Reviews

Extinction: A Radical History

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We are going through the sixth wave of mass extinction in the 3.8 billion year history of life on earth. Some 25 to 40 percent of all species are expected to disappear by 2050. And, like the more widely discussed global warming crisis, these extinctions are caused by human activity.

Extinction: A Radical History is a short, useful and welcome introduction to the subject for non-specialists.

In Defense of Housing

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David Madden and Peter Marcuse have successfully done three important things.

First, as the title suggests, they’ve made a clear case for housing to be higher up the mainstream political agenda. Second, they relate housing to wider theoretical debates, including Marxist analyses of its place in capitalist society. Third — and unusually for a book written by academics — they have given space to the many campaigns and activists challenging the neoliberal dominance of housing policy. As one housing campaigner said to me, “We needed this book”.

Red Ellen

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Laura Beers’ biography of Ellen Wilkinson, a prominent socialist in the early 20th century, is packed with detail. It is written in a lively style and gives a real sense of her as a person.

Ellen was born into a working class family in Manchester in 1891. She joined the Independent Labour Party at the age of 16. She was excited and inspired by the Russian Revolution and later had dual membership of the Labour Party and the Communist Party (which was permitted under Labour Party rules of the time).

Redesigning Life

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John Parrington’s engaging and thoughtful book explains the science behind recent rapid advances in genetic engineering that mean it is increasingly possible to enact precise changes at a molecular level.

Genetic engineering tends to evoke images of glow in the dark bunnies, super tomatoes, or for me, the vast, rectangular football player in the novel Red Dwarf who has been engineered to be the exact size of the goal. But genetic engineering has been responsible for medical treatments that are now commonplace.

The History Thieves

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Nothing demonstrates the importance of Ian Cobain’s new book better than the secrecy that surrounds British involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen today. Not only will we never be told the truth by our masters but the records that could have exposed the truth to the light of day will almost certainly be destroyed to prevent any such eventuality. And this, as Cobain shows, is as it has always been.

The 'Russian' Civil Wars 1916-1926

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It has become fashionable in academia recently to see the Russian Revolution as only one part of a “continuum of crises” that engulfed the Tsarist Empire and the early years of the Soviet Union. This new history follows suit, rejecting the dominant view that the Civil War lasted from the summer of 1918 to 1921 in favour of ten years from 1916 to 1926.

Why 1916? Because that year saw a revolt in Turkestan against conscription to the Tsarist war machine fighting in the First World War.

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