Rising Up and Rising Down by William T. Vollman I first wrote a review for Rising Up and Rising Down for the Isocracy Network as I’d finished my second reading of it. I continue to be amazed at how much there is to learn from it, and how many different things each reader takes from it.

With political violence on the rise and class consciousness starting to gather around issues like wealth inequality, racism, and the gap between industrialized and developing nations, Rising Up and Rising Down will continue to have importance far beyond the times in which it was written.


Rising Up and Rising Down is an important, difficult read. It rewards multiple returns, yielding new insights to the reader depending on the reader’s maturity and intellectual integrity. The greatest danger is Vollmann’s despair, but that’s also its greatest asset: Rising Up and Rising Down makes a perfect antidote to the romantic images of class warfare, to the videos of casually thrown Molotovs, to the nihilistic ‘I don’t know what I want, but I know it’s not this’ rebellion that can accompany times of civil dissatisfaction. It never condemns nor praises violence, it simply contemplates it in a far deeper, more intellectual, and more emotionally vulnerable way than most readers will be prepared for. It is brutally honest about violence, and it expects us to be as well. You can find my full review of it on the Isocracy Network.