RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left
    Ian Parker
    Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left by Ian Parker is a collection of essays on keywords for the political left. Parker is Co-Director (with Erica Burman) of the Discourse Unit, Managing Editor of Annual Review of Critical Psychology, Secretary of Manchester Psychoanalytic Matrix, member of the Asylum Magazine editorial collective, and supporter of the Fourth International. He is a researcher, supervisor, and consultant in critical psychology and psychoanalysis.

    Revolutionary Keywords is a series of essays based on keywords. It is not a dictionary of definitions but contains commonly used keywords and creates essays built around the word. The essays put the keyword into context in modern socialism. Like most books on socialism, this one, too, becomes complex. The term socialism means many different things to many different people. European socialism, Stalinism, Leninism, Marxism, Democratic Socialism, even America's capitalist based "socialism" is discussed in order to set the common ground.

    The book discusses many aspects of historical socialism as well as modern day. Topics of race, sex, gender, globalism, and campism are discussed in detail throughout the book. Other topics seem mundane but have deep roots such as discourse, postmodernism, identity, and animals. The discussions run deep and turn out complex. At the end, the recap traces the changes in keywords from 1917 -1967 and 1967-2017. The evolution of keywords leads to the 2017 keywords in this volume. Although not intended for the general audience, in fact, I found myself a bit entangled in the subject matter. I felt much the same way on the first day of a semester in graduate school. Needless to say, it is not light reading, but worth the time and effort for those with an interest in the far left. ~ Evil Cyclist, https://evilcyclist.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/book-review-revolutionary-keywords-for-a-new-left/

  • Los Indignados: Tides of Social Insertion in Spain
    Richard R. Weiner
    Ivan Lopez
    Honing in on democratic fundamentals, this rich book offers an engaged and learned chronicle of a mass social and political movement that, from the start, has sought to deepen and stengthen popular sovereignty across a wide range of issues, levels of governance, and systems of meaning. Moving fluidly among theory, observation and analysis, Los Indignados thus stretches our imagination well beyond Spain at a time of political passion, fragile institutions, the dissolution of traditional party bonds, and fraught ideological combinations. ~ Ira Katznelson, Columbia University

  • Los Indignados: Tides of Social Insertion in Spain
    Richard R. Weiner
    Ivan Lopez
    This is such an important book on such an important topic. It is horrendously bleak in describing the world as experienced by so many of those who live in what we once called advanced western liberal democracies. And yet, and at the same time, it is wonderfully liberating in its detailed account of their mobilization and their attempts to make for themselves, indeed for us all, a better world. ~ Colin Hay, Sciences Po, Paris

  • Society Elsewhere
    Francis Sanzaro, Ph.D.
    "Francis Sanzaro's book is a welcome counter-narrative to all the 'just so' stories out there about how computers, especially with the acceleration of artificial intelligence, not only explain the nature of human cognition but will inevitably surpass it. The book is a masterful threading of actual research and data with serious philosophical reflection, and is an indispensable addition to a growing list of authors who are reminding us that the emperors of Silicon Valley are not wearing any clothes."
    - Carl Raschke, University of Denver, author of Force of God: Political Theology and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy ~ Carl Raschke, Ph.D.

  • How the Establishment Lost Control
    Chris Nineham
    This book feels timely, coming as it does ten years on from the start of the great recession set in train by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market in the US. Since then, we have had years of swingeing cuts, disguised under the moniker of austerity, plus a series of responses to that which have functioned as further shocks to the system in the UK and elsewhere: the Scottish Referendum; Brexit; Trump and the General Election of this June.

    However, Chris Nineham does much more than present a portrait of the last decade. Rather, he puts this into the context of the post-war consensus, its collapse and the subsequent onset of neoliberalism. He also discusses the turn away from Marx (and more broadly social-democratic traditions in economics) effected by sections of the left and, in particular, the academy, with its concomitant downplaying of class and its replacement with identity and choice as defining categories. Finally, he examines the tendency of the media to replicate and push hegemonic positions, allied to an inability and unwillingness to understand and engage with political events and views outside of their small Overton window.


    So, what are the answers given in the book and what other problems does it discuss? Going back to Marx, Gramsci, Luxembourg and, in particular, Lukács, he makes the case for the continuing efficacy of a material analysis, with attention given to the role of alienation and commodification in hiding the extraction of surplus value from the worker, allied to the ruling class’s control over what Marx called ‘the mental means of production’ (p.68), i.e. the role of ideology in attempting to ensuring the smooth running of this system.

    The book suggests that the contemporary birth of a revivified movement for social change can be dated back to the Seattle protests at the WTO in 1999. This is a view shared by Jodi Dean, among others.ii We then have the formation of Stop the War Coalition in the UK in 2001, further protests against the global elite in Genoa, Seattle, Nice and Washington, the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, the rise of Syriza in Greece and the formation of the People’s Assembly against Austerity in the UK in 2012. The latter did much of the work in the initial Corbyn campaign in 2015 and brought the energy of activists with years of campaigning between them to the staid world of mainstream political parties. In short, the author argues that we are in a moment of great optimism, buoyed by the shocks to the establishment in the UK, provided by the events listed in the first paragraph of this review.

    Brexit in particular opens up possibilities for a breakthrough by a working-class political alternative, coming as it did from a resounding ‘no’ to the political orthodoxy of the last forty years. The author acknowledges that times of crisis leave the door open for the right, particularly when their take on Brexit and the European Union in general is given such media dominance, both during and after the campaign. There has been a push to present it as an anti-immigrant, nationalist occurrence, despite the evidence suggesting otherwise, instead providing a multitude of reasons for people who voted leave. What they all had in common, though, was dissatisfaction with the state of things. The left must take advantage of the blow to British capitalism dealt by Brexit.

    The book concludes with a section on the role of mass politics in achieving and securing change, giving space to a discussion of the problems that will be faced by a Corbyn-led government, with the forces of the ruling class lined up against it. This can be countered via the revolutionary organisation within the mass movement: as Chris Nineham says in his final line, ‘a time of system failure and class-based discontent is a time to take the initiative’ ~ Martin Hall, Counterfire

  • How the Establishment Lost Control
    Chris Nineham
    How the Establishment Lost Control charts the events that led to Labour's unexpected election success and the Brexit vote, tries to explain how and why it happened and offers an argument as to how the left move forward if they want to continue the momentum (no pun intended!) Overall it does this well. If you want a (very) left-wing overview of how we got to where we are then this book is worth a read.

    The first half of the book gives a whistle-stop tour of the changes in the political landscape from the early 1970s to now in an attempt to explain Corbyn's success. I am fully on board with most of the arguments presented here (I joined Labour first as a supporter and then as a member and voted for Corbyn in both leadership elections). However, it tries to cram loads of different points into a very short space- the whole book is just over one hundred pages- so what you get is lots of very strongly worded opinion statements, granted with equally as many stats and references to back them up, but with not much analysis. There isn't really any nuanced discussion before the author jumps on to the next point so it moves too quickly. It is easy to gloss over the numbers and at times It feels as though the author making brash unjustified claims their even though the evidence is there, so as a reader I felt underwhelmed and even disconcerted at times. It was strange to read something I knew I agreed with but didn't quite feel comfortable with because of the way it was presented.

    The second half of the book is much more analytical and rectifies the problem of the earlier chapters. However, Chapter 4 moves straight from fast-paced description to full-on analysis, using the Marxist theory of class consciousness explain our current situation. There's not really a bridge between the two and it was a bit of a strange leap. I certainly wasn't expecting it and I imagine it would feel even stranger if you've never studied Marx before! I am in agreement with the author, however, and I think the theory is well explained and accessible. The last two chapters are by far the best, striking the right balance between description and analysis. The argument in the last chapter is strong, to the point and well developed, ending the book on a high. ~ Rebecca Farren, NetGalley

  • Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night
    Richard Cabut
    Andrew Gallix
    Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night
    ****
    Edited by Andrew Gallix and Richard Cabut
    ZERO BOOKS £17.99
    Academic reactions to punk four decades on
    Punk‘s power lies in its highly fragmented legacy: on the one hand, nostalgic weekends in Blackpool, on the other, key critical thinking as collated here. Editors Richard Cabut (formerly of positive punks Brigandage) and Andrew Gallix, founder of 3:AM Magazine, corral some of punk’s finest theorists to document the “blank zone” in which a scene blossomed; early chroniclers such as Jon Savage and Jonh Ingham remind that it was a series of cultural seeds scattered, trigger points for what followed.
    Penny Rimbaud of Crass, psychogeographer Tom Vague, Barney Hoskins, Judy Nylon, Simon Reynolds and late theorist Mark Fisher all cast an academic eye over punk, finding it in Parisian art galleries, squat-land, the Angry Brigade, conceptual non-bands (Chrissie Hynde’s The Moors Murderers, Julian Cope’s Nova Mob), jive-talking McLaren wannabes, proto-Dadaist Arthur Cravan , French Situationism and German Romanticism. The subtext here suggests that punk was an outward-looking movement against the end of the British empire.
    Ben Myers
    ~ MOJO magazine, Ben Myers

  • How the Establishment Lost Control
    Chris Nineham
    A great read about the current moment in the Left -- it's specifically about the Left in the U.K., but a lot of the observations are easily applicable to the US. There's a lot of stuff I'm definitely gonna take to heart with my own political organizing. ~ Hannah Spaulding, NetGalley

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    I really enjoyed this book. I come at is a politically aware but mainstream 30 something who is largely unfamiliar with the extremes of the modern and emerging left and right.

    From reading the book it became apparent I'm most likely best classed as a person who believes in left economic ideas and reduced inequality who feels the left has lost its way by emphasising identify over inequality. I say that however while being fully aware I don't suffer any discrimination or major challenges based solely on either my identity or my class/economic situation.

    My primary response to the book is sadness. Sadness at how polarized it appears online culture is and how it has clearly influenced mainstream politics in such an unpleasant way. I suspect the author will be attacked by both right and left which is possibly the best endorsement I can give the book. In many ways it is hard not to see so many of the "culture warriors" as being somewhat pathetic - whether it be attacking women simply because they are women or by feeling the need to hound someone out of a job etc. because you disagree with the views on something. .

    I do believe it is important to be aware of the different sub-cultures within the left and right movements. And to not tar everyone with the same brush. Interestingly it seems at first reading that the author is possibly harsher on the extreme left than the extreme right but on reflection that may simply be because its unusual for me, as a Guardian / NYT reading normie, to see open criticism of the left on social issues (rather than the usual economic criticism).

    Its slightly concerning that at 33 I feel completely out of date and out of the loop with internet culture!

    ~ Brenda Crowley, Librarian.

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Nagle approaches the alt-right with understanding and patience. Her political taxonomies are careful, her sociological explanations are persuasive, and her psychological evaluations are considerate. She has a genuine sympathy for her subjects and a genuine solidarity with their victims. Most important, she shows that psychological and economic analysis are complimentary rather than at odds. Read Kill All Normies, then everything else Nagle has written. It’ll be time better spent than listening to your favorite podcaster complain about “political correctness” for the nth time. ~ Mark Dunbar, The Humanist

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    If the internet is a trial run for real-life political action, then it’s clear that change is in order. As Nagle observes, if the left is to proceed, “it may be time to lay the very recent and very modern aesthetic values of counterculture to rest, and create something new.” Something that the right can’t co-opt. ~ Hannah Gais, New Republic

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Angela Nagle strikes me as an uncommonly sane voice in a culture war defined by astounding cruelty, extremism and intolerance. Kill All Normies is as absorbing as it is important. I hope everyone reads it. ~ Rob Doyle, The Stinging Fly

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Kill All Normies is an important book, albeit one whose conclusions are likely to prove unflattering and potentially unpopular. In it, the alt-right emerges as something not quite as alien as many would like to think. Rather, it is a bastardized version of the cultural currents that most of the book’s likely readers — myself included — participate in and valorize. And although there may be no easy way out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into — stabbings in Portland, riots in Berkeley, and Trump in the White House — the book’s indictment of our elitist culture wars does point toward an inevitable, if slightly horrifying conclusion: Perhaps the normies aren’t so bad after all. ~ Park McDougald, New York Magazine

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Nagle is looking around corners in the dark. And she's got guts. ~ Jacob Siegel, The Daily Beast

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Nagle’s measured prose, her commitment to both context and dialectics, contradiction and convergence as well as her stark imperturbability in the face of deeply disturbing materials make her the ideal reader of both liberal and academic hypocrisy as well as alt-right instrumentalization of transgression as politics. ~ Catherine Liu, LA Review of Books

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    Dynamite! ~ Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell

  • Coming From Nothing
    Matthew McKeever
    Coming from Nothing is a literary beignet sweetened by a rich powdering of philosophical speculation. The metaphysics of gender, the nature of personal identity, the relations among mind, body, information, and society - all of these contribute to a central philosophical enigma. Are Carrie’s and Jules’s driftingly intersecting lives governed by the causal powers of absences, or by the absence of causal powers? ~ Josh Dever, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

  • Pac-Man Principle, The
    Alex Wade
    Alex Wade’s The Pac-Man Principle offers a suitably wide-ranging account of one of the most influential videogames of all time. The simplicity and elegance of design in Iwatani’s masterpiece proves immensely productive in a critique that addresses a range of contemporary issues, from the welfare state to consumer culture, from drones to political referenda. ~ Paul Martin, Assistant Professor in Digital Media and Communications, , University of Nottingham Ningbo, China

  • Writing on the Wall, The
    Anselm Jappe
    Alastair Hemmens
    The Writing on the Wall: On the Decomposition of Capitalism and Its Critics by Anselm Jappe and translated by Alastair Hemmens is a study of capitalism and its future failure. Jappe grew up in Cologne and in the Périgord. He studied in Paris and Rome where he obtained, respectively, a master’s and then a doctorate degree in philosophy. In his writings, he has attempted to revive critical theory through a new interpretation of the work of Karl Marx. His book Guy Debord was an intellectual biography of Guy Debord, the prime mover of the Situationist International.

    Marx’s specter did put a fright into Europe in the late 19th century. Industries treated employees better. The work week was limited. The industrial worker now enjoyed something new called leisure time. The specter seemed satisfied and a new era of growing wealth and security that lasted until the out break of WWI. Unions and socialists still kept the pressure on governments and industries, but failed to keep workers from fighting other workers who lived under a different flag. After the war and the Russian revolution, governments and industry struggled to prevent socialists from rising to governmental power. There was a rise in anti-socialism backed by industry and wealth. This was best seen in Germany and Italy. In the US, socialism was controlled by laws, especially the espionage acts that put Eugene Debs in jail. There was also violence against unions.

    Marx predicted that Capitalism would fail. It was a beast that consumed everything in front of it and would eventually devour itself. Workers were the first to get eaten and spit out broken. When they fought back the jobs left or they were replaced. Now, it is resources and our planet, in general, that is suffering. Industrialization and consumerism have upset the environment from climate change to pollution, to the giant island of floating plastic in the Pacific Ocean. Wages of workers remain stagnant while the top percentage of white collar workers see increases in earnings. Industrial jobs are moved overseas for the cheap labor and lack of regulation. Countries like China and India benefit only because they were so far behind the Western World. Workers there are paid low and are worked long almost like the industrialized revolution here. Some benefit greatly the vast majority do not.

    Jappe leads the reader through his thinking with ten, very well documented, essays. One point that particularly stuck in my mind was behavior. We have four taste senses; sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. A child will only ask for sweet and salty. We learn to like the other tastes and develop an appreciation for them with time. Cut out the learning and what we have left is basically McDonald’s — salty food and sugary drinks. Cut out the education, or dumb it down, and we have people whose only qualifications are unskilled labor, the so-called McJobs. What is needed to pass high school today is a lot less than fifty or seventy years ago. An associates degree that would secure a tech job in the past carries much less weight today. Jobs that used to have insurance, vacations, pensions, and holidays don’t anymore.

    We are in an era of “Bread and Circuses.” The system is starting to consume itself and we are told not to worry. We have cable television, cell phones that are used for mindless games rather than talking. Social media that helps pit one side against another. In America, our political system is split into only two sides an “us versus them” scenario. Realistically the parties are not that far apart on the political spectrum. It is not socialism versus fascism. The rich still benefit no matter who is in control. The system encourages people to vote against their own interests with sound bites and catch phrases rather than thoughtful discussion. The idea of capitalism trumps the idea of democracy.

    The fear that capitalism will fall to socialism is not one that is based in reality. Capitalism will destroy itself and it will not be a workers revolt that will rise but rather barbarism. Much like a building crumbling to the ground and new better building will not arise unless there is the organization, skilled labor, and a popular willingness to build a new, better building. That is what is missing and the system, in order to protect itself, the system works to undermine that organization. Society is not going to fall into socialism when capitalism fails. Mankind will enter a Hobbesian state of nature. Jappe explains to the reader that the writing is on the wall and it is up to us to first notice and then react. ~ Evil Cyclist, https://evilcyclist.wordpress.com/2017/08/22/book-review-the-writing-on-the-wall-on-the-decomposition-of-capitalism-and-its-critics/

  • How the Establishment Lost Control
    Chris Nineham
    An antidote to the neoliberal fixation of British mainstream discourse. A must read for the informed citizen. ~ Francesca Martinez

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