RECENT REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    This short head-butt of a book taught me more about recent political events in a single rich evening of reading than I’ve learned in this entire last and very unpleasant year of obsessively monitoring cable TV, and confirmed for me something I’ve been feeling for a while now, namely that social media is a toxin we are gleefully and cluelessly injecting into ourselves, even as we ask, “Why are we getting so mean and stupid?” ~ George Saunders, author, winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize

  • Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night
    Richard Cabut
    Andrew Gallix
    This is a well-selected collection of essays about punk and its cultural impact, which mixes contemporary accounts with more academic reflective approaches (sometimes in the same chapter). This means it's quite uneven but that seems appropriate given its subject. You do come away with some kind of feel how exciting it must have been to be involved in what was happening in 1976 and 1977 and how quickly the excitement seems to have dissipated. A good companion to books like Jon Savage's England's Dreaming. ~ Michael J, NetGalley

  • How to Read a History Book
    Marshall T. Poe
    This book introduces the reader in an easy and understandable way into the genre of history books. Through fictional stories and examples, it becomes clear what difficulties historians encounter when writing such books. It also details the function of key components of history books. The book is valuable in giving readers tools to look at history books in a more critical and reflective way. This book is helpful for everyone who likes to read history books as well as students who want to have a deeper, reflective insight into this genre.

    ~ Brigitt Amthor, NetGalley

  • Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night
    Richard Cabut
    Andrew Gallix
    The book's title (Modernity Killed Every Night) quotes Jacques Vaché, friend to the surrealist André Breton. But Punk Is Dead isn't end-to-end cultural theory; there's a lot on clothes. Three strands unfurl - papers, essays and first-person accounts. Cabut and Gallix have included historical documents - such as Penny Rimbaud's 1977 essay, Banned from the Roxy, newly annotated by the Crass drummer - while Gallix argues that punk started ending when it acquired a name. Jon Savage is here, and Ted Polhemus and Vermorel. (...) As an interview with the punk turned philosopher Simon Critchley attests, punk unleashed ideas. It palpably changed suburban teenage futures, rather than ending them.
    -- Kitty Empire, The Observer, 19 November 2017 ~ Kitty Empire, The Observer

  • Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night
    Richard Cabut
    Andrew Gallix
    I thoroughly enjoyed Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night (Zero Books). Edited by Richard Cabut and Andrew Gallix, this anthology of essays, interviews and personal recollections reflects on the ways in which punk was lived and experienced at the time. Gallix flips his finger at those who see nostalgia as an affliction and rightly attempts to promote the fragmented and contested legend of punk to "a summation of all the avant-garde movements of the 20th century . . . a revolution for everyday life.
    -- Booker Prize-shortlisted novelist Deborah Levy has chosen Punk is Dead as one of her books of the year in the New Statesman, 17-23 November 2017: ~ Deborah Levy, New Statesman

  • How to Read a History Book
    Marshall T. Poe
    How To Read A History Book is a clever look at how academic works, and a comment on the way we perceive documentation and history. What stood out most to me about this book is the way I was able to reflect on my own academic work through the story shared here.

    And story was not what I expected at all. The narrative structure of the book proved to be a positive surprise. I would recommend this book to scholars, students, and anyone interested in reading about how "what we know" comes to be.

    ~ JD DeHart, NetGalley

  • That Existential Leap: a crime story
    Dolan Cummings
    How dreadful the knowledge of truth can be’, says the unfortunate hero of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, ‘when there is no help in truth’. So concludes one of the Western canon’s earliest extant detective stories – a cool rational attempt to uncover the source of a society’s malaise, which, ultimately, leaves us wondering what the point of it all is.

    Still, the genre of crime novels and detective stories has flourished in modern times. It seeks to reassure us of the fundamental soundness of society’s laws and institutions, while creating attractively lone, determinedly individual heroes to do so. It recognises the persistence of evil, but provides us with the consolation that it can be temporarily halted.

    But why, a reader might wonder, has author (and regular spiked contributor) Dolan Cummings dressed up his debut crime novel, That Existential Leap: A Crime Story, in the esoteric language of existential philosophy? Perhaps it is because almost all crime stories require us to take an existential leap at some point, in deciding, for instance, to side with the criminal or the law, the desire for justice or the appearance of it.

    While the majority of That Existential Leap’s action takes place in New York and Glasgow, it would be a foolish TV producer who pitched this novel as CSI meets Taggart. It centres on a detective and a criminal, and features a high enough body count in its 200 pages to keep crime-genre fans happy, but it is far from a straightforward take on the genre. It might just get by as True Detective meets Gregory’s Girl, after a few drinks.

    Structurally, the novel sets itself up as a classic struggle between a compelling criminal and a doubt-struck detective. Siegfried is an otherwise unremarkable but supremely resourceful young man who, in one daring act of fraud and another opportunistic act of selfless larceny, flees Glasgow for New York and becomes – in a possible nod to the contemporary TV Sherlock’s Moriarty – a sort of consulting criminal.

    Back in Scotland, DI Alexander (we never find out his first name) is stuck investigating a crime for which there is little social benefit in solving – the murder of a petty criminal and thug by a protective older sister – and a series of occult-related deaths for which there is a clear social benefit in solving, but little actual evidence. At work he is facing pressure from an NGO with a strong purpose and sinisterly ill-defined demands. And at home, his head is being turned from a loveless marriage towards an underage schoolgirl through some possibly psychotic visions of the devil.

    Our criminal spends the novel not committing crimes but solving problems; our detective manages to solve most of his problems but hardly any of the crimes. Yet the novel neither damns the law nor advocates extra-judicial killing. As an orthodox crime story then, That Existential Leap is an unqualified disaster.

    Fortunately, it is clearly not intended as such. Alexander and Siegfried are only tangentially connected; the novel is largely told from the perspective of Siegfried’s girlfriend Claudette, a precocious Indian-American college student. It is predominantly through her conjecture, assumptions and fantasies about the interior worlds of others that the action of the novel unfolds. It is she who eventually develops as the most interesting character.

    That Existential Leap gradually reveals itself to be not so much a battle between good and evil, or law versus natural right, as a portrait of the contemporary besieged individual trying to come of age in a world of few clear moral certainties.
    Such an approach – evident in its Wagnerian leitmotif and its dark picaresque – may seem a curiously convoluted one. Then again, you only need to spend an afternoon trawling through the demi-worlds of online youth culture to remind yourself how thrillingly exhausting it is to develop an individual ethical framework where your only references are pop culture.

    From the social-justice warfare of Tumblr to the bracing cruelties of alt-right trolls, we are never far from the spectacle of young people attempting to make some kind of moral and intellectual sense of the world with few traditional institutions to guide them. It is an often grisly sight, especially as the unresolved intra-generational culture wars move increasingly into the real world.
    In many ways, That Existential Leap is a sincere attempt to grapple with and articulate that struggle between the individual and society, and perhaps find a way to transcend it. Siegfried initially appears as a kind of ultra-individualist Übermensch ripped straight from the pages of Ayn Rand: resourceful, pro-active and hyper-rationalist. Alexander is the self-reflective guardian of the social good, whose work has come at the cost of his own life and those closest to him.

    Yet while Sartre’s oft-misunderstood claim that ‘hell is other people’ may be every teenage existentialist’s maxim, That Existential Leap gives other people a much better hearing. It is left to the most infuriating and well-rounded character to suggest there may be a third way between the rugged individual and society’s sacrificial lamb:
    ‘Somewhere between individual self-mastery and the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune is, or ought to be, real life. That is the human world of possibilities and constraints that make sense because even if we are not individually responsible for them, we are in some sense connected to them, complicit in them…Isn’t the point of human society to diminish contingency, or at least to render it human? To make us all, collectively if not individually, the authors of our own destiny?’
    This is the door that That Existential Leap prises open for the reader.

    That is not to say there aren’t problems with That Existential Leap. It can be overly episodic and suffers at points from being poorly structured. But it can also be very funny and, in showing how self-alienation suffocates attempts at human connection, it is beautifully observed. This is a debut of genuine promise.

    Like all fiction, That Existential Leap is not much of a manual for living. Yet it does start to provide a glimpse of how you could start. Hopefully we’ll get to see where Cummings leads us next.

    David Bowden is a writer and reviewer based in London. ~ David Bowden, http://www.spiked-online.com

  • Lenin Lives!
    Philip Cunliffe
    What’s deeply commendable about Lenin Lives is its ability to counter philosophical tendencies of the latter half of the 20th century, tendencies that argue for the end of “grand narratives,” by precisely persisting in the need to narrativize the history of modern bourgeois society along those vastly grand scales. How else could we have a sense of where our politics might take us, if we did not permit ourselves the freedom to imagine the social totality (and our subject positions within it) to be transcendeable?

    https://platypus1917.org/2017/11/01/book-review-philip-cunliffe-lenin-lives-reimagining-russian-revolution-1917-2017/
    ~ Gregor Baszak, Platypus Review

  • Disordered Minds
    Ian Hughes
    Ian Hughes explains with admirable clarity and ease the ways in which dangerous individuals can emerge, flourish and dominate others in certain social and political settings, causing untold harm, violence and barbarism. In an age of right-wing ‘illiberal democracy’, xenophobic populism and the rise of politicians such as Trump in the U.S. or Le Pen in France, Disordered Minds is a diagnostic tool with which to identify both the social disorders and personality disorders that can threaten hard won democratic freedoms and undermine moves towards building a less unequal society and securing basic socio-economic rights for all. As we search for answers to explain our troubled times, we should be grateful to Ian Hughes for writing this book. ~ Prof. John Barry, author of The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability

  • Disordered Minds
    Ian Hughes
    Ian Hughes’ fascinating book makes us reflect on the importance of electing leaders who are not just inspiring and effective but have a balanced personality. He has convinced me that every potential leader will one day have to publish not only their manifesto but also their psychological profile. ~ Graham Farmelo, Costa Book Award Winner, LA Times Book Prizes Winner and author of Churchill’s Bomb: A Hidden Story of Science, Politics and War, and

  • Disordered Minds
    Ian Hughes
    “This brilliant book, pulls together a big picture like no other books on psychopaths and politics I’ve seen. Further, it addresses, like no other book I've found, the damage that is caused when what Hughes calls "the toxic Triangle” enables psychopaths to gain power at a national level. This is a book that legislators and leaders should read." ~ Rob Kall, Founder of OpEdNews, host of the Bottom Up Radio Show and author of Bottom Up: The Connection Revolution

  • Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night
    Richard Cabut
    Andrew Gallix
    A very fascinating book if you are interested in what the punk scene was. ~ , NetGalley

  • Punk Is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night
    Richard Cabut
    Andrew Gallix
    Utterly fascinating and brilliant ~ Lee Rourke, novelist

  • Revolutionary Keywords for a New Left
    Ian Parker
    Ian Parker has a track record as an ecosocialist political activist in Britain. He is a committed but non-dogmatic Marxist and a psychoanalyst so, unsurprisingly, anything he writes is likely to be serious and challenging.

    Despite a strong theoretical and academic background, however, Parker writes in a very engaging and interesting fashion.

    Revolutionary Keywords does what it says on the tin. Parker has come up with a list of key terms that are used on the left and explains them clearly.

    This book would be a useful political education resource for anyone involved in Marxist, green or intersectional liberation politics. Parker has taken 50 keywords, including ecosocialism, empire and Islamophobia, and described each. He looks at how they have been disputed, contradicted and generally argued over. He offers suggestions for further reading.

    The concept of “keywords” comes from the working-class Welsh cultural theorist and ecosocialist Raymond Williams. He sought to link literary theory with political activism, producing his own keywords book in 1976.

    Williams’ project looked at how the meanings of words had changed in the context of political, social and cultural transformation. His project was more academic and formal than this new book, but Parker draws upon his inspiration.

    Both Parker and Williams believe that words may become more significant and change according to context. The broad context for Parker is the way in which the revolutionary left has come into contact with movements for feminism, ecology and intersectionality in recent decades.

    He assumes that Marxism has an intrinsic sympathy for what might be seen as new notions of liberation — his Marxism is innately “intersectional”. Intersectionality has proven controversial for some Marxists (as has feminism and ecology), but Parker notes its origin as a term is in fact rather straightforward and rooted in working-class struggle.

    Workers at General Motors in the United States sought to sue the firm for discrimination in 1989, but were told that they could only sue on the basis of either gender or ethnicity. African-American women, however, felt that they had been discriminated in both forms.

    Parker explains that legal theorist Kimberle Crenshaw “came up with a commonsensical term from the metaphor of what in the US is called an ‘intersection’, or a road crossing”.

    The more specific context was the situation British Marxists faced in recent years. A crisis in one of the bigger far left groups opened up prospects for a realignment of left groups, and Marxists like Parker encountered new radical networks. The book was largely inspired by a radical reading group of anti-capitalist activists in Manchester, where Parker is based.

    Keywords consistently takes important and sometimes seemingly threatening terms and opens them up for discussion. Parker has the ability to make difficult ideas accessible. He is a strong opponent of theory being used to bolster academic careers separate from political struggle.

    Parker also shows how theory can be used to belittle new activists or impose a narrow party orthodoxy. The fact that he makes concepts from psychoanalysis more relevant to left activists is another virtue.

    Criticisms can be made. Sometimes the examples seem based on often obscure debates between small groups on the far left. Although international in outlook, there is a lot more Manchester than Mumbai here. An index would have been useful and sometimes it is difficult to track down content. For example, a discussion of Rojava and Kurdish politics is under the keyword “Justice”.

    This is an enjoyable and thought-provoking book. Vladimir Lenin said there can be no revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory. Any reader will have some disagreements with the author, but Keywords opens discussion rather than closing it down.

    [Derek Wall is joint international coordinator of the Green Party of England and Wales. His latest book Elinor Ostrom’s Rules for Radicals will be published by Pluto this month.] ~ Derek Wall, https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/revolutionary-keywords-opens-useful-discussion

  • Seen and Not Seen
    Jasun Horsley
    "Horsley's book is indeed a confession, full of the kind of frank talk one would expect in a tale touted as confessional. In fact, in places the book is jaw-dropping in its raw honesty and relentless self-critical insight. Here is a writer not the least interested in marrying his auteur self to a poseur self. . . . I would go so far as to say to everyone, but especially adolescents and young adults, that Horsley's book can serve well as "the bible" for how to navigate through the treacherous shoals of popular culture, particularly in the form of violent screen entertainment." ~ Gregory Desilet (author of Our Faith in Evil), Amazon

  • Kill All Normies
    Angela Nagle
    The rise of President Trump and right-wing populism worldwide was preceded and normalized by a far-right social media movement. Sites such as 4chan and reddit fostered online right-wing communities that spilled out into internet journalism, Facebook and Twitter, and ultimately the White House. In her book Kill All Normies, Irish journalist Angela Nagle elucidates the circumstances that fomented this ideology.

    Nagle posits that the Obama presidency’s veneer of reasoned sincerity led to the disingenuous clicktivism of the KONY 2012 movement and the social media vilification of the Cincinnati Zoo in the wake of their euthanizing Harambe the gorilla. These trends’ self-importance and intolerance of dissent led to a good deal of disillusionment of youth on the left and the right. Gamer groups, various white nationalist and Christian conservative groups, and the remnants of the pick-up artist community congealed into a loosely affiliated, predominantly male movement referred to as the Alt-Right.

    The Alt-Right is anti-authoritarian, decentralized, and often anonymous, although it has many (frequently at odds) figureheads. It follows, then, that contradictory ideologies co-exist beneath the same umbrella. Richard Spencer decries homosexuality and drug use as symptoms of Western decline, whereas both are celebrated by Milo Yiannopolis. Nagle posits that the greatest uniting force is “a bursting forth of anti-PC cultural politics through the culture wars of recent years.”

    The mainstreaming of Black Lives Matter, safe spaces, transgender bathroom rights, etc. saw transgression becoming the project of retrograde racial and gender politics. Whereas once Prince’s lyrics and Dead Kennedys’ album art were the matter of Congressional inquiry, it is now edgier to release a female game designer’s home address or liken Leslie Jones to a gorilla. Indeed, Nagle argues that the Alt-Right has co-opted liberalism’s transgressive rhetoric and aesthetic. The difference is that the status quo now is more socially liberal than it was in the 1950s and ’60s. The core contradiction of Alt-Right ideology is that its strategies, because they are co-opted from and practiced in an environment of social liberalism, require liberalism to exist. As Nagle puts it, “Trump, rightist 4chan and the alt-right all represent a pretty dramatic departure from the kind of churchgoing, upstanding, button-down, family values conservativism that we usually associate with the term in Anglo-American public and political life.”

    While she doesn’t quite make clear how the real-world consequences of this online discourse—especially the election of Donald Trump—were precipitated by the online hate-pit, Nagle’s analysis is trenchant and timely. What makes Kill All Normies such an insightful book is the author’s insistence on the culpability of the left in creating the vacuum in which the Alt-Right expanded. As liberal college campuses and private businesses instituted policies of gender-neutral bathrooms, safe spaces, and trigger warnings, they ironically made speech and thought less free through call-out culture. Nagle’s caution that the left’s stagnant ideas, pedantry, and infighting have made it the weaker party of the two should surely lead those who want change to reflect on their methods. ~ Alex Kies, Rain Taxi Review of Books

  • Disordered Minds
    Ian Hughes
    As one of the most impressive and respected multidisciplinary scientists today, Ian Hughes in Disordered Minds gives a compelling and timely account of the dangers posed by psychologically dangerous leaders and provides a stark warning that the conditions in which this psychopathy flourishes - extremes of social inequality and a culture of hyper-individualism - are very much the hallmarks of our present age. A must read! ~ Professor Frederick M. Burkle, Jr, MD, Senior Fellow & Scientist, Harvard University

  • 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

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