Reviews

1 June 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Verso, 2021; 256pp; £16.99

‘The sky is a cornucopia – heaven, not so far from earth. We have to guard that cornucopia against industries and interests that would make it scarce.’

Thus writes anthropologist David McDermott Hughes, on the final page of this enthralling book. It’s simultaneously a call for a new ‘socialism of the wind’ and an in-depth exploration of the social, political and cultural challenges facing the renewable energy revolution.

Two ideas underlie this book.

Firstly, we urgently need to rapidly move the world’s energy system…

1 April 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Verso, 2021; 256pp; £9.99

In 1895, Mohammed Abduh – later the grand mufti of Egypt – claimed: ‘We Egyptians believed once in English liberalism and English sympathy; but we believe no longer, for facts are stronger than words. Your liberalness we see plainly is only for yourselves, and your sympathy with us is that of the wolf for the lamb which it deigns to eat.’

The ‘bland fanatics’ of Pankaj Mishra’s title are those advocates of ‘western civilisation’ who, in the words of the US theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (writing in 1957), ‘regard the highly…

1 April 2022 Cath

Chris Coates, James Dennis, Jonathan How & Kirsten Stevens-Wood (eds), Diggers & Dreamers: Intentional Community in Britain (12th edition): Diggers & Dreamers Publications, 2021; 196pp; £14.50 Chris Coates, A Life in Common: A Diggers & Dreamers History: Diggers & Dreamers, 2021; 198pp; £12 Both titles available from www.diggersanddreamers.org.uk

The Diggers & Dreamers (D&D) editorial collective has changed membership over the years, but the format of its definitive guide to intentional community in Britain hasn’t. The 12th edition (2021) does not disappoint as the go-to source of information for those seeking a more fulfilling alternative to the nuclear family, to precarious renting or to dedicating one’s waking hours to wage slavery for a mortgage.

Having migrated online, the print version is now only issued every few years – the last one was the 25th…

1 April 2022 Henrietta Cullinan

Goldsmith Press, 2020; 432pp; £32

Having volunteered with a small religious group supporting homeless refugees in Calais and London, I resonated strongly with this book. In particular, it helped me to see, in hindsight, our contribution as part of an extraordinary international mobilisation of volunteers endeavouring to provide refugees and migrants with on-the-ground help.

The book is divided geographically into ‘flashpoints’; places where refugees and migrants gathered to cross borders or found their journey across Europe blocked by governments’ policies.

1 April 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Declassified UK, 2021; 26m; available on YouTube: www.tinyurl.com/WartonsWar

In their classic 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky write that: ‘A propaganda system will consistently portray people abused by enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by its own government or clients will be unworthy. The evidence of worth may be read from the extent and character of attention and indignation.... While this differential treatment occurs on a large scale, the media, intellectuals, and public are able to remain unconscious of…

1 April 2022 Callum Alexander Scott

Seven Stories, 2021; 256pp; £15.99

Kaufman, a documentary producer who works at the Office of Open Learning at MIT (the top science and technology university in the US), begins by establishing what he calls the ‘Monsterverse’. This is a somewhat vague but playful concept that covers all of the interests (both state and private) engaged in a ‘relentless effort to crush freedom of thought, independent thinking, expertise’ and the general spread of ‘free access to knowledge’.

Kaufman explores a number of historical battles with the Monsterverse, from William Tyndale’s…

1 April 2022 Ian Sinclair

Pluto Press, 2021; 146 pp; £9.99

Though he doesn’t mention it in this book, I imagine activist Chris Saltmarsh is a big fan of the Chico Mendes quote that often appears on Twitter: ‘Environmentalism Without Class Struggle is Just Gardening.’

For Saltmarsh, ‘the root cause of climate change is our system of organising the economy and our relationship to nature: capitalism.’ With the ruling class profiting most from the crisis, he notes the resistance of capital is ‘perhaps the biggest barrier to climate justice.’

Part of Pluto Press’s Outspoken series,

1 April 2022 Milan Rai

Pluto Press, 2021; 336pp; £19.99 (use discount code ‘PEACENEWS20’ to get 20 percent off at the Pluto Press webshop – offer valid until 30 April)

In the first year of COVID-19, while most of us were watching too much TV and just trying to stay sane, Paul Rogers was revising and rewriting his classic book on global security, Losing Control, to create this updated, enriched and unmissable fourth edition.

Among other things, he added a powerful new section on COVID-19 and the ‘lethally slow’ response of the UK. As part of this section, Rogers criticises the British government’s decision in late 2020 to pre-empt an ongoing defence and security review by increasing…

1 February 2022 Pascal Ansell

Zed Books, 2021; 288pp; £12.99

An island nation cowering below its gargantuan big brother China, the Taiwanese have been 'robbed of a fundamental part of their identity'. Its fascinating paradox lies in the fact many Taiwanese consider themselves more Chinese than China itself.

Taiwan was never even meant to be its own independent entity. During the Chinese Civil War (1927 - 1949), Mao's opponent Chiang Kai-Shek was exiled to the South Sea island formerly known as Formosa – the name given to it by the Portuguese. They never expected to stay long, and today's…

1 February 2022 Henrietta Cullinan

Hamish Hamilton, 2021; 208pp; £14.99

Recently, Love Island star Molly Mae was forced to apologise after promoting her pet theory that ‘everyone has the same 24 hours in a day’ and so can achieve their goals. Her inept blindness to inequality and poverty is a good popular example of the topic of this book: Zakaria defines white feminism as those parts of feminism that claim to speak for all women, but which neglect to acknowledge the racially privileged positions that its proponents both assume and occupy.

Pointing to the divide between feminist theorists and…

1 February 2022 Andrew Bolton

University Press of Kansas, 2021; 200pp; £27.50

Why read something from Kansas? How can anything be relevant to climate justice that comes out of a part of the USA that consistently votes Republican, and where school boards regularly try to enforce the teaching of creationism by science teachers? For 20 years, I lived just over the border in Missouri and, despite the conservative stereotypes, there are hopeful stories to be told coming out of Kansas. Wes Jackson is one of these. Jackson is a geneticist and ecologist who grew up on the rich, fertile prairie soils of Kansas, where family…

1 February 2022 Matthew Behrens

Netflix, 2021; 138 mins

As multiple crises rocked the globe at year’s end, social media burned up with a torrent of pugilistic partisan posts framed in a Bush-like purity test: were you with this trending Netflix film or were you against it?

I caved in to the combination of peer pressure and public health guidelines and watched Don’t Look Up – a comedy in which two astronomers attempt to warn humanity about an approaching comet that will destroy civilisation – only to wonder why so many were celebrating something that seemed to…

1 February 2022 Ian Sinclair

OUP, 2021; 256pp; £12.99

Nonviolent resistance campaigns have been twice as successful as violent campaigns in achieving their objectives. That was the conclusion of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, making it a seminal book in the study and practice of nonviolent struggle (see PN 2547 – 2548).

With Civil Resistance, Chenoweth,…

1 February 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Verso, 2021; 208pp; £9.99

If you haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last three years, you’ll probably have heard of ‘net zero’. This is the idea that, in order to address the climate crisis, we must rapidly bring about a balance between human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and human-caused removals of the same.

The best versions of net zero could be part of the solution and a instrument for climate justice.

However, as Holly Jean Buck argues in this timely work, the key issue is having a plan for managing the decline…

1 February 2022 Gabriel Carlyle

Granta, 2021; 272pp; £16.99

Before it went to the printers, Rebecca Solnit’s publishers tried to get her to add a subtitle to this book. She refused, on the reasonable grounds that, as a book about some roses that were grown by the author of 1984 and Animal Farm, it didn’t need one.

However, what might sound like a ridiculously narrow focus for a book, turns out to be anything but.

In a 1946 essay (‘A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray’) Orwell wrote about some inexpensive roses and fruit trees that he had planted 10 years earlier: ‘the…