War By Other Means: The Pacifists of the Greatest Generation Who Revolutionized Resistance (Hardcover)

War By Other Means: The Pacifists of the Greatest Generation Who Revolutionized Resistance By Daniel Akst Cover Image
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"Akst argues that the modern progressive movement, wide-ranging in its causes and narratives today, has origins in the pacifist response to American involvement in World War II... At its best, one gets the sense of generative force born from such intense intellectual, moral and religious pressure." -- The Washington Post

Pacifists who fought against the Second World War faced insurmountable odds—but their resistance, philosophy, and strategies fostered a tradition of activism that shaped America right up to the present day.

In this provocative and deeply researched work of history, Akst takes readers into the wild, heady, and uncertain times of America on the brink of a world war, following four fascinating resisters -- four figures who would subsequently become famous political thinkers and activists -- and their daring exploits: David Dellinger, Dorothy Day, Dwight MacDonald, and Bayard Rustin. The lives of these diverse anti-war advocates--a principled and passionate seminary student, a Catholic anarchist, a high-brow intellectual leftist, and an African-American pacifist and agitator--create the perfect prism through which to see World War II from a new angle, that of the opposition, as well as to show how great and lasting their achievements were.

The resisters did not stop the war, of course, but their impact would be felt for decades. Many of them went on to lead the civil-rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, the two most important social stands of the second half of the twentieth century. The various World War II resisters pioneered non-violent protest in America, popularized Gandhian principles, and desegregated the first prison mess halls. Theirs is a story that has never been told.

About the Author


A native New Yorker, Daniel Akst is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Slate and other leading publications. He has written scores of book reviews over the years and was a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. He has been a Koret Fellow at the University of California (Berkeley) Graduate School of Journalism, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, DC, and a public policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.

Praise For…


"Akst argues that the modern progressive movement, wide-ranging in its causes and narratives today, has origins in the pacifist response to American involvement in World War II... At its best, one gets the sense of generative force born from such intense intellectual, moral and religious pressure." -- The Washington Post

"In focusing on four pacifists who fought against the war rather than fighting in it ... Akst wants us to consider what it meant to take an unpopular (and often illegal) stand against arguably the last war Americans widely supported." -- The Los Angeles Times

"Akst handles a potentially controversial topic gracefully... War by Other Means is a valuable piece of nonfiction, shedding light on a small but strong group of people whose activism is mostly overlooked in the study of World War II, but who were, in Akst's words, a "tiny current — which somehow became a tsunami of social change." --The National Catholic Reporter

"Akst provides fascinating biographical sketches of his protagonists...They taught Americans to be wary of authority, consolidation and dehumanization." --The Star Tribune

"This text is an important, detailed and captivatingly told history of an under examined piece of US history. It raises questions about war and peace, allegiance and conscience, nation and humanity. It is certainly worth your time." --Counterpunch

"Akst convincingly places his protagonists in a lineage of antiauthoritarian activism that runs from Thoreau to the 1960s counterculture and beyond. This history casts the Greatest Generation in a new light." --Publishers Weekly

"A worthy exploration of a little-known episode in the history of American involvement in WWII." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Fascinating... Akst grounds his protagonists’ accomplishments as well as their failings in their individual personalities; when your activism is a part of a lifelong intellectual pilgrimage, staying pinned down to one philosophy or strategy is difficult. Nevertheless… on a host of issues—racism, militarism, authoritarianism, and the looming threat of the Bomb—they broke through where others were often afraid to make a fuss. Channeling their principles into a more enduring resistance is the necessary work of their successors." --The History News Network

"A vividly written history of conscientious objection to war and militarism from 1941 to 1945 and beyond... a compelling and challenging book... [Akst's] scholarship can help us as we confront today the looming threats of wider war..." --The Catholic Worker

"Rich on interesting details" - Journal of Peace Research

"War by Other Means paints a compelling portrait of World War II–era pacifist militance." -- Reason Magazine

"Inspiring and challenging." --The New York Journal of Books

"Absorbing...The human conscience is a complicated organ, and generational greatness can take more than one form." --The Pennsylvania Gazette

"Fascinating... a sympathetic and compelling story of pacifists’ courage and the enduring impact of their testimony." --Friends Journal

"Journalist Daniel Akst’s well-written War by Other Means tells the story of U.S. pacifists facing off against the Good War — and how being on the wrong side of 1940s America steeled and trained leaders who used nonviolence decisively in the Civil Rights Movement two decades later." --The Washington Independent Review of Books

"War By Other Means offers the most well-rounded exploration of the wartime pacifist's story I have yet read. Beyond that, it analyzes in depth the personalities and philosophies of some of the most prominent COs, helping us to understand their ethical decisions and the way they went about making their opposition to war felt." --The Anarchist Review of Books

"An important and engaging look at a cast of remarkable American characters and their unique blend of ideological pacifism." --The Marginal Revolution

"Interesting and well written ... If War by Other Means does help to popularize these too often forgotten figures more widely, then this book will have contributed a great service." --Matt Meyer, Fellowship Magazine

"An engaging popular account written for a general audience ... this is a terrific book ... lively and absorbing." --Scott H. Bennett, Peace and Change

The stories of the brave people in this book are a profoundly important, and unduly ignored, part of modern American history. Daniel Akst tells them with grace and scope, showing how the convictions of his characters carried them through their whole lives, and into some of the most important battles for social justice of our time. --Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost

Daniel Akst has written an engaging and eloquent book about American pacifists in times that tried their world-views. He tells a morally complicated, compelling story that will intrigue especially anyone interested in 20th century American intellectual and political history. --Mitchell Cohen, former co-editor of Dissent; author of The Politics of Opera

Dan Akst liberates the history of World War II-era pacifism from familiar “Greatest Generation” narratives. Buoyed by anti-authoritarianism and nonviolent theology, antiwar activists—ranging from David Dellinger and Dorothy Day to Bayard Rustin and Dwight MacDonald—passionately opposed the conflict. With lucid prose, Akst explains how their resistance planted the seeds for the modern progressive movement. --Betsy Wood, author of Upon the Altar of Work

"War by Other Means offers the most well-rounded exploration of the wartime pacifists’ story I have yet read." -- Eric Laursen, Fifth Estate


Product Details
ISBN: 9781612199245
ISBN-10: 1612199240
Publisher: Melville House
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Pages: 384
Language: English