny Bruce, Jane Jacobs, and Noam Chomsky—in order to glean useful lessons from their lives, Resisting Illegitimate Authority provides political, spiritual, philosophical, and psychological tools to help anti-authoritarians survive and thrive.


“For a reader, there is no greater reward than to come upon a startlingly original book, one that prompts you to think anew about important aspects of the American character, past and present. Such is Bruce Levine’s Resisting Illegitimate Authority. This is a book, written in wonderfully clear prose, that will stay with you, and one that you will eagerly recommend to others. The portraits of famous Americans, ranging from Thomas Paine to George Carlin, as seen through an “anti-authoritarian” lens, are particularly memorable and compelling.”

—Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

“Bound by the shackles of convention, many of us have become fearful of the outsider, the dissident and the anti-authoritarian—anyone who refuses to be ruled and regulated…. Bruce E. Levine has written an electric book charting the mechanics—political, economic and psychological—of our self-confinement. Yet, Levine’s writing simmers with a kind of optimistic rage meant to prod and provoke us out of our paralytic compliance with faceless authority. Resisting Illegitimate Authority has arrived just at the moment when we need it’s daring call for a new kind of human liberation the most.”

—Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of CounterPunch and author of Bernie and the Sandernistas