Steal This Book
|Steal This Book|
Cover of Steal this Book
|Publisher||Pirate Editions / Grove Press|
|Pages||308 +xii, illustrations, bibliography|
|Dewey Decimal||335/.83 20|
|LC Classification||HX843.7.H64 A3 1971a|
Steal This Book is a book written by Abbie Hoffman. Written in 1970 and published in 1971, the book exemplified the counter-culture of the sixties. The book sold more than a quarter of a million copies between April and November 1971.
The book, in the style of the counter-culture, mainly focused on ways to fight the government, and against corporations in any way possible. The book is written in the form of a guide to the youth. Hoffman, a political and social activist himself, used many of his own activities as the inspiration for some of his advice in Steal This Book.
The main author of the book, Abbie Hoffman, was one of the most influential and recognizable American activists of the twentieth century. Hoffman wrote several books and other works such as Steal This Urine Test: Fighting Drug Hysteria in America, Revolution For the Hell of It, and The Autobiography of Abbie Hoffman. Aside from Hoffman, several others were involved in the compilation of Steal this Book including Izak Haber who is listed as "co-conspirator" and Bert Cohen who is listed as "accessory after the fact" on the cover. Tom Forcade was not credited in the book, but Hoffman later admitted that he had taken part in some of the editing before being replaced by Bert Cohen. Steal this Book was written in the climate of the counter-culture, in which opposition to tradition and government was rampant, and experimentation with new forms of living was encouraged. Although the book was published in the seventies, it is truly a relic of the sixties. When the book was published, it took hold among the new left, especially among students on college campuses, such as Brandeis University, where Hoffman had been a student.
Steal this Book is broken up into three sections, "Survive!", "Fight!" and "Liberate!". Each section has several sub-chapters each pertaining to its section.
The section "Survive!" is about getting "free" things and as its title indicates, surviving. It includes chapters on how to acquire food, clothing, furniture, transportation, land, housing, education, medical care, communication, entertainment, money, dope, and other assorted items and services. The section "Fight!" is about the counter-culture imperative of rebelling against the government and corporations. It includes chapters on starting an underground press, guerrilla radio, guerrilla television, what to bring to a demonstration that’s expected to be violent, how to make an assortment of home-made bombs, first aid for street fighters, legal advice, how to seek political asylum, shoplifting techniques, stealing credit cards, guerrilla warfare, gun laws, and identification papers. This section also includes advice on such topics as growing cannabis, living in a commune, and obtaining a free buffalo from the Department of the Interior. It discusses various tactics of fighting as well as giving a detailed list of affordable and easy ways to find weapons and armor that can be used in a confrontation with law enforcement. The section advocates rebelling against authority in all forms, governmental and corporate. The third section is "Liberate!" with the chapter headings: Fuck New York, Fuck Chicago, Fuck Los Angeles, and Fuck San Francisco. The book also includes an appendix that lists "approved" organizations and other books worth stealing.
As the book has aged, the specific details of the various techniques and advice Hoffman gives have become largely obsolete for technological or regulatory reasons, but the book iconically reflects the yippie zeitgeist.
The "Pig Empire" 
In the book, Hoffman referred to America as the "Pig Empire" and stated that it was not immoral to steal from it. In fact, Hoffman wrote, it was immoral not to do so. The term was picked up by the Yippies, and was widely used by what became known as the "Woodstock Nation".
Cultural response 
Once it got into print, Steal this Book had widespread readership and became a bestseller, however Steal this Book was subversive enough such that it was rejected by at least thirty publishers before it was able to get into print. The book was rejected by different publishing houses for a myriad of reasons.[which?] In the end Hoffman was forced to make a publishing company of his own, Pirate Editions, in order to sell the book, with Grove Press as the distributor. An editor at Random House publishing commented that he would not even let his own child read it, showing how subversive parents saw it in relation to their children. The book initially received no reviews and was not advertised in any of the major newspapers. News sources did not want to or were afraid to advertise the book. The book received further suppression when regional distributors and bookstores were unwilling to carry the book.
The writing of a book on how to commit illegal acts opened people up to new possibilities regarding their use of the first amendment, and showed how radical one’s writing could be. The book gained popularity primarily with the youth of the seventies. It spoke to an inner craving for liberty held both by those with an actual desire for anarchy, and rebellion, and those who simply enjoyed the ideas expressed within it. Students were especially attracted to the book. The book provided new ideas for many students during a time in their lives in which they were the most curious and adventurous.
On the success of the book, Hoffman was quoted as saying, "It's embarrassing when you try to overthrow the government and you wind up on the Best Seller's List." Hoffman would not respond to accusations that he had plagiarized the book, as claimed in an article by Izak Haber in Rolling Stone magazine (No. 92, 10 September 1971), entitled "How Abbie Hoffman Won My Heart and Stole Steal This Book"; Haber is acknowledged in the book as having done a great deal of the research.
See also 
- CATNYP: New York Public Library online catalog
- Bill Hartel (August 26, 1996). "Steal This Book-Abbie's Magnum Opus".
- Linder, Douglas O. (21 Feb. 2012). "The Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial". UMKC School of Law.
- Kaufman, Michael T. (September 2, 1971). "Abbie Hoffman Accused Before 'Court' of Peers". The New York Times.(subscription required)
- "Simplified Justice". The New York Times. September 3, 1971.(subscription required)
- Gitlin, Todd (1987). The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. Toronto: Bantam.
- Hoffman, Abbie; Izak Haber; Bert Cohen (1996). Steal This Book. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.
- Raskin, Jonah (1996). For the Hell of It. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21379-3.
- Harris, Randy (1993). The Linguistics Wars. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509834-X.
- Rader, Dotson (July 18, 1971). "Book Review: Steal This Book". The New York Times. p. BR19.(subscription required)
- Horton, P. B (August 29, 1971). "Abbie Hoffman". The New York Times.(subscription required)
- Haber, Izak (September 30, 1971). "An Amerika Dream: A True Yippie's Sentimental Education or How Abbie Hoffman Won My Heart and Stole 'Steal This Book.'". Rolling Stone: 32–33.