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 third selection of answers I collected.
Cover by Kaf & Cyop. Image courtesy of the artist
§ Part 3 §
Political economist at the University of Maryland, founding fellow of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, member of the board of directors for the New Economics Institute, and a revisionist historian.
The first modern work to break open the question of American empire, forcing us to recognize how a domestic tradition of democratic liberalism was compatible with informal imperialism abroad.
A powerful reconsideration of the radical tradition, illuminating reconstructive approaches to systemic change beyond both corporate capitalism and state socialism.
Taught how to reimagine politics as the projectof building community from the bottom up.
Showed how someof Karl Marx’s most important insights helped inform an understanding of American historical change.
A clear statement of the most progressive version of Keynesian economics, explaining -- n understandable but also sophisticated ways -- how to come to terms with and embrace the profound implications of economic theory.
Marxist social commentator, urban theorist, historian, and political activist. He is best known for his investigations of power and social class in his native Southern California.
This is nothing less than a secret history of the world, revealed through the culture of the carnival and other festive enactments of the sensuous solidarity of the poor. Bakhtin argues that the soul of revolution is the permanent critique of power by laughter.
Serge rode many dragons as an anarchist in Paris and Barcelona, then as a leader of the Communist International in Moscow, and finally as an oppositionist exile in Mexico. His Memoirs are an unflinching reckoning with the human costs and tragedies of attempting to change history.
Labor journalist and pioneer industrial sociologist, Walker chronicled the 1934 Teamster uprising and general strike in Minneapolis from the viewpoint of all classes – making American City unique amongst contemporary strike histories. His chilling account of the violent anti-union backlash amongst the city’s middle classes begs an uncomfortable question: is it the 99% versus the 1%, or the 60% versus 40%?
A history of the freedom struggle in Mississippi that emphasizes local traditions of resistance and the centrality of grassroots leadership (like the great Fannie Lou Hammer). An invaluable corrective to ‘top-down’ Movement histories that focus only on the Martin Luther Kings, this is also a superb textbook for understanding the interaction between the macro and micro dynamics of social conflict.
The distilled practical wisdom of the great labor struggles of the 1930s or, if you prefer, a Whole Earth Catalog of class struggle. Steuben, a lead organizer and master tactician in the bloody 'Little Steel' strike of 1937, explains how to organize a strike from the first leaflet to the last tear-gas canister. Still amazingly useful and available for free on line.
Philosopher and writer, University of Turin.
In politics there are no innocent victims. Desire of freedom and desire of servitude turn the life of those who engage into a battlefield.
A treatise of social schizophrenia which describes in detail the dominant happiness and the dead ends of our critical hypocrisy.
A parable of political passion, a literary and mental experiment in search for an answer to one question: how much emancipation are we capable of?
A talisman and a warning, the highest degree of lucidity of bourgeois and intellectual self-criticism.
Boldness, energy, unresponsiveness to allure: the characteristics of a new effort in the era of comfortable and popular cynicism.
Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies, University of Massachusetts.
Especially his section on the Primitive Accumulation of Capital. It is important to challenge the mindset of those who posit free market capitalism as the ideal model which existed some time in the past and has now been corrupted. Marx's historical analysis here shows that people had to be forcibly thrown off their land and the common lands appropriated by the rich and powerful before there could be a capitalist market of so-called "free" labourers.
Particularly ch. 1, "Development, Ecology and Women" which challenges the Western model of economic development as patriarchal, and actually a model of mal-development, one adopted both by capitalist and former state socialist countries, and one that is especially harmful for women and children.
A socialist-feminist historical analysis of how capitalists had to control women and women's reproduction in order to develop the capitalist system out of feudalism, and how they used witch hunts and other culturally imperialist ways to challenge women leaders of peasant and indigenous movements who stood in their way of eliminating the commons in Europe and colonizing Latin America and Africa.
A classic communitarian anarchist ecological critique of existing class societies and a vision of how to construct a new decentralized communal society that is sustainable, and supports both individual and social freedom.
A classic second wave US Black feminist statement of an inclusive feminist analysis that rejects feminist models that ignore racism and class exploitation, and give good analyses of alternative ideas of power, how male allies are important to feminism, etc.
Writer, Professor in Philosophy at King's College London, and Continental Philosophy at The University of Warwick and the University of Surrey. He runs zer0 books.
This play is full of freewheeling individual rage, not specifically political and near blind in its application, yet reading it at 16 convinced me that without discovering my own voice any contribution to a collective struggle would be limited to following a party line and thus a substitute for proper thought.
An inspiring collection of oral histories from the Spanish Civil War, where the actors are effectively the writers. And a timely introduction to a world in which politics worked at a higher level of ambition than I was used to, less John Major/John Smith than a series of epic life projects verging on the existential, their practical failure ennobled by the fact that they had been attempted at all.
These poems bring together two spheres that don't normally have much to do with each other, politics and wisdom. With care, ruthlessness and economy Brecht gets to the three or four lines that can sum up and puncture the most verbose and decorative deceptions of Power, again and again.
Oneof the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005, she worked for more than 20 years to combat communalism in India. Founder of the NGO Act Now for Harmony and Democracy in 2003. She was associated with the creation and running of Sahmat, formed by artists and intellectuals in memory of her activist brother.
It narrates Anne Frank's harrowing experiences when she was forced to go into hiding with her family during World War II when Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany.
This is a story of a fifteen year old Russian girl (and her brother Shura) who fought as a partisan against the occupying Nazis near Moscow. She was caught, tortured and killed. It is a story of a brave fighter. Story is written by Zoya and Shura's mother.
This is the life story of a young street theatre and cultural activist whowas attacked and killed while performing a play in support of workers near New Delhi, India in 1989. the story is written by his mother.
Lawyer, Marxist-oriented sociologist and philosopher, whose work is closely associated with the Zapatista movement in Mexico, his home since 1991. Teacher at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Puebla.
It remains the most radical critique of capitalism, and an essential starting point for understanding the debates around capitalist development and the possibility of radical change. It’s best to read it collectively.
This is where I started and it remains a constant point of reference. A wonderful book that takes us into all aspects of life and shows them to be a pushing towards that which is Not Yet.
A novel of hope and fear that takes the notion of communism (or whatever we want to call it) into new dimensions.
For me the best of Situationism. Revolutionary thought at its anti-dogmatic and exciting best.
Fiercely difficult, and well worth the effort. The critique of identity shakes the world.
An article that turns traditional Marxism upside down and lays the basis for autonomist/ operaista thought.
Associate Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bologna, where he teaches postcolonial studies and contemporary political theory. He has published widely on the areas of migration, postcolonial theory, contemporary capitalism, Italian operaismo and autonomist Marxism.
This book still represents the starting point to understand the meaning of capitalism and its critique.
An essential book to understand power and how it works in our daily life, how its techniques are constantly deconstructed and reconstructed before its subjects.
A book that starts with an analysis of the state and its law to critically show its crises and transformations in the face of the struggles and the revolts of the exploited.
A book that takes us on a time journey back to the origins of modern capitalism and presents us with a vivid image of the organisation of labour and the history of struggles, which reminds us of today.
An extraordinary analysis of racism and slavery in 19th century US, but first and foremost an analysis of the struggle for freedom of the slaves first and then of black people after their “liberation”: a great history book, which offers an excellent method to analyse the present.
Media theorist, writer, columnist, lecturer, graphic novelist and documentarian. He is best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture, and his advocacy of open source solutions to social problems.
Though not overtly political, the book was a turning point for me in understanding the "reality tunnels" of other people, and the importance in never taking one's own perspective too seriously.
Sorry, but the Torah explains the origins of the credit crisis. At least Genesis and Exodus, or the story of Joseph through that of Moses. It's the story of how to exploit abundant markets by creating scarce ones, and how to create indentured servitude. As well as how to break free. It is the story we are living today.
It’s essential people understand how money works, and that the money we use today is just one kind of money. People equate money with evil and greed, but that's only because they think there's only one kind.
Researcher and activists in the field of social implications of ICTS. He teaches media economy at the Academy of Art and Design, Zurich; is a co-founder of Openflows.org, an open source R&D firm headquartered in Toronto.
How can social processes be voluntary and coercive at the same time? This is a puzzle of many aspects neo-liberal globalization. Grewal's far-reaching answer is that power does not only work through institutions and commands, but also -- and increasingly – through setting conditions of access to networks of resources and possibilities. This latter form of power forces many into join a game that is rigged against them, simply because not participating at all would be even worse. In order to confront power, we need an adequate understanding of how power operates these days. Grewal makes an important contribution to that understanding.
With his seventy-two keys, Konrad Becker aims to unlock the gates ofstrategic reality: its construction over centuries, its imposition through stealth and force, its dull and laborious maintenance, and its dissolution and destruction by those who can’t take it anymore.
In order to build new types of organizations that combine voluntary participation with focus and impact, we need to look closely at those cases where this has already been achieved. O'Neil's analysis of the social dynamics of Free and Open Source Software projects provides understanding how this works in detail and in reality. He goes far beyond any facile celebrations of the supposed wisdom-of-the-crowds and untangles the mystery of authority without coercion.
NEXT WEEK you will find contributions by: Linda Alcoff, Ariella Azoulay, Milford Bateman, Norman Finkelstein, Bill Fletcher Jr., David Goodway, Ramsey Kanaan, Loop Magazine, Gigi Roggero.
If you want to follow or stimulate discussions on Twitter over this project, you might use the hashtag #occupyreadinglist.