Reviews

1 August 2018 Fiorella Lecoutteux

The New Press, 2018; 368pp; £24.99

Two of the most pressing questions for the Left today are: Who are Trump’s supporters? And why did they vote for him?

A liberal Democrat based in California, US sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild has spent years researching the US right in its geographic heart, the South. She has attempted to cross the ‘empathy wall’ that blocks you from understanding someone with a wildly different worldview.

Hochschild’s research leads her to wrestle with a major paradox in the US today: those who are the most effected by alarming…

1 August 2018 Erica Smith

Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, Lodge Hill Lane, Ditchling, East Sussex BN6 8SP until 14 October (Tues – Sat: 10.30am–5pm; Sundays & bank holidays: 11am – 5pm; £6.50 / £5.50, under-16s free)


emergency use soft shoulder (1966). Photo: Josh White, courtesy Corite Art Centre, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft may seem an unlikely place to host an exhibition of 1960s Warhol-inspired socially-engaged prints from California, but these brightly-coloured, life-affirming texts by Corita Kent make for an exciting dialogue with artworks by members of the Roman Catholic local artistic community in the permanent collection.

In 1921, sculptor and type-designer Eric Gill was one of the…

1 August 2018 Erica Smith

OR Books, rev ed 2018; 388 pp; £10.99; ebook £7. Purchase online here

Alex Nunn’s engaging style makes Corbyn’s journey from jam-making backbencher to leader of the opposition seem both exciting and totally rational.

Last year, The Candidate won the Bread and Roses award for radical publishing. That first edition traced Corbyn’s rise up to the attempted coup by right-wing Labour MPs in mid-2016.

This new edition includes a 100-page(!) chapter covering last June’s snap general election and the incredible surge of support for Labour despite vitriolic attacks on Corbyn from the…

1 August 2018 Milan Rai

Profile Books, 2017; 512pp; £25

Sir Rodric Braithwaite was foreign policy adviser to prime minister John Major and chair of his joint intelligence committee. A history of the nuclear arms race from such an insider is bound to be a polished piece of mainstream propaganda.

For example, while he concedes that US president Richard Nixon did issue nuclear threats (over Vietnam in 1969, and during the 1973 Egypt-Israel war, both mentioned on p333 of the book), Braithwaite sees these as the two exceptions rather than the rule. He has this bold denial: ‘Even…

1 August 2018 Henrietta Cullinan

Zed Books, 2016; 208 pp; £14.99

For anyone who has visited refugee camps in Europe – or who has worked with those seeking asylum in this country – No Borders provides a perspective very different from the usual portrayal of migrants as victims of unjust, violent borders, victims whose rights are routinely ignored and who are denied access to basic amenities such as water, food and shelter.

Natasha King draws on social movement theory to picture many migrants as activists, refusing to be deterred by the borders, both physical and legal, that block their…

1 August 2018 Ian Sinclair

Accent Press, 2018; 368 pp; £15.99

Achieving 40 percent of the vote – a record-breaking 10 percent increase on its 2015 performance – Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party carried off one of the biggest political upsets ever at the 2017 general election, dealing a serious blow to the Tory government and broader neoliberal ideology.

Steve Howell, deputy director of strategy and communications in the Labour leadership team, gives a detailed and engaging insider account of the election campaign. There are no big reveals, but there are many nuggets that will be of interest to…

1 June 2018 Gabriel Carlyle

PM Press, 2018; 128pp; $14

PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series continues with this showcase for the writing of the legendary science fiction (SF) writer and memoirist Samuel R. Delany, featuring the title novella, Delany’s famous 1998 essay ‘Racism in Science Fiction’, and an interview with Delany by series editor Terry Bisson.

Clocking-in at seventy-two pages, The Atheist in the Attic centres on the famous November 1676 meeting between the philosophers Leibniz and Spinoza (the latter the atheist of the title) in The Hague, recounted here in the…

1 June 2018 Arkady Johns

Verso, 2016; 320pp; £9.99

It used to be that, when someone told me about a way to increase my happiness, I would take it on board without thinking. This book has changed that.

Surveying a broad sweep of history – from the measurement of mood by economists in the 18th century, to our current state where information about individuals is stored on the assumption that it will be useful someday – Davies investigates how happiness has become both a political and an economic goal.

The anti-philosophical approach of contemporary psychology, and the…

1 June 2018 Gabriel Carlyle

PM Press, 2017; 128pp; $12.95

According to longtime activist and author Jeremy Brecher, ‘we are witnessing the birth of a global nonviolent constitutional insurgency’ to prevent catastrophic climate change. In this short and timely book he attempts to explain how and why this insurgency has emerged and seeks to ‘[lay] out a strategy for climate insurgents in the US’.

The ‘why’ of the insurgency is a relatively straightforward matter. PR aside, governments and corporations have thus far failed to take meaningful action on climate change – with the result that…

1 June 2018 Esme Needham

Profile Books, 2017; 128pp; £7.99

After reading this book, at first I was confused about the title: there didn’t appear to be a manifesto in it at all. Then gradually it dawned on me – the entire book is a manifesto, and a powerful one.

Mary Beard makes so many deeply perceptive points throughout the book that I found myself memorising page numbers to refer back to in case I ever wanted to quote her on anything.

The book is divided into two sections, both of which are lectures she has given – the first, ‘The Public Voice of Women’, is about how women…

1 June 2018 Milan Rai

Penguin Press, 2017; 800pp; £10.99

Do you want to base your views about aggression, violence, war and peace on the available biological/psychological evidence? Do you have the stamina for 700 very challenging pages? Yes and yes? Here’s the book for you.

Robert Sapolsky’s Behave: the biology of humans at our best and worst looks at first sight like just another popular psychology book. I expected brain scans, hormones and genes, and there is a lot about those topics.

What I didn’t expect was a science-based argument for the abolition of large…

1 June 2018 Henrietta Cullinan

Verso, 2017; 256pp; £9.99

This book will prompt gasps of recognition among peace activists, as they read of dramatic acts of mass civil disobedience, the use of affinity groups, and the underlying efforts to be equitable and inclusive during a time of reactionary politics.

The story begins with the Mayday protest of 1971, in which thousands of anti-war campaigners staged three days of protests in Washington DC with the aim of shutting down the US capital. Though ‘most slovenly’ according to one journalist, these actions unsettled the Nixon administration…

1 June 2018 Henrietta Cullinan

Zed Books, 2017; 384pp; £10.99

This book analyses contemporary struggles for social justice against the spinning backdrop of New Labour’s Cool Britannia. Using pop culture subjects such as the all-women pop group, the Spice Girls, the rebranding of the British royal family, the class war of Britpop, and the public reaction to the Young British Artists (YBAs), the author shows how, while New Labour celebrated the image of a visibly diverse, post-colonial Britain, in reality the roots of our present struggles for justice and equality were glossed over by skillful marketing…

1 June 2018 Ian Sinclair

Peter Lang Publishing, 2017; 276pp; £29

‘The biggest immediate single problem we face… is mainstream media reporting’, British historian Mark Curtis recently argued in an Open Democracy interview about UK foreign policy.

Florian Zollmann’s deeply impressive first book – which expands on his PhD, supervised by Professor Richard Keeble – goes a long way in engaging with this long-running issue for peace activists.

‘The news media in liberal democracies operates as a propaganda system on behalf of state-corporate elite interests’, he argues, using Edward Herman…

1 April 2018 Gabriel Carlyle

OR Books, 2017; 134pp; £12

It’s not always a good sign when the most frequent comment one finds oneself scrawling in the margins of a book is ‘Really?’

Anyone who hasn’t been asleep for the last five-plus years will be aware that today’s digital technologies – first and foremost the internet itself – present wide-ranging challenges to some of our most cherished rights and institutions. Mass government surveillance of the internet threatens our privacy. Google has built an unassailable and unaccountable monopoly off the back of its users’ data. Meanwhile,…