Archive for January, 2010

Spaces of Global Capitalism: Towards a Theory of Uneven Global Development, by David Harvey

Here are three lectures delivered by Harvey, a geographer by trade, in 2004. In the first he analyses neoliberalism in what is a finely composed exposition of its meaning: the restoration of ruling class power. The second is focused on uneven geographical development and Harvey masterfully employs his Marxian analytical toolbox to demonstrate how this unevenness is inherent to the system via processes of primitive accumulation, competing capitals and commodity fetishism. Finally, for the specialist Harvey tackles the notion of ‘space’, producing a nine-coordinate ‘matrix’ of different conceptions which we are asked to consider simultaneously and dialectically; it’s challenging stuff. SS

Verso; 2006; 154 pages

Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance, by John Berger

Sixteen short essays, written between 2001 and 2006, linked by the thread of the hope (or in Berger’s coinage ‘undefeated despair’) that enables people to continue the struggle – ‘surviving the nights and imagining a new day’ – in an era of unrestrained capitalism and the ‘war on terror’. A thread that takes him through the plight of the Palestinians, the poetry of Nazim Hikmet, Hurricane Katrina, the films of Pasolini, the music of Dvorak, the invasion of Iraq, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the stories of Platonov,  9/11, the July 7 bombings, and much more besides. AS

Verso; 2007; 142 pages

Militant Modernism, by Owen Hatherley

When devastating capitalist crisis offers a justification for the savage intensification of market discipline (for the masses), to counter-attack on either political or aesthetic grounds may seem audacious enough. To do so on both at once is outrageous and, in the case of Militant Modernism, outrageously brilliant – with thrilling style and a swaggering contempt Hatherley dismisses the pathetic unoriginality of new private housing, market-fetishising artistic practices and much else besides. He serves up a newly emancipating rediscovery of socialist modernism in public housing, planning, film and sexuality and writes with exhilarating confidence and astonishing thematic breadth: “Forward! Never forgetting.” AB

Zero Books; 2009; 160 pages

A River Dies Of Thirst: A Diary, by Mahmoud Darwish

By turns lyrical and meditative, playful and ironic, imbued with exile and loss, and steadfastly truthful, the pieces in this collection were mostly written in Ramallah during the summer of 2006, as Israel invaded Lebanon. By juxtaposing fully-worked poems, journal entries, poetic fragments and prose poems Darwish blurs the boundaries between forms.  In the final entry he writes, “All prose here is primitive poetry lacking a skilled craftsman, and all the poetry is prose accessible to passers-by.” A fitting farewell to a writer regarded as the voice of the Palestinian people and one of the greatest poets of our time. AS

Saqi Books; 2009; 165 pages

What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by Thomas Frank

Why do working class Kansans support a Republican Party that consistently acts against their interests? Frank’s simple answer is that culture has substituted for class; moral righteousness functions as an outlet for underlying anger at economic injustice. He examines the rhetoric of talk radio ‘shock jocks’, evangelicals, Fox News and right-wing politicians. Unfortunately the book is overly journalistic in places and the analysis is occasionally lightweight. Acknowledging the working class’s abandonment by the Democrats, Frank recommends a return to an old-fashioned economic populism. Despite its limitations, it’s encouraging to see a bestseller placing class at the heart of its analysis. SS

Holt McDougal; 2005; 336 pages

The Meaning of Race: Race, History, and Culture in Western Society, by Kenan Malik

Malik’s study is an awesome and challenging counter-narrative of the history of ‘race’. He charts how the notion originated and developed through slavery and colonialism and the ways in which it was formalised via a scientific discourse. So far, so familiar. Malik’s originality lies in his bravura conclusion: he demonstrates how in the post-war era the discredited idea of ‘race’ was transmogrified into the equally tenuous notion of ‘culture’ and, even more ephemerally, ‘ethnicity’, serving merely as codes for the unscientific concept of ‘race’. Usefully, this thought-provoking work powerfully emphasises the strategic dead-end of identity politics and multiculturalism as ideology. SS

Palgrave Macmillan; 1996; 336 pages

Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, by Mahmoud Mamdani

Mamdani’s is an ambitious endeavour: to challenge the dominant narrative on Darfur, to offer an alternative explanation of the conflict and to associate its representations with the “war on terror”. He meets his objectives but the scope of the book makes it rather disjointed. The first section is the most interesting: he forensically demonstrates the deceit and exaggerations of the Save Darfur organisation. Later sections devoted to how colonial policy constructed ethnic categories which still frame internal conflicts – despite their inaccuracy – are familiar from elsewhere, while his account of Sudan’s history is detailed but confusing to the non-expert. SS

Pantheon Books; 2009; 416 pages


Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers. George Orwell

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