Two years ago, I asked some of my favorite writers, activists, and academics to help me compile a list of books that would recreate, though only virtually, the Occupy Wall Street library, after it was dismantled by the police.
The result was a powerful variety of answers. These were then published on the website Through Europe, in the form of a collective work.
In these days I decided to update and expand the original series, to disengage it from the ‘Occupy’ event, include more contributors and translate it into different languages.
Below you will find the respondents’ lists, presented in alphabetical order. Some of the original book titles haven’t been translated. A cumulative list of all the recommended books can be found here.
Cover and illustrations by Kaf & Cyop. Courtesy of the artist.
Linda ALCOFF | Gar ALPEROVITZ | Ariella AZOULAY | Milford BATEMAN | Franco “Bifo” BERARDI” | Simon CRITCHLEY | Mike DAVIS | Enrico DONAGGIO | Stephen DUNCOMBE | Gustavo ESTEVA | Ann FERGUSON | Norman FINKELSTEIN | Mark FISHER | Bill FLETCHER JR. | Alex FOTI | Tariq GODDARD | David GOODWAY | Peter HALLWARD | Shabnam HASHMI | John HOLLOWAY | John HUTNYK | Augusto ILLUMINATI | Ramsey KANAAN | Esther LESLIE | Lindsay GERMAN | Bill MCKIBBEN | Sandro MEZZADRA | Tadzio MUELLER | Bertell OLLMAN | Matteo PASQUINELLI | Aaron John PETERS | Nina POWER | Gigi ROGGERO | Douglas RUSHKOFF | Gayatri C. SPIVAK | Felix STALDER | John ZERZAN
Linda Martina ALCOFF ^ top
Philosopher at the City University of New York who specializes in epistemology, feminism, race theory and existentialism.
This collection of lectures applies his well known concepts of power and normalization to some historical examples, producing a complex and brilliant critique of the value of ‘security.’
An unforgettable eyewitness report of the Russian Revolution, from the ground.
This is a gripping account of urban rebellion, with class and race at the forefront, showcasing the integration of new forms of cultural expression and an engagement with reform politics within the struggles of labor and the unemployed.
A wide collection of smart and funny and therapeutic short essays that includes analyses of race and gender issues.
An interesting, innovative, and reflective, on the ground daily report of conflicts and challenges from grassroots activists engaged in the effort to build democracy anew in the midst of the recent economic rebellion in Argentina, where the concept of horizontalidad first emerged.
Gar ALPEROVITZ ^ top
Political economist at the University of Maryland, founding fellow of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, member of the board of directors for the New Economics Institute, and a revisionist historian.
The first modern work to break open the question of American empire, forcing us to recognize how a domestic tradition of democratic liberalism was compatible with informal imperialism abroad.
A powerful reconsideration of the radical tradition, illuminating reconstructive approaches to systemic change beyond both corporate capitalism and state socialism.
Taught how to reimagine politics as the projectof building community from the bottom up.
Showed how someof Karl Marx’s most important insights helped inform an understanding of American historical change.
A clear statement of the most progressive version of Keynesian economics, explaining — n understandable but also sophisticated ways — how to come to terms with and embrace the profound implications of economic theory.
Ariella AZOULAY ^ top
Teacher of visual culture and contemporary philosophy at the Program for Culture and Interpretation, BarIlanUniversity.
Benjamin’s explicit discussion in the last chapter – “Theses on The Philosophy of History” – on writing history from the perspective of the “oppressed” and the implicit understanding of history as incomplete, was a moment of illumination for me as an Israeli Jew born to be identified with the oppressors.
Arendt’s understanding of the common is the most challenging contribution to the re-invention of civil practices to oppose the national-sovereign ones that rule our lives.
A French revolutionary of the 18th century, known mainly for he “Declaration of the rights of woman and female citizen”, wrote the most challenging political text of the 18th century. In this particular theater play, written seven years before the onset of the French Revolution, she stages a double resistance of a black slave and a woman, in a way that redefines community in opposition to the colonial power.
This book reconstructs the way our world was shaped by colonialism and imperialism that made change possible only within the limits of the existent nation-states. The civil movements of today are the expected outcome of the world described in this book which was not dismantled after the Second World War.
Milford BATEMAN ^ top
Freelance consultant specializing in local economic development policy, particularly in relation to the Western Balkans. Author of: Why Doesn’t Microfinance Work?(Zed Books, 2010)
The best and most entertaining explanation I have seen as to why the western policies forced on developing countries, possibly with good intentions, have actually made things much worse.
A brilliant explanation of why and how the World Bank so often grabs and runs with ideas that are almost completely empty and without any foundation (another obvious example is microcredit), but which can be carefully deployed and built up in order to promote their own neoliberal agenda under cover of ‘helping the poor’.
The most brilliant, and brilliantly readable, summary of how neo-liberalism came about, how it captured government, how it survived in the face of economic collapse, and why it has been so very bad for the majority of ordinary people.
The very first book you need to read if you want to know why capitalism is increasingly artificially propped up by meaningless consumer demands, and so it is fundamentally incompatible with any sort of genuine concern for the environment and natural resource depletion.
Franco BERARDI (BIFO) ^ top
Contemporary writer, media-theorist and media-activist. He founded the magazine A/traverso (1975-1981) and was part of the staff of Radio Alice, the first free pirate radio station in Italy. In the 1970 he worked with Felix Guattari in the field of schizoanalysis. He is now teaching Social History of Communication at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan.
Perhaps reality is, in its essence, obsessive? As we build our worlds associating phenomena, I would not be surprised if at the beginning of time there was a free and continued association as to impose a direction towards Chaos, and then to create an order within it.
The twentieth Century hallucinated: materialist Communism in the West and spiritual drugs in the East. Murti Bing as Mao Tzetung, cocaine and demonism and sex. Zipcio closed in the bathroom peering at the beloved ferocious Irina Vsevolodovna who makes love to the cousin Tadzio. What more? History as the crazy interminability of desire.
If you want to understand what is biopolitical power in the age of the overloaded Infosphere, don’t read boring political analyses, rather try to develop the implications of the concept of mental double bind. If you want to imagine what the next process of liberation from capitalism will look like, don’t read political books, don’t think of politics. Rather you should figure out how social skismogenesis will happen and deploy.
The square that we do not know which Rilke speaks to us in the last verse of the fifth elegy – and everywhere in his poetry which climbs up stairs that always rely on each other, trembling – perhaps is not what today a society impoverished through precarious automatisms, impoverished in the sensitive sphere, is looking for?
Psychic fragility, fragility of existence, fear of touching the other’s body, panic, repetitive sliding into the abyss of depression.
Simon CRITCHLEY ^ top
Philosopher currently teaching at The New School. He works in continental philosophy.
For me, the definitive articulation of of a modern, egalitarian and associationist politics, especially Books 1 and 2. To be read with Marx and not against Marx.
Any edition of Gramsci will do. I just have a sentimental attachment to this old Lawrence & Wishart edition. The concepts of hegemony, relations of force, historical bloc, structure versus superstructure, ideological conflict, war of position and war of manoeuvre and the
organic intellectual remain essential ingredients for any understanding of politics and the formation of resistance. I also learnt a lot from Ernesto Laclau over the years and would really recommend the opening essay in his ‘new reflections of the revolutions of our time’ for a deployment of a neo-gramscian paradigm.
I am going to mention four more books on anarchism which I found helpful:
Guerin, Daniel (2006) – No Gods No Masters, which provides a wonderfully helpful panorama of the anarchist tradition from Stirner onwards with really helpful account of the role of anarchism in the Russian revolution and the Spanish civil war.
Woodcock, George (2004) – Anarchism, which is a great companion to Guerin and which is particularly good on the geographical spread of anarchist thinking in the 19th and 20th centuries, which is Slavic and Latin as opposed to the germano-anglo-american trajectory of Marxism.
Ward, Colin (2004) – Anarchism, perhaps simply as a way of pissing off macho mannerist neo-leninists, I would recommend this tiny book on anarchism. It emphasizes what I see as the slightly crappy, below-the-radar, non-heroic aspects of English anarchism which i love and it has great stuff on collective urban gardening and the free school movement.
Graeber, David (2004) – Fragments of Anarchist Anthropology. I got to know David well when i moved to NYC in 2004 and this book opened up a new vista of possibilities for me about non-western, non-state forms of horizontal organization
Kaspar, Johann (2009) – “We demand nothing”, a prophetic analysis from 2010 that now seems perfectly obvious
Mike DAVIS ^ top
Marxist social commentator, urban theorist, historian, and political activist. He is best known for his investigations of power and social class in his native Southern California.
This is nothing less than a secret history of the world, revealed through the culture of the carnival and other festive enactments of the sensuous solidarity of the poor. Bakhtin argues that the soul of revolution is the permanent critique of power by laughter.
Serge rode many dragons as an anarchist in Paris and Barcelona, then as a leader of the Communist International in Moscow, and finally as an oppositionist exile in Mexico. His Memoirs are an unflinching reckoning with the human costs and tragedies of attempting to change history.
Labor journalist and pioneer industrial sociologist, Walker chronicled the 1934 Teamster uprising and general strike in Minneapolis from the viewpoint of all classes – making American City unique amongst contemporary strike histories. His chilling account of the violent anti-union backlash amongst the city’s middle classes begs an uncomfortable question: is it the 99% versus the 1%, or the 60% versus 40%?
A history of the freedom struggle in Mississippi that emphasizes local traditions of resistance and the centrality of grassroots leadership (like the great Fannie Lou Hammer). An invaluable corrective to ‘top-down’ Movement histories that focus only on the Martin Luther Kings, this is also a superb textbook for understanding the interaction between the macro and micro dynamics of social conflict.
The distilled practical wisdom of the great labor struggles of the 1930s or, if you prefer, a Whole Earth Catalog of class struggle. Steuben, a lead organizer and master tactician in the bloody ‘Little Steel’ strike of 1937, explains how to organize a strike from the first leaflet to the last tear-gas canister. Still amazingly useful and available for free on line.
Enrico DONAGGIO ^ top
Philosopher and writer, University of Turin.
In politics there are no innocent victims. Desire of freedom and desire of servitude turn the life of those who engage into a battlefield.
A treatise of social schizophrenia which describes in detail the dominant happiness and the dead ends of our critical hypocrisy.
A parable of political passion, a literary and mental experiment in search for an answer to one question: how much emancipation are we capable of?
A talisman and a warning, the highest degree of lucidity of bourgeois and intellectual self-criticism.
Boldness, energy, unresponsiveness to allure: the characteristics of a new effort in the era of comfortable and popular cynicism.
Stephen Duncombe ^ top
Associate Professor at the GallatinSchool and the Department of Media, Culture and Communications of New York University where he teaches the history and politics of media. He writes on the intersection of culture and politics for a range of scholarly and popular publications, from The Nation to Playboy.
Historian Hill’s classic account of Gerrard Winstanley and the Digger’s occupation of of St. George’s Hill outside of London in 1649 to “lay the Foundation of making the Earth a Common Treasury for All.” Part material necessity, part symbolic gesture, the occupation of this former commons the precursor to the pre-figurative politics of Occupy.
Still the best analysis and criticism of capitalism in its spectacular stage. A must for activists who want to fight effectively on the present political terrain of signs and symbols, stories and spectacle.
Three East Coast establishment architects venture out West, fall in love with Las Vegas, and argue how one might profitably learn from popular forms and fantasies. An antidote to the pessimism of Debord.
Activist advice, still germane, from the 1960’s that performance, provocation (and fun) are an integral part of radical politics.
The Uruguayan writer’s book of poems that include his memorablewords on Utopia: “She’s on the horizon….I go two steps, she moves two steps away. I walk ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps ahead. No matter how much I walk, I’ll never reach her. What good is utopia? That’s what: it’s good for walking.”
Gustavo ESTEVA ^ top
Activist, “deprofessionalized intellectual” and founder of the Universidad de la Tierra in the Mexican city of Oaxaca. He is one of the best known advocates of Post-Development.
You need to read Marcos and the Zapatistas, no matter what. Our main source of inspiration today. This book is not the best selection of writings, but it brings a fresh, European view. A good start. You can also try The Speed of Dreams and Our Word is Our Weapon.
All Illich is pertinent. This book explains why we should resist the industrial mode of production, what kind of society we need and how to organize the transition.
Written ten years ago, as a fresh expression of the Argentinean revolt, this book poses all the pertinent questions and explore some answers.
An almost unknown Marx, clarifying the political agenda for the 99%.
To understand power and knowledge, particularly the power and the knowledge we need to resist today.
Marx as a journalist, telling the story of the Paris Commune through the First International – the story we want to write now everywhere.
Ann FERGUSON ^ top
Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies, University of Massachusetts.
Especially his section on the Primitive Accumulation of Capital. It is important to challenge the mindset of those who posit free market capitalism as the ideal model which existed some time in the past and has now been corrupted. Marx’s historical analysis here shows that people had to be forcibly thrown off their land and the common lands appropriated by the rich and powerful before there could be a capitalist market of so-called “free” labourers.
Particularly ch. 1, “Development, Ecology and Women” which challenges the Western model of economic development as patriarchal, and actually a model of mal-development, one adopted both by capitalist and former state socialist countries, and one that is especially harmful for women and children.
A socialist-feminist historical analysis of how capitalists had to control women and women’s reproduction in order to develop the capitalist system out of feudalism, and how they used witch hunts and other culturally imperialist ways to challenge women leaders of peasant and indigenous movements who stood in their way of eliminating the commons in Europe and colonizing Latin America and Africa.
A classic communitarian anarchist ecological critique of existing class societies and a vision of how to construct a new decentralized communal society that is sustainable, and supports both individual and social freedom.
A classic second wave US Black feminist statement of an inclusive feminist analysis that rejects feminist models that ignore racism and class exploitation, and give good analyses of alternative ideas of power, how male allies are important to feminism, etc
Norman FINKELSTEIN ^ top
Political scientist, activist and author. His primary fields of research are the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust.
The book is perhaps a little outdated now, but it exerted a huge influence on me upon its publication because of its near-perfect synthesis of facts, reason and passion. I am told that Prof Chomsky wrote the whole book in six months at night after work. A remarkable achievement.
The best eyewitness account of the Nazi death camps. Lingens-Reiner was not Jewish, but rather an Austrian socialist who was imprisoned in Auschwitz for assisting a Jew. A medical doctor by training, she worked with Rudolf Mengele (the “Angel of Death”) and discovered that, far from being a fanatical Nazi ideologue, he was just another run-of-the-mill opportunist. It’s also deeply moving: she is forced to choose between committing an immoral act and reuniting with her infant son or staying moral but being separated from him.
I read all three volumes as a young man, the first volume four times, the other volumes twice each. I cannot say I learned anything from CAPITAL, in the sense that I came to understand the inner-workings of the capitalist system. But reading it did hone my analytical skills. I copied the volumes out paragraph by paragraph in the left-hand column of several notebooks, and commented on each paragraph in the right-hand column. I learned how to take apart a book and dissect its logic and coherence. I tried the same thing with David Ricardo’s PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY but got stuck in the chapter on profits.
I read this little book after my disillusionment with Maoism. I learned that no one has a monopoly on truth, that good arguments can be made on both sides of most questions, that politics is mostly about weighing arguments–which side has the preponderance of good arguments–not absolutes, and that it’s useful to listen to everyone’s viewpoint. Although I loathe liberals, and although this is classic liberalism, I still consider it excellent advice.
Mark Fisher ^ top
Althusser’s essay on how ideology works through ritualistic compliance has never been more relevant.
In many ways, an extension and application of Althusser’s arguments, this remains Zizek’s most incisive analysis of the way in which ‘even if we do not take things seriously, we are still doing them’.
D&G’s rhizomatic politics might now be somewhat hackneyed, but their analysis of capitalism as a system which deterritorializes and reterritorializes at the same time remains peerless.
Essential account of the impact of precarity and cyberspatial data overload on work and subjectivity.
A forensic dissection of communicative capitalism, and a crucial corrective to some of the left’s faith in ‘openness’, especially relevant at a time when neo-anarchist ideas are dominant.
Jameson’s injunction to understand “capitalism as the most productive moment of history and the most destructive at the same time” is extremely valuable, especially now that we are surrounded by all kinds of pastoral/ organicist temptations.
Like Jameson, Virno rejects the conservative critique of modernity. The struggle for post-capitalism can only take place in the wired world – there is no way back, and no reason we should want to get there even if we could.
Bill FLETCHER, JR. ^ top
Longtime labor, racial justice and international activist.
Marta Harnecker is one of the most outstanding Marxist thinkers of our time. Her book is only one small sample. Her website www.rebelion.org offers a selection of essays on the contemporary struggle against capitalism. She is accessible and one who sees theory as at the service of the mass struggle.
The Egyptian-born Marxist theorist has written an enormous number of works but the one that i would mention here is this short book. It is more than about Eurocentrism but is a critique of post-modern approaches to struggle and offers an introduction to understanding social change.
Contained in this volume are essays that help activists develop a framework to construct strategies for social transformation through an understanding of the world. Mao is to the point, interesting to read, and concerned with breaking complex ideas into “digestible” components.
Which i read in the late 1980s still remains an outstanding look at class struggle in the USA and the recurring issues of race. It poses questions regarding how labor and the organized Left in the USA have approached reform and revolutionary struggle.
A book that reads like a novel, but examines the emergence of capitalism in the North Atlantic. The author examines the class, racial and gender struggles against oppression and the manner in which they have shaped today’s world.
A look at a leader who produced many other leaders; an individual who saw in a particular reform struggle a route towards social transformation.
This two volume examination of the creation of racism and white supremacy is a must-read. Progressive social movements in the USA continue to trip over the question of race. Allen provides a deep level of analysis to help one understand the historical and strategic significance of white supremacist oppression in the USA.
Alex FOTI ^ top
Writer, editor and media activist, among the organizers of the MayDay parade – an annual event bringing around 100,000 temp workers, partimers freelancers and other types of non-standard workers onto the streets.
A great novel that shows what it takes to be a union organizer or an activist in general that has real empathy for the people she/he struggles with.
It made me become an antifascist for life and opened my eyes on the dangers of party communism: Ibarruri? Durruti!
Klein takes on the corporations with subvertising – a founding text for contemporary activism and a fresh basis for postcommunist anticapitalism – I joined the antiglobalization movement after reading it in August 1999.
More action-oriented and less appreciated than Empire, this is a theory of the transformative potential of existing radical democratic movements and insurgencies in the age of high bushism.
Revolutionary syndicalism is definitely a way to defeat the 1% – the IWW already tried it, but WWI stopped them short
There is no future for the left if it doesn’t embrace climate justice- this book maps out the various discourses on the environmental question and what radical ecologism stands for.
Lindsay GERMAN ^ top
Convenor of the British anti-war organisation Stop the War Coalition and a former member of the central committee of the Socialist Workers Party. She was editor of Socialist Review for twenty years, has twice stood as a left wing candidate for Mayor of London and has written several books, including two on women’s rights.
Marx’s writings from London following the defeat of the 1848 revolutions: a masterclass for all those who want to change the world with an excellent and accessible introduction.
Two engaged political activists on the most important developments of 2011 – the Middle East revolutions.
Story of one of the greatest women revolutionaries and her role in 19th century upheavals – written by another revolutionary who was also fashion editor of Vogue (really).
Lessing’s first novel written in whiteruled Rhodesia: an antidote to all those who think colonialism didn’t divide and rule.
Symbol of the black power generation – the personal story of a black prisoner who became political and was murdered by the authorities.
Tariq GODDARD^ top
Writer, Professor in Philosophy at King’s College London, and Continental Philosophy at The University of Warwick and the University of Surrey. He runs Zer0 books.
This play is full of freewheeling individual rage, not specifically political and near blind in its application, yet reading it at 16 convinced me that without discovering my own voice any contribution to a collective struggle would be limited to following a party line and thus a substitute for proper thought.
An inspiring collection of oral histories from the Spanish Civil War, where the actors are effectively the writers. And a timely introduction to a world in which politics worked at a higher level of ambition than I was used to, less John Major/John Smith than a series of epic life projects verging on the existential, their practical failure ennobled by the fact that they had been attempted at all.
These poems bring together two spheres that don’t normally have much to do with each other, politics and wisdom. With care, ruthlessness and economy Brecht gets to the three or four lines that can sum up and puncture the most verbose and decorative deceptions of Power, again and again.
David GOODWAY ^ top
Historian and a respected international authority on anarchism and libertarian socialism. A student of Eric Hobsbawm, Goodway specialised in the history of Chartism in London and his work London Chartism is an acknowledged classic work on the subject.
Or it could be almost any other work by the early or mid-period Marx. To be read not to extract dogma but as an illustration of how understand (with sardonic humour ) the world in which one lives.
The classic libertarian statement. Mill argues for complete liberty of the individual – yet only so far as the freedom of others is not infringed.
Comfort maintains modern states attracts psychopaths to positions of authority and fosters delinquent behaviour in power holders. The pretensions of politicians can never be taken seriously again.
In his first great book Thompson rehabilitated Morris as a major intellectual figure – and was enabled to develop the concept of ‘agency’, the organizing innovation of The Making of the English Working Class.
In these dazzling essays Bookchin dragged anarchism into the late-twentieth century. Yet many (or most) anarchists, intent on reliving nineteenth fantasies, are still kicking and screaming in protest.
Peter HALLWARD ^ top
Political philosopher, best known for his work on Alain Badiou and Gilles Deleuze. He has also published works on post-colonialism and contemporary Haiti. Hallward is a member of the editorial collective of the journal Radical Philosophy and a contributing editor to Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities.
Shabnam HASHMI ^ top
One of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005, she worked for more than 20 years to combat communalism in India. Founder of the NGO Act Now for Harmony and Democracy in 2003. She was associated with the creation and running of Sahmat, formed by artists and intellectuals in memory of her activist brother.
It narrates Anne Frank’s harrowing experiences when she was forced to go into hiding with her family during World War II when Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany.
This is a story of a fifteen year old Russian girl (and her brother Shura) who fought as a partisan against the occupying Nazis near Moscow. She was caught, tortured and killed. It is a story of a brave fighter. Story is written by Zoya and Shura’s mother.
This is the life story of a young street theatre and cultural activist whowas attacked and killed while performing a play in support of workers near New Delhi, India in 1989. the story is written by his mother.
John HOLLOWAY^ top
Lawyer, Marxist-oriented sociologist and philosopher, whose work is closely associated with the Zapatista movement in Mexico, his home since 1991. Teacher at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Puebla.
It remains the most radical critique of capitalism, and an essential starting point for understanding the debates around capitalist development and the possibility of radical change. It’s best to read it collectively.
This is where I started and it remains a constant point of reference. A wonderful book that takes us into all aspects of life and shows them to be a pushing towards that which is Not Yet.
A novel of hope and fear that takes the notion of communism (or whatever we want to call it) into new dimensions.
For me the best of Situationism. Revolutionary thought at its anti-dogmatic and exciting best.
Fiercely difficult, and well worth the effort. The critique of identity shakes the world.
An article that turns traditional Marxism upside down and lays the basis for autonomist/ operaista thought.
John HUTNYK ^ top
Author, academic director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Adorno is famous for his dictum, “No Art after Auschwitz”, but it’s not necessarily something that he said in his own voice, it’s really important to see that he was putting this forward as a two part dialectic in the voice of those who at the level of satisfied contemplation, at the level of critics, did not break with the bourgeois categories, it was the idle chatter of that class that both said “you cannot make art after Auschwitz” and were incapable of understanding why it was barbaric to make art after Auschwitz. Now, everyone says Adorno was elitist, he was anti-art, but no. In that dialectic he actually has a more important place for the real rebellious possibility of art as something that we all could do. It could still be co-opted and recuperated… and of course he’s still anxious about that. And thinks under capitalism it’s hopeless. Well… We don’t need people to only be artists.
Aijaz Ahmad had denounced as imperialist the ‘three worlds theory’ in a debate with Frederic Jameson, where Jameson had called third world literature always an allegory of nation – clearly far too much a generalization on Fred’s part. ‘In Theory’ was like a brick thrown in a stagnant pool for us as postgraduate students, the first widely read book of theory in a long while that did not scrimp on the organizational politics. And with the added bonus of actual text-consulting detailed argument that corrects Edward Said’s too-quick dismissal of Marx on India.
Georges Bataille, especially in his early work, exhibits a refusal to be crushed by the brutality of events, war, oppression, morality. ‘The Accursed Share’ is the culmination of his economic and political writings, though I prefer the harder to access 1930s work.
In Jonathan Beller’s book ‘The Cinematic Mode of Production’, attention to the gaze and the market of the spectacle advances both film theory and situationist ideas to offer a platform for understanding new media as a terrain of struggle in market, ideology and practice. Just as we willingly go and sit in the dark before the cinema, we also comply with the protocols of the digital. Virtual selves abroad in the world while backache and repetitive strain compensate for touch type immediacy. The world shrunk to a venture start-up as if the assembly of work-station and media-console wasn’t also co-ordinated with wiring configurations, electricity grids and mining industries that make the corralling of workers in all kinds of underpaid labour also part of an integrated geo-circuit.
This book just has the best title, and a great selection of essays from William Burroughs to Marx to Kathy Acker – and the circuit is intended.
Only volume one! Get them all. Start a reading group. Do not miss the footnotes and all the fun jokes about Money bags. Also there are vampires, werewolves, bibles exchanged for brandy, and trips to Australia, India – Lord Jagganath – and tributes to Leonard Horner, factory inspector and hero of the working classes. It is important to read more than the first chapter. And to read it anew every decade or so, since the context changes Marx, just as Marx tried to change the context (the point!).
The Manifesto was written over the winter of 47-48 for the International Workingmen’s Association. First drafted on the train from Manchester to London, then finished in a frenzy of work by Marx in Brussels in January 48. It influence astonishing, global, relevant still, etc. Everyone can quote from it: from its first words: ‘Ein Gespenst geht um in Europa’ (1848/1970:41) – ‘A spectre is haunting Europe’, to its last words ‘Mögen die herrschendenKlassen vor iner kommunistischen Revolution zittern. Die Proletarier haben nichts in ihr zu verlieren als ihr Ketten. Sie haben eine Welt zu gewinnen. Proletarier aller Länder, vereinigt euch’ (1848/1970:82-3) – ‘Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries, unite’. The Manifesto was written just as Europe launch into a period of revolutionary turmoil. Marx was himself an activist, expelled from Germany for political reasons, exiled in Paris then London. He was, apparently, a rebel rousing type, turning up to demos and meetings a little pissed, but able, in repartee, to make mince meat of any other ideologues – yet the revolutionary period of 1848 did not deliver freedom, and Marx’s hope for the situation was disappointed. He turned to the library – although never gave up activism – to provide an explanation.
In this bumper book of critique Spivak shows she knows ‘the’ debates around a particular author or field with a quick sketch, then she shows she knows the critical angles on these debates and that these could be fruitful, but are often not without problems, and then, rather than detailing or extending the problems, she takes some moment or oblique angle on the text and levers it open to teach us something crucial. Repays reading over and over – wonderfully written, learned, and an education in itself.
The myriad examples in ‘My Cocaine Museum’ are assembled to order and disorder Colombia, where Mick has done 30+ years’ fieldwork, such that each of the curios selected for an impossible museum of gold, weapons and profit have to make sense in a history, and in syncopation with other examples for an archive of the imaginary institution, providing a model for eloquence… that I give students as an example of what might be possible if scholarship could be re-imagined.
It has often been said that Zizek never has a though that has not been published…. twice. Good thing too. We’d have to invent him if he did not invent himself.
Augusto ILLUMINATI ^ top
Professor in Political Philosophy, workerist historian, editor of Alfabeta2 magazine.
Spinoza, Baruch (1677) – Tractatus politicus
Together with ‘Ethica’, but with a specific reference to the political arena on the wake of Machiavelli, this is fundamental text of rejection of absolutist sovereignty, debenture and contractualism. Exaltation of potential multitudinis and plurality that is opposed to power with the indignatio. What could be more current in the days of #Occupy?
The writings on the Paris Commune, in which he outlines the theory of expansive democracy and dictatorship of the proletariat. The most relevant Marx.
This is the largest and most synthetic exaltation of bourgeois politics in a prescient political context of polytheistic theology, which anticipates and exceeds that of the Schmittian “state of exception”.
The classic workerist analysis of Western political philosophy and the proposal for a constitution of power based on the communist desire.
The fundamental categories of post-Fordist and Italian neo-workerist political thought: multitudes, exodus, virtuosity, general intellectas an attribute of labour, language production.
Ramsey KANAAN ^ top
Lebanese-Scottish singer and publisher of anarchist literature, best known as the founder of AK Press, one of the largest distributors of anarchist and left-wing books in the world.
For those wanting to understand the currents crises (financial, ecologicalet al), and capitalism and its strategic vulnerabilities, this is the place to start. A series of illuminating conversations with a stellar international cast of the sharpest thinkers on the Left.
One of the world’s leading radical political economists provides THE guidebook to understanding the beast that is neoliberalism; and how it has operated over the last 40 years, leading up to the current debacle.
It’s not enough to fightback against the 1% (though that’s a start). Wehave to occupy the Imagination, and start envisioning the paths to the post-capitalist future. Britain’s greatest social historian takes on its greatest Marxist mind, and tackles from here to there to Utopia.
The classic novel of youth insurrection, communes, revolution, and bloodyreaction. An inspiring and cautionary tale from one of the greatest feminist writers.
A lively conversation spanning generations, radical currents (Marxism and Anarchism), and the last 150 years of history. There’s much to learn, and we typically do it better, together.
Esther LESLIE ^ top
Professor in Political Aesthetics, Birkbeck University.
Because ‘Working men’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious
harbinger of a new society’. Our lessons are written in their blood.
Because ‘The proletariat stopped half-way: instead of setting about “expropriating the expropriators,” it allowed itself to be led astray by dreams of establishing a higher justice in the country united by a common national task; such institutions as the banks, for example, were not aken over, and Proudhonist theories about a “just exchange,” etc., still prevailed among the socialists. The second mistake was excessive magnanimity on the part of the proletariat: instead of destroying its enemies it sought to exert moral influence on them…
Because, written in the bleakness of war, fascism and Stalinism, it still managed to
propose modes of thinking, being and acting that are not complicit with those horrors.
Because these poems concentrate, in the most concise language, the steely analysis necessary for class struggle, while registering sweetly the agony and tenderness of humans subjected to various brands of oppression.
LOOP Magazine ^ top
Italian radical magazine.
Last chance. Yesterday as today. A journey into the darkness of the twentieth century.
A work of art from Nobel prize winner Saramago. The dry plot, noir fiction in places, is an excuse for a radical reflection on human nature and contemporary society.
A meditation on the geographical, historical, and political space of the idea of Europe. An analysis of the governance processes underlying the old continent.
The best journalism of the twentieth century reporting on the worst of mankind in the short century.
The conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan swings between cities of the past and of the future. A book on the descriptive power of language and on the relationship between the traveller and his/ her destination.
Bill McKIBBEN ^ top
Environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College. Time magazine described him as “the world’s best green journalist”. In 2009, he led the organization of 350.org, which organized what Foreign Policy magazine called “the largest ever global coordinated rally of any kind”.
(and probably also his great essay on Dickens) Orwell was very smart about many things, including how to keep rebellion from being marginalized or taken over.
The epic story of the last great American uprising, full of practical organizing detail.
G. Sharphasthought longer and harder about the ins and outs of civil disobedience than anyon I know.
Our greatest climatologist explains why the 1% are wrecking not only people’s lives in the here-and-now but also the geological future of our planet.
Sandro MEZZADRA ^ top
Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bologna, where he teaches postcolonial studies and contemporary political theory. He has published widely on the areas of migration, postcolonial theory, contemporary capitalism, Italian operaismo and autonomist Marxism.
This book still represents the starting point to understand the meaning of capitalism and its critique.
An essential book to understand power and how it works in our daily life, how its techniques are constantly deconstructed and reconstructed before its subjects.
A book that starts with an analysis of the state and its law to critically show its crises and transformations in the face of the struggles and the revolts of the exploited.
A book that takes us on a time journey back to the origins of modern capitalism and presents us with a vivid image of the organisation of labour and the history of struggles, which reminds us of today.
An extraordinary analysis of racism and slavery in 19th century US, but first and foremost an analysis of the struggle for freedom of the slaves first and then of black people after their “liberation”: a great history book, which offers an excellent method to analyse the present.
Tadzio MUELLER ^ top
Political scientist, editor of Turbulence and a spokesperson for the Climate Justice Action network.
Nunes, Rodrigo (2005) – “Nothing is what democracy looks like: openness, horizontality and the movement of movements”, in David Harvie, Keir Milburn, Ben Trott and David Watts, eds., Shut Them Down! The G8, Gleneagles 2005 and the Movement of Movements.
A brilliant piece that explores the limits of ‘open spaces’ and what might be called ‘assemblyism’ in the newest social movements.
The Free Association explore many of the problematics facing today’s disobedient social movements in the global North: from the need for a ruptural politics to the question of what comes after.
These lectures refer to a problematic that is likely to become absolutely central in the coming cycles of struggles: the depth of neoliberal subjectivation – so how do you make a revolution against neoliberalism with subjects that have been thoroughly neoliberalised?
One of the perennial problematics of radical social movements is that of their relationship to the state. This most subtle of Marxist state theorists charts a convincing path between the Scylla of etatist optimism and the Charybdis of an unmediated anti-institutionalism
In the end, all anti-capitalist politics have to deal with the problematic of hegemony, and no one dealt with that better than Gramsci did – and in this study, his thoughts on hegemony are clarified better than in most others
Bertell OLLMAN ^ top
Professor of politics at the New York University. He teaches both dialectical methodology and socialist theory. He is the author of several academic works relating to Marxist theory (see ‘Works’ below).Ollman is also the creator of Class Struggle, a board game based around his Marxist beliefs.
Still the best short, most interesting and clearest analysis of the basic dynamics of the civilization in which we all live, why we need to move beyond it to solve any of our major social problems, and how – in broad strokes – this can be done.
It’s capitalism, of course. If the Marxist tradition didn’t pay sufficient attention to the ongoing destruction of nature in earlier times, it has made up for this omission by a flood of recent works that link the worst of this destruction, including climate change, with the imperatives of the capitalist system. No adequate solution to our ecological problems is possible as long as profit maximization remains the main criteria in determining how most human beings interact (and are forced to interact) with nature. Kovel’s book may well be the best argued… and most beautifully written contribution to this welcome turn in Marxist scholarship.
There are many reasons that American democracy is “broken” and most of these hold for the entire history of our country. But in recent years, a new reason has emerged, which may prove more importantthan any of the others, if only because so few people are aware of it. This is the direct manipulation of election results by the few – largely right wing Republicans – who own and completely control the machines used in electronic voting and counting of ballots. Miller’s well documented study makes all recent charges of voter fraud by both parties seem trivial in comparison.
Matteo PASQUINELLI ^ top
Writer, curator, and researcher at Queen Mary University of London. Editor of Rekombinant, he has been involved in several projects around net activism and cultural jamming.
Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari, Felix (1972) – Anti-Oedipus
A revolutionary classic. An attack against Lacan’s psychoanalisis and all the transcendental schools of thought depressing academia and activism. The first text to introduce desire as a materialistic component of political economy. A sort of Spinoza’s Ethics for the unconscious written like a novel of the beat generation. Of course its linguistic rupture has become trendy nowadays: better reading the original, still full of brilliant and consistent ideas.
To remember the initial historical engine of Italian Autonomia and the ‘dirty’ geneaology of many ideas that we still quote and use today. An antology of visual and theoretical documents that reflect vividly the energy and the class struggle of 70s.
This book is a visceral historical research on the social movements of Middle Ages and the rise of witch hunting. In a very clear way it shows how women’s body became ‘organic’ to the capitalistic accumulation of the upcoming industrial society. A masterpiece of femminism and a great historical fresco.
Ballard has always been a good cartographer of the dark side of the multitude. His fatalist attitude and his petty bourgeoisie just must be turned into the opposite. Important reading for the happy-go-lucky activist that is too much into Adbusters. It’s good sometimes to hang out and study the Lumpenproletariat.
An ambitious project to escape both the spectres of the 20th century: capitalism and state communism. A complex and innovative synthesis in the way it shows the economy of the common and how the common is today at the very core of capitalist exploitation. A crucial toolbox and upgrade of the current political grammar.
Aaron John PETERS ^ top
A great introduction to ‘late’ capitalism as not only an economic system but as an entire ideology dependent upon cynicism, irony and a sense of historical inertia.
A hugely important work in understanding consumerism as a form of social control and as insidious a form of alienation as any other.
A key text in understanding the relationship between freedom and power. His understanding of ‘Freedom over’ and ‘Freedom to’, taken from Spinoza, becomes highly influential and for many, an inspiration.
A collection of some of the best writing from within the British variant of the alter-globalisation movement.
Toofrequently England is regarded as an ‘eternally reactionary’ countries. In this book Hill looks at political forces and social movements during the English Civil War – a time he claims when England was a country of ‘mystics’ and ‘masterless men’. An inspiration for how quickly political and intellectual change can, and has, come about.
A book that brings together some of the best content from around the British student movement in Winter 2010. Looking at an embryonic radical politics and much more besides, the book offers an insight into a historically important moment in British politics – the first eruptions from the streets against ‘Capitalist Realism’ amid the Great Recession of 2008 and after.
An excellent analysis that builds upon Fightback! and chronicles the political undercurrents which in different ways have crashed at Millbank, Westminster and most prominently the English riots during the last 18 months.
A collection of communiques from the Californian Student movement of 2009. An important predecessor for the Occupy movement of some 18 months later in the US and worldwide.
Nina POWER ^ top
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Roehampton University. She writes for several magazines on subject like European Philosophy, atomism, pedagogy, art and politics. Her book One-Dimensional Woman was published in 2009 by Zero Books
Federici’s book is what academia should be for: a brilliant, readable and extremely convincing account of the way in which capitalism waged and continues to wage war on the bodies of women, and how neglecting the sphere of reproduction as a source of value-creation and exploitation leads Marxist thought away from a properly integrated relationship to feminism and the ongoing struggle against enclosures.
Although Waddington is writing about a period of policing and protest in the early 1990s, this book is essential for understanding the fraught state of public order policing in the UK, in particular who gets to decide the boundaries of protesting and how politics creeps into the policing and criminalisation of protesters.
The student protests in late 2010 reinvigorated protest in the UK. This collection of essays gives an excellent overview of the reasons why so many took to the streets, the extent of government cuts and how the struggle may continue in the UK and elsewhere.
Gigi ROGGERO ^ top
Writer, sociologist involved in the editorial board of the transnational project Uninomade.
The book represents the contrition of Dostoevskij for his revolutionary past, and the contrition is always a sad passion. But it is also a great book, and despite the intention of his author we can say that we are all demons against the tyrants, exploiters, and capital’s vampire.
This is the central question raising from every struggle. Lenin gives an answer at the same time immanent to a specific class composition and that we can generalize: “‘We should dream!’ […] Of this kind of dreaming there is unfortunately too little in our movement.”
“Now we have to turn the problem on its head, reverse the polarity, and start again from the beginning: and the beginning is the class struggle of the working class.” This radical overthrowing of the point of view constitutes the Copernican revolution of the operaismo.
The love for liberty, the hate for slavery: Toni Morrison expresses this in a unique way. Because our demons are always animated by the love for liberty.
For “The Wall Street Journal” reviewer, Brian Anderson, Commonwealth is a dark, evil book. For Francis Fukuyama, it is dangerous. Their fear has very good reasons. We urgently need evil and dangerous books.
Douglas RUSHKOFF ^ top
Media theorist, writer, columnist, lecturer, graphic novelist and documentarian. He is best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture, and his advocacy of open source solutions to social problems.
Wilson, Robert Anton (1977) – Cosmic Trigger
Though not overtly political, the book was a turning point for me in understanding the “reality tunnels” of other people, and the importance in never taking one’s own perspective too seriously.
Sorry, but the Torah explains the origins of the credit crisis. At least Genesis and Exodus, or the story of Joseph through that of Moses. It’s the story of how to exploit abundant markets by creating scarce ones, and how to create indentured servitude. As well as how to break free. It is the story we are living today.
It’s essential people understand how money works, and that the money we use today is just one kind of money. People equate money with evil and greed, but that’s only because they think there’s only one kind.
Clare SOLOMON ^ top
Former president of the University of London Union, activist, editor.
A lost treasure of a book written in the firestorm that was central Europe in the 1930s. Jakubowski was spokesperson for Rosa Luxemburg’s Spartacus League in his home city Gdansk. This is a beautifully written (and how often can you say that about a philosophy book?) introduction to the dialectic in Hegel and Marx, the relationship between economic base and political superstructure, alienation and consciousness. What more could you ask of one short volume?
This essential text is refreshingly easy to read. The only one volume discussion of the philosophy Marx, Lukacs, Lenin, Gramsci, Luxemburg and Trotsky. Hard to disagree with Paul Le Blancs review: ‘For thoughtful activists.this is among the most valuable books that have appeared in the last several years.’
The currently fashionable ideas of ‘horizontal’ organisation run by ‘consensus’ methods of decision making are effectively dissected here. This extended essay shows that behind the talk of ‘leaderless’organisation lies a real but hidden structure of unelected, often unrecorded and, therefore, largely unaccountable leaders.
Feminism was reborn in the 1960s, but then broke into three camps. The ‘we can have it all’ career woman feminism. The ‘men and the problem and we don’t want anything to do with them’ separatist feminism. And, thirdly, the kind of feminism advocated here which sees sexism rooted in capitalist society and women’s liberation as part of a wider revolutionary project to overturn that society. Serious, engaged theory.
Gramsci is the Marxist academics like to quote, partly because he wrote his major work in prison and therefore was forced to write in the kind of difficult language that academics themselves use (without the excuse of being in prison). Peter Thomas is different. He likes Gramsci the revolutionary and he’s committed to explaining why you should too. Well worth watching the accompanying videos as well.
Gayatri Chakravorty SPIVAK ^ top
Literary critic, theorist and a University Professor at Columbia University. She is best known for the essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, considered a founding text of post-colonialism, and for her translation of Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology. She describes herself as a “practical Marxist-feminist-deconstructionist”.
Raghavan,Chakravarthy (1990) – Recolonization
A closely argued narrative account of the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, leading to the establishment of the World Trade Organization. Shows how world trade colonizes the South.
Analyzes the general strike in the Russian Empire from 1895-1905. Relocates the agent of the general strike from anarchist to worker. Especially important because we are relocating it from worker to citizen.
Super-clear account of the transformation of the state (Washington) into a managerial entity for global capitalism (Wall Street), rather than a constitutional entity for serving the people.
Even activists should stretch their imaginations into altered epistemological performance. This novel is by a working-class author whose parents were active in the 1905 Revolution. Olson writes how patriarchy limits gender in denying it the right to be interested in general human causes, but only emphasizes family values. The riddle: why do people become smug and self-centered after revolutions bring in a good world?
Situates “Indian America” within its own history in the US, within national liberation & Hindu nationalism in India, as well as today’s struggles in the US — from the extreme right through state and federal politics into movements for social justice.
An account of the first socialist revolution, by Toussain. L’ouverture in Haiti, in 1791-1804. The accompanying editorial shows how a successful revolution was destroyed by the white West and can be a lesson for us. There are books on this, but they may be too specialized — whereas this short editorial says it all.
Felix STALDER ^ top
Researcher and activists in the field of social implications of ICTS. He teaches media economy at the Academy of Art and Design, Zurich. Co-founder of Openflows.org, an open source R&D firm headquartered in Toronto.
How can social processes be voluntary and coercive at the same time? This is a puzzle of many aspects neo-liberal globalization. Grewal’s far-reaching answer is that power does not only work through institutions and commands, but also — and increasingly – through setting conditions of access to networks of resources and possibilities. This latter form of power forces many into join a game that is rigged against them, simply because not participating at all would be even worse. In order to confront power, we need an adequate understanding of how power operates these days. Grewal makes an important contribution to that understanding.
With his seventy-two keys, Konrad Becker aims to unlock the gates ofstrategic reality: its construction over centuries, its imposition through stealth and force, its dull and laborious maintenance, and its dissolution and destruction by those who can’t take it anymore.
In order to build new types of organizations that combine voluntary participation with focus and impact, we need to look closely at those cases where this has already been achieved. O’Neil’s analysis of the social dynamics of Free and Open Source Software projects provides understanding how this works in detail and in reality. He goes far beyond any facile celebrations of the supposed wisdom-of-the-crowds and untangles the mystery of authority without coercion.
John ZERZAN ^ top
Anarchist, primitivist philosopher and author. Among his major books are Elements of Refusal (1988), Future Primitive and Other Essays (1994). Against Civilization: Readings and Reflections (2005).
My first nomination: especially the first chapter, The original Affluent Society. Which completelyundoes every foundation of leftism, for example, the communist, protectionist garbage of the likes of Hardt, Negri and others.
It is time to move away decisively from the failed leftist, pro-Progress trajectory.
This project wouldn’t have been possible without the help of extraordinary comrades: Federico Campagna, Anna Galkina, Manlio Poltronieri and Zelene Suchilt Pineda.