Archive for the 'Non-fiction' Category

The Red in the Rainbow, by Hannah Dee

Since 1970, struggles against LGBT oppression have won impressive legal gains alongside a sea-change in social attitudes. Liberation remains a distant prospect, however, and in this context Dee constructs an entertaining and thoroughly cogent exposition of the classical Marxist theory of sexuality. In examining how economic organisation underpins social structures surrounding sexuality – and what this means for transforming such structures – Dee presents a rich seam of historical detail; for instance the often-neglected sexual radicalism of early Social Democratic perspectives. Despite tending to the mechanistic in an over-hasty rejection of queer theory, this is recommended reading for any non-expert.

Bookmarks; 2011; 192 pages

Advertisements

Bonfire of Illusions: The Twin Crises of the Liiberal World, by Alex Callinicos

Plenty of illusions but no bonfire. The problem with this book’s title – acknowledged by Callinicos – is that the ruling neoliberal ideology is very much alive and kicking. Fixing as his point of departure the timely conjunction of the financial meltdown of 2008 and the Russia-Georgia war, the author argues that these events marked the end of the post-Cold War epoch of unipolar US supremacy and neoliberal orthodoxy. A detailed accounting of the financial crisis, informed by an understanding of falling profit rates, gives way to a weaker outline of geopolitical strategy that frequently reiterates the earlier economic arguments. SS

Polity; 2010; 179 pages

Stalin and Shostakovich, by Solomon Volkov

This account of the perilous, unremitting battles between Stalin and Shostakovich charts an engrossing history which extends well beyond the book’s protagonists. Lacking incisive political perspective, Volkov nonetheless unearths a wealth of detail on the whole structure of state-regulated cultural production during the Stalin era. With disaster an ever-present threat, figures such as Shostakovich, Eisenstein and Pasternak engaged in a compex set of cat-and-mouse relations: often barely surviving through a combination of guile and Stalin’s uncertain desire for international recognition. Incorporating fascinating analysis of Shostakovich’s key works, Volkov’s readable fusion of the musicological and the social is a clear success. AB

Little, Brown and Company; 2004; 384 pages

No Place Like Home: A Black Briton’s Journey Through the American South, by Gary Younge

Premised on The Guardian columnist’s journey along the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides, this somewhat confused book mixes travelogue and political analysis, sometimes to the detriment of both. Younge is at his best when talking to civil rights stalwarts, discussing contemporary social relations in the South and their intersection with history and sharing his experiences growing up in Britain as the son of immigrant parents from Barbados. He frequently returns to the nexus of race and class. But the book is weak in parts, occasionally slipping into banal description or simplistic cliché: like Bill Bryson but without the laughs. SS

Picador; 1999; 280 pages

Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century, by Giovanni Arrighi

This expansive work seeks to understand differing paths of capitalist economic development and portends tectonic shifts in world capitalism as China emerges as challenger to US hegemony. Beginning with a theoretical discussion of Adam Smith’s political economy, Arrighi contrasts Europe’s historical development with the purer market economics of the contemporaneous Far East. By examining historical transitions from one world-leading centre of capitalism to another, considering the role of financialisation in these processes, Arrighi ponders the future of US dominance after a series of monumental political and military failures. In the background China is rising; the new workshop of the world. SS

Verso; 2008; 418 pages

We Saw Spain Die: Foreign Correspondents in the Spanish Civil War, by Paul Preston

We Saw Spain DieFacing reactionary press barons’ hostility to socialists and Western governments’ deals with fascism, foreign reporting on the Spanish Civil War was accurate only through constant struggle. We Saw Spain Die recounts the stories of the many correspondents who risked lives and careers to carry out this struggle – international journalists whose bravery and determination informed a mass audience of the astonishing, tragic courage of ordinary Spaniards battling fascist military onslaught. Weaving together personal, professional and political detail Preston offers unusual insight into the defeated Revolution and journalistic practice, and through individual experiences constructs a valuable addition to the Revolution’s historiography. AB

Constable; 2009; 512 pages

The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, by Erich Fromm

Regarded as one of Fromm’s masterworks, this book mixes psychology, palaeontology and anthropology in its endeavour to address a simple question: why are humans violent? The underlying answer for Fromm is rooted in this social animal’s general condition of unfreedom since the Neolithic revolution some 10,000 years ago. In lengthy meanderings he takes in animal behavioural science, sketches the structure of Neolithic society and produces psychological biographies of Hitler, Stalin and Himmler. But for large parts of the book his central argument takes a back seat. While much of the material is fascinating its fragmentary character surrenders its polemical force. SS

Pimlico; 1997; 688 pages

Pimlico

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

Archives