Reviews

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kolya abramsky writes:

The Underground Challenge:
Raw Materials, Energy, the World-Economy and Anti-Capitalism

Kolya Abramsky

[This review will appear shortly in Anarchist Perspectives.]

A review of:

Global Energy Shifts: Fostering Sustainability in a Turbulent Age
By Bruce Podobnik
(Temple University Press, Philadelphia. 2006),

and

Globalization and the Race for Resources
By Stephen Bunker and Paul Ciccantell
(John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. 2005)

Global Energy Shifts: Fostering Sustainability in a Turbulent Age by Bruce Podobnik, and Globalization and the Race for Resources by Stephen Bunker and Paul Ciccantell are two incredibly timely, highly informed and analytically sharp analyses of both raw materials and energy, within a wider, and importantly, long-term analysis of the capitalist world-system as a whole and the conflicts, hierarchies and inequalities that are inherent to its functioning.

From the oil workers of Iraq, to the wood-fuelled kitchens of India, to the stranded in New Orleans, to Black communities of Colombia, to the gas fields of Bolivia, and the electricity consumers in Soweto, to the displaced millions of Narmada and Three Gorges, to the unregulated Chinese coal miners dying in explosions, to the Native Americans whose reproductive health is threatened by uranium extraction in Shoshone, to the iron mines of the Amazon. Increasingly, raw materials and energy are becoming important sites of conflict, and in all likelihood, such trends will continue to intensify in the near future. They are conflicts in which the artificialness and futility of attempting to separate analysis of local, regional, national and global dynamics from one another becomes glaringly obvious. Control of raw materials and energy is a crucial precondition to capitalist production and reproduction.

Orwell & the 70th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War

Markin, IndyBay

Reviewing

George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1952


I have been interested, as a pro-Republican partisan, in the Spanish Civil War since I was a teenager. Underlying my interests has always been a nagging question of how that struggle could have been won by the working class. The Spanish proletariat certainly was capable of both heroic action and the ability to create organizations that reflected its own class interests i.e. the worker militias and factory committees.

Gramsci is Dead

Roger Farr


Reviewing Richard J.F. Day (2005) Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements. Toronto/London: Between the Lines/Pluto Press.

It appears that Antonio Gramsci’s death certificate has been signed by anarchists.

In Gramsci is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements, Richard Day reassesses from an anarchist perspective the “logic of hegemony” that unites classical Marxism and liberalism, and declares that this logic has been “exhausted” by recent social movements. To support his argument that certain strains of contemporary struggle have broken with this logic in favour of “direct affinity” and “structural renewal”, terms he recovers from Landauer and Kropotkin, Day examines several examples of autonomous organizing and offers new readings, informed by post-structuralism and autonomist theory, of classical anarchism. Achieving an admirable balance between the demands of high-theory and the need to make his argument comprehensible, Day makes an important contribution to social theory in general, and to “post-anarchist” theory in particular. While this book is certain to be controversial among activists (the critique of “the politics of demand and recognition”), academics (the truncated argument and polemical tone) and anarchists of every stripe (the authority granted to Marxist theory at the expense of the diverse, contemporary anarchist movement), in short, Day’s entire audience, it should nevertheless be read by anyone who is serious about creating radical, anti-authoritarian alternatives to the market and the state.

"Open Source Projects as Voluntary Hierarchies"

Felix Stalder

Reviewing Stephen Weber, The Success of Open Source.
(2004) Cambridge, MA,
Harvard UP

ISBN: 0-674-01292-5, pp. 311

Over the last half-decade, free and open source software (FOSS) has
moved from
the hacker margins to the mainstream. Corporations, large and
small, have
invested in it, some governments are actively supporting it and it is
becoming an increasingly important tool for the building of an
international
civil society. In the social sciences, the field is receiving a
growing share
of attention, evidenced by a widening stream of research output.
The central
repository for relevant papers, opensource.mit.edu, lists some 250
researchers with a self-declared interest in all things FOSS and
almost as
many scholarly papers, contributed in just five years.
Additionally, there
are several volumes written by activists, book-length treatments by
journalists, plus biographies of the two most prominent figures,
Richard
Stallman and Linus Torvalds.

"Why they Hate America So Much"

Anirudh Deshpande, H-Asia

Reviewing Karl E Meyer, The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery of the Asian Heartland.
New York: Perseus Books, 2003. xvii + 252 pp. Maps, photographs, notes, select bibliography, index. $26.00 (cloth), ISBN 1-58648-048-0; $15.00 (paper), ISBN 1-58648-241-6.

Why Do They Hate America So Much?

This book must be read in the context of Iraq, which is threatening to become not another Vietnam but the Operation Barbarossa of the United States. It is an objective, unrelenting critique of Western imperialism which will equally surprise the communist and capitalist admirers of modern Western civilization. And by Western imperialism, Karl Meyer does not mean only Anglo-Saxon attitudes of superiority but, as a brilliant chapter on Tsarist and Bolshevik Russia proves, also Russia from the period of Ivan the Terrible until the ill-fated Soviet military adventure in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. This book attributes the widespread opposition to the West in many countries to the exploitative relationship the Western powers have historically imposed on them. It is also a scholarly rejection of the erroneous beliefs entertained and repeated meaninglessly by imperialists like George Bush and Tony Blair in the name of freedom and liberty. The United States, Britain and Russia are under attack today, as Meyer conclusively demonstrates, not because many people dislike liberty, but precisely because these powers have denied freedom to millions across countries in their quest for foreign resources and empire since at least the nineteenth century.

"Creating Anarchy"

O. Katz

Reviewing Ron Sakolsky, Creating Anarchy. Liberty, TN: Fifth Estate Books, (2005)

The descriptor “eclectic” is overused, but I’m afraid there’s no better means for assessing the depth and breadth of Ron Sakolsky’s sustained personal history of involvement with libertarian theory and practice. Free-radio activism, radical musical expression, non-coercive educational strategies, Fourth World indigenous struggles, surrealist cultural experimentation—Sakolsky has submerged himself into all of these subjects (and more) over the years, and he has done so in the most open-minded and nonsectarian of ways. His smash-and-grab freestyle philosophies eschew rigid dogma in favor of what can most deliciously scratch the most insatiable itch. In this light, Sakolsky’s writings recall for me the ingenious and approachable do-it-yourself ethos of garage-band punks, tenement-yard turntablists, basement-workshop mad scientists, and the rest of Babylon’s most resourceful shipwreck survivors.

Creating Anarchy is a compilation of twenty of Sakolsky’s essays crisscrossing the last ten years. Most of the writing here has been reconsidered, rewritten and remixed with an eye peeled and an ear cocked for the latest mutations in the New World Order’s war of terror against terrorism, from post-9/11 compulsory consumerism and the state-sponsored mass media persecution of “un-American” teachers to the silly liberal ballot-box melodramas of the last two US presidential campaigns. But all this is not to say that Sakolsky’s thinking is just an enraged reaction to the toxic neo-puritanism and babbitry of what he calls “Fortress America fundamentalism.” Never self-righteously angry or haughtily prescriptive, Sakolsky’s solutions are simultaneously sensible and seductive, and they are grounded in the best sort of critical thinking and informed reflection that only comes from decades of experience fighting on the side of liberty and mutual aid.

Nietzsche's Vicious Circular Corps/e

Douglas Kellner

Reviewing Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle,
Chicago, University of Chicago Press,1998, xx + 282 pp.

and Geoff Waite, Nietzsche's Corpse/e.

Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996, xii + 564pp.

The translation of Pierre Klossowski's Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle finally provides an English-speaking audience with access to one of the most influential texts in the French Nietzsche tradition.

First published in France in 1969, Klossowski's text consummated over three decades of intense work and discussion on Nietzsche's most enigmatic and original ideas. Working with Bataille and the famous College de Sociologie, Klossowski published a series ofimportant studies of Nietzsche culminating in Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle which Foucault described in a letter to Klossowski as "the greatest book of philosophy I have read" in addition to Nietzsche himself. Deeply influencing Deleuze, Lyotard, and other major Nietzscheans, Klossowski's work remains a seminal text of the contemporary French reading of Nietzsche.

Eugene McCarthy: 1916–2005
Jon Wiener, The Nation

Wiener, a columnist for The Nation, teaches history at the
University of California, Irvine; his latest book is Historians in
Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud and Politics in the Ivory Tower
(The New
Press, 2005). This article, a review of Dominic Sandbrook's biography of Eugene
McCarthy, was first published in 2004.

Eugene McCarthy has always been a mysterious and frustrating figure.
Nothing he did before 1968 hinted that he would become the liberals'
antiwar leader and challenge an incumbent Democratic President;
nothing he did after 1968 accomplished much of anything. Dominic
Sandbrook skillfully conveys the events and the experience as well as
the arguments of that year. Although he is a Shropshire lad born in
1974, Sandbrook argues like my father, born in Duluth in 1921 and a
good Minnesota Democrat: He insists we focus on how the story of 1968
ended. The split among Democrats led by McCarthy ended up with Nixon
in the White House. Nixon kept the war going for another five years,
during which 15,000 more Americans were killed, and — we might add
— during which Americans killed something like a million more
Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians.

"Back to Utopia"

Joshua Glenn

Reviewing Fredric Jameson's Archeologies of the Future.


In 1888, when Massachusetts newspaperman Edward Bellamy published his science fiction novel Looking Backward, set in a Boston of the year 2000, it sold half a million copies. Never mind the futuristic inventions (electric lighting, credit cards) and visionary city planning; what readers responded to was the transformation of a Gilded Age city of labor strikes and social unrest into a socialist utopia (Bellamy called it ''nationalist") of full employment and material abundance.


By 1890 there were 162 reformist Bellamy Clubs around the country, with a membership that included public figures like the influential novelist, editor, and critic William Dean Howells; and from 1891-96, the Bellamy-inspired Nationalist Party helped propel the Populist Movement. The Bellamyites fervently believed, to paraphrase the slogan of today's anti-globalization movement, that another world was possible.


But during the Cold War — thanks to Stalinism and the success of such dystopian fables as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four — all radical programs promising social transformation became suspect. Speaking for his fellow chastened liberals at a Partisan Review symposium in 1952, for example, the theologian and public intellectual Reinhold Niebuhr dismissed what he called the utopianism of the 1930s as ''an adolescent embarrassment."

Anonymous Comrade writes:

"Cultural Criticism at the Crossroads"

Not Bored!

Reviewing Greil Marcus' Like a Rolling Stone

"The development of capitalist concentration, and the diversification of its function at the global level, have produced the forced consumption of the abundance of commodities, as well as the control of the economy and all of life by bureaucrats, through their possession of the State; or direct or indirect colonialism. Quite far from being the definitive response to the incessant revolutionary crises of the historical era begun two centuries ago, this system has now entered into a new crisis: from Berkeley to Varsovie, from the Asturians to Kivu, it is refuted and combatted." — Guy Debord, "Summary of 1965"[1]

"In the dime stores and bus stations

People talk of situations

Read books, repeat quotations

Write conclusions on the wall" — Bob Dylan, "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," Bringing it all back home [2]

Greil Marcus must know that he leaves himself open to a predictable objection when he refers to Guy Debord in most recent book of music criticism, Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan At the Crossroads. An explosion of vision and humor that forever changed pop music (Public Affairs Books, 2005). In the middle of a quotation from a detective novel that uses comfortable, pre-riot Watts as its psychogeographical backdrop, Greil tells us,

as the critic Guy Debord wrote of Watts from Paris, "comfort will never be comfortable enough for those who seek what is not on the market."

The quote is from Debord's strategic analysis of the Watts riots, "The Decline and Fall of the Spectacular-Commodity Society," which — as Greil notes in his list of works cited — was first published clandestinely in America, in an English translation, in December 1965 by the Situationist International and later published in French in Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

In Like A Rolling Stone, Greil is only interested in the Watts riots to the extent that they chronologically preceded the release of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" as a single on 20 July 1965. Unlike, say, Frank Zappa's 1966 song "Trouble Everyday," Dylan doesn't refer to or try to comment upon those riots. In the same way that Greil doesn't really need the riots to tell the story of "Like a Rolling Stone," he doesn't really need Guy Debord ("from Paris") to tell the story of the riots. Thus, Greil can afford to call Debord "a critic" and leave it at that; to neglect to tell his readers that, in Lipstick Traces on a Cigarette: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press, 1989), he'd written extensively (and very productively) about Debord's writings, theories and relevance to rock 'n' roll music.[3] But some readers might have benefited from this knowledge: just like Like a Rolling Stone, Lipstick Traces is a risky, rarely undertaken adventure: an entire book — footnotes, an index, a discography with its own internal digressions and asides — about a single great rock 'n' roll song (the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" in the case of Lipstick Traces).[4]

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