Robert Jensen’s Book About Jim Koplin Published
Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully
by Robert Jensen · Counterpoint/Soft Skull, fall 2015
There was nothing out of the ordinary about Jim Koplin. He was just your typical central Minnesota gay farm boy with a Ph.D. in experimental psychology who developed anarchist-influenced radical-feminist and anti-imperialist politics, and got involved in every major progressive movement of the last half of the 20th century while never losing touch with his rural roots. But perhaps the most important thing about Jim is that throughout his life, almost literally to his dying breath, he spent some part of every day on the most important work we have: Tending the garden.
Plain Radical is a touching homage to a close friend and mentor, taken too soon. But it is also an exploration of the ways in which an intensely local focus paired with a fierce intelligence can provide a deep, meaningful, even radical engagement with the world. “Jim was the most plainly radical person I have ever known” says Jensen. “Radical in the sense of going deep, to the root, to analyze the world and its problems without fudging the facts or hedging one’s bets. Plain, both in the sense that Jim’s analysis was unvarnished and unadulterated, and because in day-to-day life he avoided anything fancy or faddish.
Drawing on first-hand stories and accounts as well as the nearly 3,000 pages of correspondence that flowed between the two men between 1988 and 2012, this book is about the intersection of two biographies and the ideas two men constructed together. It is in part a love story, part intellectual memoir, and part a political polemic—an argument for how we should understand problems and think about solutions—in those cases when solutions are possible—to create a decent human future, if there is to be a human future at all.