RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • When Journalism was a Thing
    Alexandra Kitty
    A very timely book at a era when journalism and journalists are being attacked as fake news,this is a clear concise look at what journalists do & how important their jobs are.Young journalists should grab this book anyone interested in free presses role wil find this book well worth reading. ~ Rhonda Lomazow , NetGalley

  • Marx Returns
    Jason Barker
    Barker conjures the true stakes of Marx’s tragedy which instead of ending in reconciliation, forces it to assume terrifying forms in its prospect of life after death, or of what somewhat ridiculously has come to be known as permanent revolution. ~ Ana Stankovic, Filozofski vestnik

  • Marx Returns
    Jason Barker
    In the year of the Marx bicentennial anniversary Barker’s novel is an experimental and thought-provoking work, the type of counterfactual history that makes us question precisely why and how “Marx was right”. ~ Chris Rumble, Historical Materialism

  • Marx Returns
    Jason Barker
    A rollicking, zany, hilarious, irreverential reconstruction of the life and world of Karl Marx. ~ G. M. Goshgarian, editor and translator of Louis Althusser's posthumous writings

  • Coming Revolution, The
    Ben Reynolds
    Reynolds offers the first complete hypothesis for the malady of inflation that swept post-World War II capitalism, based solely on the premises of Marx’s labor theory of value. This is a remarkable achievement in its own right and one deserving of praise for Reynolds work... Reynolds' book thus calls for a complete re-evaluation of the role of the state in post-war capitalism. ~ Jehu Eaves, https://therealmovement.wordpress.com/2018/07/20/the-coming-apocalypse-ben-reynolds-explains-why-wage-labor-has-no-future/

  • Marx Returns
    Jason Barker
    The coming and going with history, with all the paths of these revolutionaries more or less lost, stranded in London; the references to new conceptual frameworks proposed by the sciences; a Jenny Marx who has so much in common with Joyce's Molly... In short, the chaosmos of Jason Barker's Marx and his struggles interests me in so many respects. ~ Pascal Bataillard, French translator, James Joyce's Ulysses

  • Marx Returns
    Jason Barker
    An outstanding work of fiction that goes to the very heart of Marx's revolutionary thinking. ~ Slavoj Zizek, European Graduate School, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

  • Meaning of Trump, The
    Brian Francis Culkin
    The meaning of Trump tries to explore further the real meaning of Donald Trump's electoral victory in November 2016. After the wave of indignation and surprise traveled the world Brian Francis Culkin thinks now it is the right moment to analyse the figure of the President not only through his words and deeds but also as a symbol which represents something bigger in our current society. The avalanche of books, articles and general information has been so overwhelming since his election that it is difficult to add something new and refreshing and even though parts of the book sound merely introductory Culkin manages to contribute to the debate with his views. The most interesting input is the relation that the author establishes between Trump and digital society, or rather, the idea that Donald Trump is a direct consequence of the ways we use to communicate in social media and specially in Twitter. This permanent tension, the unnecessary but constant search for conflict, and the lack of any ideas apart from continuous insults and disrespect are the main characteristics of this kind of discourse, one that never listens to what the other person is saying and only generates noise and anxiety. Politicians are a symptom of the societies that create them and nourish them and never isolated cases coming from nowhere. They represent ideas and values that explicit or implicitly are present in our society and thus when a character like Donald Trump becomes against all odds President of the United States we must fight back, protest and push for change but also look to ourselves and see which are our priorities and what kind of place we want to live in. ~ Guillermo Fernandez , NetGalley

  • Capitalism vs. Freedom
    Rob Larson
    Are we really free in a capitalist system? Neoliberals such as Friedman and Hayek would say yes, because they claim free-market capitalism is the social arrangement that most encouraged human freedom. Rob Larson’s book demonstrates that they were wrong, because capitalism and freedom are two antagonistic concepts, as suggested in the title of this book. Many people in the world are beginning to suspect that they are not free to choose what they want to do with their life and others don’t feel free to safely express their opinion online.
    Larson’s book shows us how free-market capitalism based on a competitive market is not creating an overall freedom, but is concentrating more power in the hands of bigger firms and creating towering corporations with full monopoly all by itself.
    What is even more surprising is that capitalism is putting at risk one of the most important among our freedoms. The practice of controlling information is becoming more and more prevalent. Free markets are not allowing a free flow of information, but instead are creating a more consolidated industry, less diverse. Free-market forces narrowed the diversity of opinion in the media, because media firms’ owners and advertisers warp and shape the information that reaches the average citizen. The philosophy of the market is not to share real information, but to supply the right information, that which is most conducive to immediate profit-making. The media markets bring us information warped by concentrated ownership and by their advertising revenue-based business model.
    Concentrated power is also making difficult for the average citizen to freely express his political opinion, because dollars in the market give far more votes to those with a lot of money. Our having to say is being flooded by money surging through the electoral and political process. Most working people have not the necessary resources required to fight political confrontations. Parties are no longer debating about ideas, because gigantic amounts of cash are involved in shaping policy today. Therefore, average citizens’ preferences are non-significant. Ordinary people do not have any power over policy decisions. Policies are all driven by decisions and strategic maneuvers of coalitions of political investors in shifting economic conditions.
    Capitalism has also a great impact on the environment, therefore it has power over future generations. The decisions made through the modern period of capitalism have rarely taken into account the welfare of the people who must live in the world we leave them. The side-effects of capitalism are very serious, but neoliberals tend to ignore them. Among the side-effects of capitalism are climate change, the extinction of some species, the over-consuming of natural resources and pollution. The actual economic system needs to be more sustainable, otherwise the future generations will not have the possibility to enjoy adequate fresh air and water, and will not have the freedom to enjoy nature.
    Larson’s solution is to eradicate capitalism abolishing private ownership of productive capital and gigantic power arising from it and limiting concentrated power and maximizing freedom. A socialist society can limit the scale of private property and workers can cooperate and collaborate in the decision-making. A collaboration of equal companions can replace the command of masters and obedience of servants. A socialist economy can be created by the solidaric collaboration of the workers with hand in each special branch of production. Socialism, according to Larson, can contribute to a spiritual change among humanity, because it gives ordinary people the possibility to contribute in the economic process.

    ~ Francesco Camodeca , NetGalley

  • Serf's Journal, A
    Terry Tapp
    Subtitled “The story of the United States’ longest wildcat strike”, A serf’s journal depicts the months leading up to, as well as the undertaking of, the strike at JeffBoat in Jeffersonville, Indiana, in 2001, through the eyes of welder Terry Tapp.

    Setting the scene with his initial hiring at the company and going through his life at work, he details how the continued grind and dehumanisation of the JeffBoat workforce leads to a confrontation with both the company and their union, which, rather than fighting for the workers’ interests, largely acts as a middle manager, enforcing the company’s rules except when forced otherwise. At the same time, he intersperses this narrative with vignettes of the JeffBoat workers attempting to maintain some level of humanity and control over their lives, both on and off the job. While formally united in the sense that both stories take place in the context of the JeffBoat shipyard, they do not fully come together until the shipyard workers reject the pittance contract they were offered and are abandoned by their union in the strike that is supposed to follow, forcing them to either knuckle under or take the strike into their own hands. It is a story of hard, dangerous work, the machinations of trade union misleadership, and the ordinary heroics that people are able to undertake when pushed to the limit of their own lives, yet still able to reach out and support others, and makes for inspiring reading.

    In some ways, though, the epilogue to the book - written a decade after the strike - is almost as important as the description of the events that came before. Tapp writes of a new spirit of togetherness felt by the workers at JeffBoat in the initial months after the strike, directly stemming from the workers on the site having had to organise not only the picket lines, but also the family and community support that was needed for their action to succeed, especially since they were getting no help from their union. But because of the success of the strikers (in that they got the union to back down on forcing through the contract and were able to return to work with no retaliation), that spirit among the workers survived, and even spread. Indeed, as Tapp writes, “[the] JeffBoat wildcat strike of 2001… inspired a number of actions regionally, nationally and internationally”.

    While these actions were largely un- or under-reported in mainstream media, enthusiastic coverage on the relatively new and alternative venue of the internet meant that the strikers “received many emails from people who had heard of what we did and felt stronger about making positive change in their workplaces”. And, when a strike in a nearby city was called that September, JeffBoat workers and their supporters started organising people and resources to support it, so it could be at least as successful as the JeffBoat workers felt theirs was.

    Then September 11 happened. In the shock and disorientation that followed, the company struck back against the JeffBoat workers - not through disciplinary action, but through charts, graphs and other propaganda of statistics. Despite having been defeated in its attempt to force though a contract, and theoretically then agreeing that a new one be drafted, the company’s representatives explained that, due to the economic circumstances they found themselves in, it was unable to share out the prosperity it had achieved at all, meaning that striking would be ineffective and pointless.

    Furthermore, now that the United States had been attacked, and was (so it was said) under constant threat, striking would not only be pointless, but actively harmful to the well-being of the nation. To strike would be “a form of terrorism ... aiding America’s enemies” in its assault on the nation. While by and large the JeffBoat workers were not fooled by the spiel of “economic terrorism”, it did serve to disrupt the sense of collective power that had been built up over the strike and sustained since. And over the following few years, many workers simply drifted away to other jobs.

    Lessons
    Could things have happened differently? Tapp reckons so; he notes that, while they were able to successfully strike for a marginally better contract a year later with some tepid union support, he thinks that, had “those events of September” not taken place, then the energy built up by the wildcat strike would not have been so thoroughly undercut, and any future strikes would have been able to draw from those lessons to force a different outcome. This could easily have been so, but more should be added.

    The last lines of A serf’s journal are of one of Tapp’s co-workers saying to him: “We won. What are we going to do now?” It is an important question, which starts to get at the limits of what is achievable within a single action or workplace. On the one hand, when the JeffBoat workers went out on strike, they started to circumvent the limits placed upon them by lack of union support through pooling their own money in strike funds, and organising food and care for both the strikers and their families. Combined with reaching out for (and getting) broader community support, this was the main reason why the strike was able to last as long as it did and end in what the workers felt was a victory. And, as noted above, the JeffBoat workers were starting to spread those lessons to help out strikers in nearby workplaces. But the fact that the company was able to counterattack so effectively, thereby cutting the thread of the lessons learned at JeffBoat (except through long-after-the-fact retellings like this book), points to the lack of an organisation that could absorb those lessons for the long term.

    For communists, this organisation - at least in its highest form - would be the Communist Party, which can provide a centralisation of the experiences of the working class in all its forms in order to struggle more effectively for workers’ immediate interests, as well as develop a programme which can politically arm the working class to rule society and offer practical (if partial) experience in that rulership.

    But such a party did not exist in the United States during the strike; indeed, it has not existed in a meaningful form in over half a century due to a concerted effort on the part of rightwing labour bureaucrats and the capitalist state to purge the labour movement of socialists, communists and other radicals. Larger and smaller groups attempt to carry on some of the tasks that such a party would need to undertake, but their relative detachment from the workers’ movement as a whole has meant that their successes would be limited, and that even these limited successes would be interpreted through the sectarian blinders of most of these organisations primarily as the success of their particular sect, rather than of the workers’ movement as a whole. Communist politics still exist in the US, but largely do so on the fringes of that movement rather than as an all-pervasive force.

    Fortunately, however, the struggle to defend and advance immediate conditions still continues, as A serf’s journal wonderfully illustrates. For that, the book serves to hearten partisans of working class power and communism that the current broad period of defeat and reaction is not absolute, and can be turned around. For a short period of time, and in its own small way, the JeffBoat strike did just that. ~ Weekly Worker

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    This dynamite stick packaged as a short book, analyzes the twin reactions to the liberal-democratic consensus which served till recently as the self-evident normative foundation of our society: alt-right and Political Correctness. Nobody is spared in Nagle’s razor-sharp critical probing: while she brings out the shared presuppositions and hidden complicity of the two reactions, she also clearly demonstrates how these reactions are grounded in the weakness of the liberal-democratic consensus itself. KILL ALL NORMIES provides the much needed cognitive mapping for our predicament – it is a book for ALL those who want to orient ourselves in our crazy times. ~ Slavoj Zizek

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    This dynamite stick packaged as a short book, analyzes the twin reactions to the liberal-democratic consensus which served till recently as the self-evident normative foundation of our society: alt-right and Political Correctness. Nobody is spared in Nagle’s razor-sharp critical probing: while she brings out the shared presuppositions and hidden complicity of the two reactions, she also clearly demonstrates how these reactions are grounded in the weakness of the liberal-democratic consensus itself. KILL ALL NORMIES provides the much needed cognitive mapping for our predicament – it is a book for ALL those who want to orient ourselves in our crazy times. ~ Slavoj Zizek

  • Coming Revolution, The
    Ben Reynolds
    The social and economic explanations of how we got here especially regarding the industrial revolution and the Great Recession are great. ~ Diane Hernandez , dianereviewsbooks.com

  • Meaning of Trump, The
    Brian Francis Culkin
    Culkin presents a scholarly narrative on the very 'meaning of Trump'. In an effort to not spoil the 'ideological critique' he provides, this is excellent introduction to the issues surrounding this administration and those who advocate for it.

    Recommended reading for college political science courses, in part, for its brevity, this book is written at a level upon which most can understand. However, I strongly recommend this missive for those politically savvy individuals who wish to read a different take on the current President.

    ~ Eric Watkins, NetGalley

  • Meaning of Trump, The
    Brian Francis Culkin
    This is a fairly brief but useful overview of the reasons behind and the implications of Trump's presidency. Although some of Culkin's claims about elements such as the overwhelmingly negative effects of networked technologies, the disintegration of social relationships or the strategic thinking behind Trump's rise can be questioned, the book is very good on the effects of the growing coarseness of public discourse. The fact that his attempts at objectivity frequently falter in the face of the sheer absurdity of the current political situation is telling and reassuring. While I would have liked to have seen more focus on the effects beyond the US, the book is an interesting and timely examination of our times. ~ Michael J, NetGalley

  • When Journalism was a Thing
    Alexandra Kitty
    As a lover in investigative journalism, I wanted to learn about the author's take on the rise and fall of general journalism.

    Journalism is still everything, yet to some it has become like a joke.. Kitty explores the downfall of the profession and presents a solid strategy for its resurrection.

    Informative read!
    ~ Erica Watkins, NetGalley

  • Meaning of Trump, The
    Brian Francis Culkin
    “Trump wants neoliberalism, absent the globalization.”

    That is the paradox of Donald Trump, according to Brian Francis Culkin in his new book The Meaning of Trump, out from Zero Books in the first week of July, 2018. In other words, Trump embodies a paradox: he essentially represents the very neoliberal system–with its outsourcing of productivity to the Third World; migration of social and mediatic interactivity to the digital hypersphere; and the financialization of Big Business–that he built his entire campaign upon dismantling, promising to the middle American workers of the Rust Belt an impossibility: namely, that he could bring their jobs back, bring factories back from Mexico and China–such as Carrier–and in his words, “make America great, again.”

    Furthermore, the global migration crisis, according to Culkin, which Trump avows also to put a stop to, is in fact the fallout and result of American militarization and unrestrained multinational corporatism that Trump fully supports. You can’t have one without the other. Which lands Trump within another paradox: ignoring climate change and ordering his Titanic full speed ahead at the approaching iceberg by deregulating Big Business, ignoring environmental devastation, the dissolution of local economies and the rise of wars over resource scarcity, all of which virtually guarantees that the problem of human migration will only grow worse and worse. We are looking, over the next century, at the uprooting of possibly over a billion people in zones where failed nation states, such as in Syria and Iraq, and gradually increasing global temperatures, will be rendering such areas inhospitable and uninhabitable. The Syrian crisis is merely the prelude to the gradual depopulation of the Middle East as soaring temperatures will render it shorn of all human beings. These people have to go somewhere, and northern latitudes are going to be prime real estate. The irony is that Trump’s policies of deregulation will only make this situation worse, never better. Just like entropy. It only goes one way.

    Trump’s campaign, as Culkin also points out, won on a message that was, in essence, impossible to fulfill, namely to “make America great again,” by bringing back factories and jobs to the Rust Belt, turning back the clock on immigration to an age in which mostly white men benefited from the economy, and turn back to a time when social media wasn’t disrupting the flow of information from centralized sources. This is an example of what Arnold Toynbee called “the idolization of an ephemeral self,” such as in the case of ancient Athens after the Persian Wars, when the arrogance of the Athenians, relying upon their past greatness, kept getting them into worse and worse social and cultural disasters.

    American industrialization is dead, done and gone. Nothing can ever bring it back, as many of these jobs are in the process of becoming more and more automated. You cannot reverse the decaying entropy of a place like the Rust Belt. Economies simply don’t work that way, for they are built on exhausting and depleting resources in a specific area which, once exhausted, can never come back. It’s like trying to resurrect a mining town that is becoming a ghost town as the reserves are being depleted. The Sumerians, for instance, kept salinizing and ruining their soils as they went along, which is why, according to Thorkild Jacobsen, Mesopotamian civilization is a story that gradually migrates from southern Iraq with the Sumerians, to middle Iraq with the Babylonians, and ultimately to northern Iraq with the Assyrians. Once those soils are dead, they can’t be revived and neither can American industrialization. So that is a phantom set of floating signifiers whose signifieds have all been melted down. There’s no bringing them back.

    But note the vectors so far: Trump wants to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants; put travel bans on Muslim immigrants; he has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal; threatens to withdraw from NATO; supported Brexit; criticized any American involvement in Syria; and eased tensions with North Korea for the sole purpose of protecting American interests. In other words, it is an attempt to turn back the clock to pre-World War American Isolationism. It is like the Chinese emperor who, in the 1400s, ordered the burning of all admiral Zheng He’s records of his naval explorations in the Pacific, to Africa and, very possibly, the Americas. Subsequent Chinese influence upon the world retracted by the 1600s almost to zero as a result.

    It doesn’t sound so much like Trump wants to “make America great again” as to make it “small again.” Small, quaint, ignorant and provincial. Yet, as Culkin makes clear in his analysis of the very paradox that Trump represents, all the while supporting Big Business, deregulation and global corporate investments. It is a telling fact that while in North Korea, Trump was said to have been eyeballing its beaches as sites for possible future real estate developments.

    Reagan’s narrative, recall, was “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” to rid it of Big Government interference in the financial flows of its citizens. (In other words, as a wealthy movie star, he simply got tired of paying taxes). Trump’s narrative, on the other hand, is “The Art of the Deal.” Everything can be negotiated. He knows nothing of politics, cares nothing for history, and is ignorant of climate change. None of this matters. All that matters to him is transforming any and every situation to his advantage by extracting financial flows from it. His journey to North Korea had nothing to do with diplomacy: he was looking for ways to make money off of Kim Jong-Un. He wasn’t even thinking of echoing Nixon’s visit to China, which he probably doesn’t remember anyway.

    Trump’s right hand, it is clear, does not know what his left hand is doing. As Culkin demonstrates, he is perhaps the most confused and confusing American president that we have ever had. And yet, the contradictions continue to ramify. Bizarrely, Trump has recently announced the creation of a Space Force, to be aligned with the American military. But isn’t this a retrieval of American expansionism again? But wait a minute: I thought he wanted to make America small again. Hold on: he meant “great,” right? Or was it small? So which is it: do you want to continue the expansion of the American Empire or shut it down and turn it into a quaint and cozy place of isolationism. Nation state or Empire? I don’t think this guy has thought anything through.

    Culkin’s book succeeds best when it analyzes the kinds of contradictions that the Trump presidency represents. He is the first Hypermodern president, who tweeted his way into the White House, just as JFK was the first televisual president. I wonder, though, how popular Twitter is with the kinds of small town American Rust Belt workers that put Trump into office? Wouldn’t they regard it as a toy of the coastal liberal elite in their decadent big cities? Voting for him, as Culkin points out, was clearly not in their best interests, although due to his charisma and rhetoric he was able to make them think that he was their Big Brother–in the best sense of the phrase–looking out for their best interests. But the joke was on them. Their jobs aren’t coming back and Wall Street is only going to grow bigger, more esoteric and complex.

    In short, Culkin’s new book is brilliant, short, readable and beautiful. I highly recommend it. ~ Cultural Discourse

  • Disordered Minds
    Ian Hughes
    Ian Hughes adds new scientific insight to one of the deepest conundrums of politics: that positions of power appeal to the narcissistic, paranoid psychopaths among us, with catastrophic results for humanity. His argument that human institutions, particularly liberal democracy, are needed to constrain the worst of human nature, is profound and (needless to say) timely. Disordered Minds is sometimes disturbing, but it is consistently fascinating, and ultimately constructive and hopeful. ~ Steven Pinker , Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now.

  • Disordered Minds
    Ian Hughes
    Ian Hughes’ book Disordered Minds is essential reading in the era of Donald Trump. Hughes explains with insight and eloquence how leaders with disordered minds – psychopathy, narcissism, and paranoia – can take control in unstable societies and create mass movements that empower other disordered minds as well. The results can be disastrous: murder, mayhem, starvation, and war. Hughes emphasizes not only the threats of today’s mega-greed and massive inequality but solutions as well, including democratic institutions, a social democratic ethos, and the global movement towards sustainable development. ~ Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor, Columbia University

  • Speculative Annihilationism
    Matt Rosen
    Rosen’s Speculative Annihilationism brilliantly poses difficult questions, about the facticity of extinction, about being without thought, and dares to answer them. We should thank him for showing us the way in such clear, concise language, for peeling back the bruised veil and rendering the utterances of the abyss intelligible. Here now we can grasp extinction for what it really is, not possibility, but inevitability. ~ David Peak, author of The Spectacle of the Void

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