Good Reads

A collection of good reads that throw some light – economic, political, artistic and historical – on a range of themes across the political spectrum of the left.

If you are starting a bookshelf, as a source of illumination on the current econo-political turmoil, this growing list of books might help. We’ll share our reading list with you every month or so.

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Jacobin – reason in revolt

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Perversely, not a book this month, but a magazine, with a profound message and a world class design and layout. With over a million web hits a month declared for the publication, this must be one of the world’s premiere ‘socialist debate’ media presences, bar none.

In the current issue (January 2019) is a thoughtful article on liberal politics. How ”…Liberals love Harry Potter because it presents a world they desperately wish was a reality — one where the magic of facts and reason and elite education were enough to vanquish the ills of society”.

The article declares the concept a valid target for the Left in England. Recognising ‘...a particularly neoliberal authoritarian fantasy to Potterworld. “Magic,” as it is discussed in the Harry Potter universe, is a force that allows its wielder to have a profound and measurable impact without organizing, sacrificing, or indeed doing much of anything‘.

It does, however, fully endorse the clarity of thought on display in the magazine, as well as the continuing internationalist nature of class struggle and the enduring cross-border debate about rights, responsibilities and inequality.

Jacobin is recommended to the readers of Collective Conversations.

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PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future

Paul Mason, Penguin Books (Publ. June, 2016)

Another seminal text to help chart the murky waters of vast socio-economic change and tension in the globalised market place.

A recent review in The Guardian, sees David Runciman asking if the Mason intellectual canon is not now a rival for Marx? A large claim indeed to germinate from the seed of a small book, but Runciman is clear that Mason offers the reader fresh and insightful analysis of how the age of technology is beginning to render the old rules irrelevant.

His Marx is not the author of Capital so much as the author of an obscure text called “The Fragment on Machines”, which argued that information overload would ultimately destroy capitalism by dispersing knowledge among the workers.

Source: The Guardian, Accessed: 16.06.2016

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It might be possible to argue that this is a rousing clarion call to the barricades for those of the left, however, there is much subtlety and finesse in the arguments that Paul Mason presents. They are reflection of a mind that ranges broadly across economics, history, society and new technologies.

For us Paul Mason, in this book, issues less of a trumpet to revolution, rather his analysis keeps alive the flame of socialism, of a preponderantly emanicipated society, driven not by the creation of history from below, but by knowledge ‘from below’.

It is a story, an argument, for a hopeful future delivered through the laptop and the mobile phone. An outcome, the crumbling of capital, long expected, but the methodology unknown to Marx. One that will be to the deep chagrin of the capitalist none the less.

Hurrah for Mason, we say.

(This review was first published in conversationsEAST, a web journal for The Enlightenment in the East of England).

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Rebel Footprints: A guide to uncovering London’s Radical History

David Rosenberg, Pluto Press, London, (Publ. May 2015)

With a foreward by Billy Bragg, in which he declares that this book serves to ‘…remind us of the strong tradition of dissent that has shaped our history and made us who we are‘, Rosenberg sets out to illustrate the histories of the men and women who, not part of the elite, helped to create the city and the world we live in today.

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Amongst the chapters we search for the trailblazers of democracy in Clerkenwell Green, immigrants and agitators in Spitalfields and rebel women in Poplar.

Using the topography of London as his palette, David Rosenberg casts an historical eye on the radical past.

Whilst brilliantly highlighting how the contemporary debates and prejudices, the clamour against the other, has long been a cry for those in power and long been a source of discontent and spur to action for those in receipt of their disenfranchisement.

In closing, the book provides the reader with a walk, starting at the Whitechapel Gallery, which takes in Hessel Street and Cable Street, ending at St. George’s Town Hall. This latter building has a plaque commemorating the East End volunteers against fascism in Spain.

‘They went because their open eyes could see no other way‘. A motivating direction of travel for most of the characters in Rosenberg’s illuminating book.

(This review was first published in conversationsEAST, a web journal for The Enlightenment in the East of England).

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