Edited by Paolo Mossetti
Cover by Kaf & Cyop. Image courtesy of the artist
While the Occupy Wall Street "People's Library" was being brutally dismantled by the police, last November, I asked some officers why they were seizing those books and throwing them into trash cans.
Only one of them replied by saying, simply, "I don't know."
Then I decided to ask some of my favourite writers, activists, and academics to help me compile a list of books that would recreate, though only virtually, the OWS library.
The answers I have sourced will be published in the next few weeks, in the form of a collective work.
Sure enough, this bibliography doesn't want to be a 'manual' on what must be read to change the world and how to do it; it couldn't replace an autonomous approach to our readings - any kind of readings - or direct action; and it certainly won't ensure the next generation of 'occupiers' enjoys a happier, more beautiful, and indomitable existence.
The only true aim of this project is then to give, through a variety of voices, some answers to that initial "I don't know".
§ Part 1 §
Franco BERARDI (BIFO)
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.
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.
Professor in Political Philosophy, workerist historian, editor of Alfabeta2 magazine.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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".
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.
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.
NEXT WEEK you will find contributions by: Simon Critchley, Nina Power, John Hutnyk, Alex Foti, Matteo Pasquinelli, Aaron John Peters, Bertell Ollman, Peter Hallward, Stephen Duncombe, Esther Leslie.
If you want to follow or stimulate discussions on Twitter over this project, you might use the hashtag #occupyreadinglist.
This project wouldn't have been possible without the help of extraordinary comrades: Federico Campagna, Anna Galkina, Manlio Poltronieri and Zelene Suchilt.