Books

The Case for Universal Basic Income

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Louise Haagh mounts a passionate defence for a Universal Basic Income (UBI), “to give all residents a modest regular income grant that is not dependent on means-tests or requirements”. Her book “argues for basic income as part of democratic reconstruction at a juncture of global crisis in governance”. She makes some big claims for it: “By weaving basic security into the fabric of society, basic income is a rising tide, lifting all boats, whilst bringing those stranded into common waters”.

Writing the Lives of the English Poor 1750s-1830s

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The “Old Poor Law”, first passed in 1601, was a series of pieces of legislation to attempt to deal with poverty in England and Wales. It lasted, with amendments, until 1834 when the New Poor Law was finally introduced after growing discontent at the system’s inadequacies.

These laws have been closely studied by historians, because the treatment of the poor gives an indication of wider changes in society. The Old Law covered the period from the end of the Tudors to the birth of capitalism and industrialisation.

The Border

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The Brexit vote in June 1916 reignited the historically contentious issue of the Irish border. As the only land border between the EU and Britain it became the focal point of arguments about a withdrawal agreement, encapsulated in the “Backstop” proposal for Northern Ireland, the purpose of which was to ensure the continuation of the existing “frictionless” border and avoid the politically explosive prospect of a return to customs posts and tariffs on trade.

Metropolis

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In the late 1980s author Philip Kerr had the inspired idea of taking the architype of the private-eye as developed by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett — the loner trying to deliver justice in a morally corrupt bourgeois world — and placed it in the morally putrid world of pre-war Nazi Germany.

His Bernie Gunther was as hardboiled and full of wisecracks as Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade but he was investigating crime in a society whose leaders were committing “the crime of the millennium.”

Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History

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Richard Evans’s biography of the late, great Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm rightly recognises his subject’s towering intellect and brilliance as a scholar and teacher. It is full of fascinating, rich and often amusing vignettes, and Hobsbawm’s life and work is in general brilliantly contextualised, as one would expect given Evans’s honed skills as a social historian of modern Europe.

Germany’s Hidden Crisis

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Germany dominates Europe, so news in April that German business confidence had fallen for a seventh month in eight and that the government had halved its growth forecast for 2019 to 0.5 percent suggests there is more than Brexit weighing on Europe’s economic prospects.

The German working class remains Europe’s most powerful. Yet Germany’s equivalent of the Labour Party, the SPD, is in spectacular decline after entering one coalition after another with conservative chancellor Merkel and, between time, making a wholesale attack on welfare provision.

Glasgow 1919

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1919 saw the world in turmoil. Emerging exhausted from the slaughter of the First World War, ordinary people across the globe were questioning how society was organised and working class people, inspired by the flaming light of the Russian Revolution of 1917, were not just demanding fundamental change; they were determined to fight for it.

From Italy to Egypt and from Berlin to Limerick working people were willing to topple regimes and rulers who would not deliver change. Britain was no exception.

The Socialist Manifesto

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In many ways, America is an exciting place to be a socialist at the moment. This is not just due to the fact that Bernie Sanders has announced his candidacy for president in 2020, and will enter the race as one of the most popular politicians in the US. Nor is it just down to the huge popularity of other socialist politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar. As welcome as these developments are, it is on the ground where the most exciting openings are taking place.

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