Books

Marx 200

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The 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth has produced plenty of articles and books discussing his legacy. Few of these have had any real clarity on Marx’s actual ideas. So it is refreshing to read Michael Roberts’ short, but detailed, discussion on the relevance of Marx’s economic ideas.

Making Workers: Radical Geographies of Education

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Geographer Danny Dorling quotes that in an 1879 testimony to a select committee of the British parliament one petitioner said, “Geography, sir, is ruinous in its effects on the lower classes. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are comparatively safe, but geography invariably leads to revolution.”

Katharyne Mitchell is able to use the geographer’s skill at looking at the changes in the system, both over time and spatially, and is able to draw the links between ideology, causes, and effects.

Who we are and how we got here

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We are all profoundly mixed up genetically, and our ancestors were always moving. These are just two of the discoveries that David Reich presents in this exciting book about the ancient DNA revolution.

Reich starts by explaining how rapidly analysis into ancient DNA has developed. Since 2001, when the human genome was sequenced for the first time, research has ballooned as costs have diminished and automation has mushroomed.

Reckless Opportunists

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Ever had the feeling that a shifting, hidden force is stealing your lifeforce in order to make millions (while you work ever harder just to make ends meet)? Aeron Davis confirms not only that this is true but shows how much worse things are under the surface. Drawing on decades of interviews with prominent politicians and businessmen, he reveals the sardonic grin behind “the elites’” robbery of money and power and how this has spread to include a new bunch of opportunists with even sharper teeth.

Hope lies in the proles

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As well as being one of the most significant literary figures on the left in the 20th century George Orwell was also a broadcaster, a columnist, a poet, an essayist, a war correspondent — and a Republican fighter in the Spanish Civil War.

His two most influential books, Homage to Catalonia (based on his experience fighting Franco’s army in Spain) and Nineteen Eighty Four (a nightmare vision of life in a totalitarian society), continue to be relevant today 70 years after they were first published.

The Communist Manifesto (graphic novel)

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The second bestselling book ever written, The Communist Manifesto, has had an enormous impact on millions of people around the world. Pithy, powerful, packed with striking verbal images and agitational passion to back its historical and economic analysis, it is a brilliant place for anyone wanting to start not just understanding the world we live in, but also fighting to change it. And, despite being written over one long weekend, it has helped inspire and guide struggles spanning three centuries.

No Place To Lay One’s Head

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Polish born Françoise Frenkel begins by giving us a sensory image of her love of books. She recalls that as a child she imbued personality into each book, describing their “attire” in multi-coloured bindings: “Balzac came dressed in red leather, Sienkiewicz in yellow Morocco, Tolstoy in parchment, Reymont’s Paysans clad in the fabric of an old peasant’s neckerchief”. We watch her progress as she opens and runs a French bookshop, La Maison du Livre, in Berlin from 1921 to 1939.

The Privatisation of Israeli Security

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One of the most important but least known dimensions of the neoliberal counter-revolution is the privatisation of security and of the military. This process leaped ahead during the US occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, by 2008, the US Department of Defence spent nearly half its budget on private contractors. As Hever points out, Israel is a long way behind the US, but the privatisation process has nevertheless clearly begun and is moreover part of a global development. Even now, Russian private contractors are fighting for the Assad regime in Syria!

South Africa’s Corporatised Liberation

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A recent World Bank report, published in March 2018, showed South Africa to be the most unequal society on earth. Seventy five percent of the country’s aggregate wealth is held by the richest tenth of the population, while the poorest half hold a mere 2.5 percent. These 30 million people, in fact, have a total wealth equivalent to the two richest South Africans. The report points out, rightly, that much of this inequality is the responsibility of the racist apartheid regime that ruled South Africa from 1948 to 1994.

A Simple Man

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This is a devastating account of the rise of Jacob Zuma to the presidency of South Africa, despite the obvious evidence of Zuma’s political corruption. More than this, it is a book which is an extended reflection on what has happened to the promise of the African National Congress (ANC) after the fall of apartheid; on how and why so little has changed for the majority of black South Africans and how characters like Zuma have come to dominate.

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