|Born||December 1955 (age 66)|
|Education||PhD in philosophy (1993)|
|Alma mater||University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Chicago, University of Texas at Austin|
|Occupation||Associate Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso|
|Known for||Co-founder of the North American Animal Liberation Press Office|
|(ed.) Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (2004)|
Steven Best (born December 1955) is an American philosopher, writer, speaker and activist with 30 years work in diverse social movements, such as animal rights, species extinction, human overpopulation, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media and culture, globalization, and capitalist domination. He is Associate Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso. Best has published 13 books and over 200 articles and reviews (translated into numerous languages), spoken in nearly two dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and in 2007 was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.”
He is co-author (with UCLA Professor Douglas Kellner) of a trilogy of postmodern studies (Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogation; The Postmodern Turn: Paradigms Shifts in Art, Theory, and Science; and The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium (Guilford Press, 1991, 1997, 2001). More recently, he introduced and co-edited four anthologies: Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (Lantern Books, 2004); Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth (AK Press, 2006); Academic Repression: Reflections on the Academic-Industrial Complex (AK Press, 2010); and The Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination (Rowman & Littlefield 2011). His most recent book is entitled: The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).
After attending high school in Chicago, Best took casual jobs in factories and drove a truck for a few years. He attended the College of DuPage (Illinois) from 1977 to 1979, where he completed an associate degree in film and theater. He then studied philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1979 to 1983, where he received a bachelor's degree with distinction; at the University of Chicago from 1985 to 1987 where he obtained his master's degree; and at the University of Texas at Austin from 1989 to 1993, where he obtained his PhD.
In 1993, he began as an Assistant Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso promoted to Associate Professor in 1999, and was Chair of the Philosophy Department 2002–2005.
Best is co-founder of the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS), formerly known as the Center on Animal Liberation Affairs (CALA). His academic interests are continental philosophy, postmodernism, and environmental philosophy. He is known for his post-structuralist notions of revolution, based equally in animal rights and total liberation. He is the editor, with Anthony J. Nocella, of Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (2004), which has a foreword by Ward Churchill, and the companion volume on revolutionary environmentalism, Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth (2006).
Best co-authored with Douglas Kellner a trilogy of texts on postmodern theory and cultural studies – Postmodern Theory: Critical Interrogations (1991), The Postmodern Turn (1997), and The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium (2001).
Best is an advocate of Inclusive Democracy, a movement founded by Greek political philosopher Takis Fotopoulos, and sits on the international advisory board of the International Journal of Inclusive Democracy. He writes:
In bold contrast to the limitations of the animal advocacy movement (AAM) and all other reformist causes, Takis Fotopoulos advances a broad view of human dynamics and social institutions, their impact on the earth, and the resulting consequences for society itself. Combining anti-capitalist, radical democracy, and ecological concerns in the concept of "ecological democracy," Fotopoulos defines this notion as "the institutional framework which aims at the elimination of any human attempt to dominate the natural world, in other words, as the system which aims to reintegrate humans and Nature. This implies transcending the present 'instrumentalist' view of Nature, in which Nature is seen as an instrument for growth, within a process of endless concentration of power.
Animal Liberation Press Office
In December 2004, Best co-founded the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, which acts as a media office for a number of animal rights groups, including the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), though he has said that he is not himself an ALF activist.
Views on civil disobedience, militant direct action and violence
Best has strongly criticized others in the animal-rights movement who embrace a "fundamentalist pacifism" and oppose any kind of militant direct action, which could include such tactics as "illegal raids, rescues, and sabotage attacks." He has referred to them as "Franciombes" after Gary Francione who believes in pursuing animal rights only through peaceful means. Best says that the current ecocrisis "renders fundamentalist pacifism obsolete."
In his 2014 book The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century, Best asserts that militant direct action and "extensional self-defense" reduces violence, adding that the notion "violence only creates more violence" is a pacifist myth. As an example of "extensional self-defense", he cites the use of armed soldiers by some African governments to protect endangered wildlife from poachers, stating that "pacifists cannot stop poachers, but bullets can, and while many measures must be taken to protect endangered species, right now armed soldiers are the best protection rhinos and elephants have against murderous, weapon-wielding poachers." Best also warns against romanticizing violence, and asserts that a variety of tactics can be used depending on the situation. He refers to this as the contextualist position:
In a global setting, contextualism asks this question: How can we best defend all life and the entire planet from the massive and unrelenting assault of global capitalism, centralized political rule, militarism, and the metastasizing growth of the human empire colonizing the earth and monopolizing its resources? Questions concerning the legitimacy and efficacy of physical force cannot be answered in the abstract, but only in specific contexts. Whereas partisans on both sides want to read the history of moral progress as driven exclusively by nonviolence or violence, the fact is that social change unfolds through the entire arsenal of pressure tactics, which include strikes, protests, demonstrations, boycotts, sabotage, liberation, education, legislation or even armed struggle.
Best has explained a justification for civil disobedience in the essay Beyond Animal Liberation.
Ban from entering the United Kingdom
In 2005, Best planned to attend a rally to celebrate the closure—as a result of protests from the animal rights movement—of Newchurch Farm, where guinea pigs were being bred for research purposes. Charles Clarke, the British Home Secretary, said he would rely on new Home Office rules preventing people from enter the UK if they "foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in further of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts." In a letter to Best dated August 24, 2005, Clarke cited a comment by Best quoted by The Daily Telegraph: "We are not terrorists, but we are a threat. We are a threat both economically and philosophically. Our power is not in the right to vote but the power to stop production. We will break the law and destroy property until we win." Best is also alleged to have said that the animal rights movement did not want to "reform" vivisectionists but to "wipe them off the face of the earth."
The letter from the Home Secretary said: "In expressing such views, it is considered that you are fomenting and justifying terrorist violence and seeking to provoke others to terrorist acts and fomenting other serious criminal activity and seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts." The letter was dated the same day that the Home Office published its new list of behaviors that would see people banned from the UK. Under the list, people who write, speak, run a website, or use their positions as teachers to express views that "foment, justify, or glorify violence in furtherance of particular beliefs" will be banned or deported. The British government called the new measures part of its "ongoing work to tackle terrorism and extremism." Best responded by saying it didn't surprise him. He told the Chronicle of Higher Education: "It was only a matter of time, especially after the July 7, 2005 London bombings. The climate in Britain is totally unbelievable. It's very fascist. It's becoming a police state."
- Animal Liberation Front (ALF)
- Animal Liberation Press Office
- Critical animal studies (CAS)
- Earth Liberation Front (ELF)
- Behind the Mask
- Speciesism: The Movie
- List of animal rights advocates
- Curriculum vitae, drstevebest.org, accessed February 5, 2012.
- Smallwood, Scott. "Speaking for the Animals, or the Terrorists?", The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 5, 2005.
- "Intellectual Biography Statement Dr. Steven Best".
- ”Contributors,” Democracy & Nature, Vol. 6, No. 3 (November 2000). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- Political Media Review PMR
- Best, Steve. "Robocop: The Crisis of Subjectivity". Illuminations: The Critical Theory Project. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
- Best, Steven; Kellner, Douglas. "Rap, Black Rage, and Racial Difference" (PDF). Retrieved July 30, 2021.
- The International Journal for Inclusive Democracy
- Steven Best,"Rethinking Revolution: Animal Liberation, Human Liberation, and the Future of the Left", The International Journal of Inclusive Democracy, Vol. 2, No. 3 (June 2006).
- Best, Steve; Miller, Jason (2009). The Pied Pipers of Pacifism: Lee Hall, Gary Francione, and the Betrayal of Animal Liberation. North American Animal Liberation Press Office. pp. 60–66. ISBN 978-0983054719.
- ANIMAL RIGHTS EXTREMIST CAMILLE MARINO CALLS FOR VIOLENCE, Southern Poverty Law Centre, 1 March 2012
- Best, Steven (2014). The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 68. ISBN 978-1137471116.
If physical force is needed to save an animal from attack, then that force is a legitimate form of what I call "extensional self defense." This principle mirrors US penal code statutes known as the "necessity defense," which can be invoked when a defendant believed that an illegal act was necessary to avoid great and imminent harm. One only needs to expand this concept slightly to cover actions that are increasingly desperate and necessary to protect animals from the total war against them.
- Best, Steven (2014). The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 68–69, 75–77. ISBN 978-1137471116.
- Steve Best, Beyond Animal Liberation, The Anarchist Library
- MacLeod, Donald. "Britain uses hate law to ban animal rights campaigner", The Guardian, August 31, 2005.
- Smallwood, Scott. "Britain Bans American Professor Who Speaks on Behalf of Animal Liberation Front", The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 29, 2005.
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