Dancing in the Streets
Barbara Ehrenreich

Book cover image

Narrated By: Pam Ward

Duration: 9 hours and 30 minutes

What to expect

From bestselling social commentator and cultural historian Barbara Ehrenreich comes this fascinating exploration of one of humanity’s oldest traditions: the celebration of communal joy, historically expressed in ecstatic revels of feasting, costuming, and dancing. Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture, showing that such mass festivities have been indigenous to the West since the ancient Greeks. Though suppressed by elites who fear the undermining of social hierarchies, outbreaks of group revelry still persist, Ehrenreich shows, pointing to the 1960s rock-and-roll rebellion and the more recent “carnivalization” of sports.

Original, exhilarating, and deeply optimistic, Dancing in the Streets shows that we are innately social beings, impelled to share our joy and thereby envision a peaceable future.


Society and culture: general, General and world history, Social and cultural history, Social and cultural anthropology, Cultural studies: customs and traditions, Cultural studies: customs and traditions

Listen to a sample

“What this timely book forcefully shows is that we are social beings with a potential for collective activity that is not always destructive of docile but may be powerfully restorative. With the world political scene in crisis and the planet profoundly in need of our remedial help, it is a message to be welcomed, pondered—and enjoyed.”

Times (London)

“Ehrenreich’s absorbing study of collective celebration does the essential job of reminding us that humans are happiest when doings things together…Ehrenreich has an ability to write as though she has lived through the history she relates…She draws on research from prehistory, classical civilization, theology, anthropology, neuroscience, literature, and pop-cultural studies to present a convincing case for a return to spontaneous (but not too spontaneous) celebration…Once reconciled to the counterintuitive nature of spending hours alone reading a book that suggests you’d be better off dancing instead, time will fly and you’ll end it convinced that you’ve been in happy, wine-fuelled conversation with the author herself.”

Daily Telegraph (London)

“Witty and quizzical, Ehrenreich covers her vast terrain comprehensively yet incisively, casting her net wide and landing delicious detail at the same time as more strictly germane manner.”

Guardian (London)

“Ehrenreich writes with grace and clarity in a fascinating, wide-ranging and generous account.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Pam Ward…[makes] listening a joyous experience that holds listeners’ attention.”


“This book is remarkably well researched and detailed, and Ward reads it like a college professor in a clear, well modulated voice. Anyone interested in dance will be fascinated by the examples and stories.”


“A serious look at communal celebrations, well documented and presented with assurance and flair.”