Edited by Paolo Mossetti
After the Occupy Wall Street "People's Library" was brutally dismantled by the police, last November, I asked some of my favourite writers, activists, and academics to help me compile a list of books that would recreate, though only virtually, the library's shelves.
This is the second part of the answers I collected.
Cover by Kaf & Cyop. Image courtesy of the artist
[Here you can find Part I]
§ Part 2 §
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' is out in November 2009 from 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.
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.
PPhilosopher 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
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.
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.
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.
Professor of politics at 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.
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.
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
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.
Associate Professor at the Gallatin School 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."
NEXT WEEK you will find contributions by: Gar Alperovitz, Mike Davis, Enrico Donaggio, Ann Ferguson, Shabnam Hashmi, John Holloway, Sandro Mezzadra, Douglas Rushkoff, Felix Stalder.
If you want to follow or stimulate discussions on Twitter over this project, you might use the hashtag #occupyreadinglist.