Following in the spirit of the inimitable Meredith Debonnaire ( https://meredithdebonnaire.wordpress.com/ ), I shall offer a quick rundown of what I’ve been reading over the last month while working away.
Paul Mason – Postcapitalism : much more analytical of economic trends in a post-Marxist way than I expected, very thought-provoking – he sees the increasing automisation of work as an opportunity to create a fairer organisation of society, to question what the function of paid work is, to institute a citizens basic wage as a starting step to free people from wage labour/exploitation – that the exponential growth in information networks will lead to something beyond what we know as capitalism. Lots of good stuff in there – but even back in the 80s, people were saying that we would soon be liberated from full-time work by advances in technology, and like so many things, backwards has been the direction of travel.
Nina Power – One Dimensional Woman : arguing against populist mainstream so-called feminism based on consumerism and self-exploitation – and for the need to see wider societal struggles around equality, liberation for all, against capitalism, a wider intellectual view. Bracing.
Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Played With Fire : second in the series, like the first, I read it addictively in about three days – 560 pages. And then I need to make myself wait to read the third one. Slightly like junk food, a thriller for right-on people on the left!
Ooi Kee Beng/Wan Hamidi Hamid – Young and Malay : doing my local research – a book of young people writing about their experiences growing up in Malaysia, where society is increasingly organised and structured and limited on racial grounds by government decree. These young Malays see that it’s not really helping anyone, they feel that what was originally a fairly relaxed multi-racial state sixty years ago is becoming more segregated and less tolerant, to everyone’s disadvantage. I hadn’t realised how institutionalised these distinctions are here. If you’re born ethnically Malay, you are by definition a muslim, and that is becoming less liberal, from above. The contrast with the Chinese and Indian elements is striking and quite peculiar. Similar issues in Singapore and Indonesia too. I can’t quite see how the embrace of western-style technology and consumerist culture fits in.
Laurie Penny – Unspeakable Things : totally inspiring book on women and men, feminism, sexuality, from an impassioned but clear perspective. Lots of issues I feel I was fired up about in the 80s (and since, as a parent/human) – she writes very personally, but with a broader perspective. Everyone should read this, but particularly men, with an open mind and a willingness to listen!
Sunjeev Sahota – The Year of the Runaways : another addictive novel, three young Indian men, illegal immigrants in Sheffield, and a young devout Sikh woman from Croydon – their stories interweave, often disturbing and tragic, or distressing, ultimately on some level inspiring, very involving. The book has a really naff cover (gold-embossed title) and a quote from the Daily Mail, not renowned for their sympathy to outsiders, coming over here and taking those jobs that noone wants to do. The collision of rigid stratified societies/cultures with western so-called liberalism.
John Gray – The Soul of the Marionette : John Gray is an antidote to Paul Mason or Slavoj Zizek or Jeremy Corbyn even, perhaps to anyone involved in politics at all – one of his main points is always that is no such thing as progress, or society evolving in a positive way – that even attempting to build a better society is doomed to make things worse probably – we are better off accepting the innate weaknesses/faults/failings of humans and getting on as best as we can. That all sounds a bit miserable I know, this is only a short book and took a little while to get going – philosophically it’s about freedom and free will, whether ultimately there really is any, and whether ultimately that’s important or not, and how that affects how we live. Why should we aspire to live a good life, what might that mean. The illusion that apparently endless developments in knowledge might lead to a correspondingly better life. He likes to knock down illusions, for what he might call realism. Perhaps this sounds negative, but it’s bracing, and not uninspiring.
As I type, with the ipod on shuffle, I’ve heard some Astor Piazzolla, some Iain Ballamy, some Jonathan Richman, Breeders, Patti Smith – also all highly recommended!