Guest curator: Haidar (Levantine Lions)
“Edward Said is so immensely important because I think he’s somebody who articulated the Palestinian situation in a way that can be understood- many people criticized him to say that he was speaking to the West. I don’t believe he was speaking to the West; I believe that he’s speaking to everybody. He had liberated himself from the idea that he had to speak to the West or to the Arab world. He spoke. He just spoke. That’s my opinion. So one of the greatest books that he read wrote is Peace And Its Discontents. [The book] is a series of articles he published in the year I believe going up to or around the Oslo Accords, because the Oslo Accords were just a complete sell out, a betrayal of the Palestinian people. The nail in the coffin. The creation of the modern hell, just a horrible situation. And so being able to understand how the parties were involved in that and like who was involved and who was betrayed and all of that, Peace And Its Discontents, excellent. That book is so, so good.
I would say that another very important book is by Angela Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: From Ferguson to Palestine. I love that book. I think it’s phenomenal. I would also say that it’s important to understand the beating heart, the poetry of the Palestinian people… the taste of the smoke and the sense and why we are who we are in our sorrow and our specific relationship to the land and what we think is beautiful, what we think is sad. So I would suggest either a Samih al-Qasim poetry book or a Mahmoud Darwish poetry book. In the Presence of Absence [by Mahmoud Darwish] is really good. It’s like this really beautiful narrative poetry book, and Samih al-Qasim wrote one, too. I think it’s called, like, Sadder Than Water as well. So that’s four, but I think it’s important to intersectionality via Angela Davis, Edward Said giving you this really strong political history, and then looking at Darwish or al-Qasim to understand our soul, what makes us who we are in a way too.”
Aesthetics and Politics
No other country and no other period has produced a tradition of major aesthetic debate to compare with that which unfolded in German culture from the 1930s to the 1950s. In Aesthetics and Politics the key texts of the great Marxist controversies over literature and art during these years are assembled in a single volume. They do not form a disparate collection but a continuous, interlinked debate between thinkers who have become giants of twentieth-century intellectual history.
by Frank B. Wilderson III
Combining trenchant philosophy with lyrical memoir, Afropessimism is an unparalleled account of Blackness.
Why does race seem to color almost every feature of our moral and political universe? Why does a perpetual cycle of slavery—in all its political, intellectual, and cultural forms—continue to define the Black experience? And why is anti-Black violence such a predominant feature not only in the United States but around the world? These are just some of the compelling questions that animate Afropessimism, Frank B. Wilderson III’s seminal work on the philosophy of Blackness.
Combining precise philosophy with a torrent of memories, Wilderson presents the tenets of an increasingly prominent intellectual movement that sees Blackness through the lens of perpetual slavery. Drawing on works of philosophy, literature, film, and critical theory, he shows that the social construct of slavery, as seen through pervasive anti-Black subjugation and violence, is hardly a relic of the past but the very engine that powers our civilization, and that without this master-slave dynamic, the calculus bolstering world civilization would collapse. Unlike any other disenfranchised group, Wilderson argues, Blacks alone will remain essentially slaves in the larger Human world, where they can never be truly regarded as Human beings, where, “at every scale of abstraction, violence saturates Black life.”
And while Afropessimism delivers a formidable philosophical account of being Black, it is also interwoven with dramatic set pieces, autobiographical stories that juxtapose Wilderson’s seemingly idyllic upbringing in mid-century Minneapolis with the abject racism he later encounters—whether in late 1960s Berkeley or in apartheid South Africa, where he joins forces with the African National Congress. Afropessimism provides no restorative solution to the hatred that abounds; rather, Wilderson believes that acknowledging these historical and social conditions will result in personal enlightenment about the reality of our inherently racialized existence.
The Romance of American Communism
by Vivian Gornick
Writer and critic Vivian Gornick’s long-unavailable classic exploring how Left politics gave depth and meaning to American life
“Before I knew that I was Jewish or a girl I knew that I was a member of the working class.” So begins Vivian Gornick’s exploration of how the world of socialists, communists, and progressives in the 1940s and 1950s created a rich, diverse world where ordinary men and women felt their lives connected to a larger human project.
Now back in print after its initial publication in 1977 and with a new introduction by the author, The Romance of American Communism is a landmark work of new journalism, profiling American Communist Party members and fellow travelers as they joined the Party, lived within its orbit, and left in disillusionment and disappointment as Stalin’s crimes became public.
The Selected Works of Audre Lorde
W. W. Norton & Co., 2020
A definitive selection of Audre Lorde’s prose and poetry, for a new generation of readers.
Self-described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde is an unforgettable voice in twentieth-century literature, and one of the first to center the experiences of black, queer women. This essential reader showcases her indelible contributions to intersectional feminism, queer theory, and critical race studies in twelve landmark essays and more than sixty poems—selected and introduced by one of our most powerful contemporary voices on race and gender, Roxane Gay.
Among the essays included here are:
- “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”
- “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”
- “I Am Your Sister”
- Excerpts from the American Book Award–winning A Burst of Light
The poems are drawn from Lorde’s nine volumes, including The Black Unicorn and National Book Award finalist From a Land Where Other People Live. Among them are:
- “A Litany for Survival”
- “Sister Outsider”
- “Making Love to Concrete”
The Civil War in France: The Paris Commune
by Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin
Communists, left-wing socialists, anarchists, and others have seen the Commune as a model for, or a prefiguration of, a liberated society, with a political system based on participatory democracy from the grassroots up. Marx and Engels, Bakunin, and later Lenin, tried to draw major theoretical lessons (in particular as regards the “dictatorship of the proletariat” and the “withering away of the state”) from the limited experience of the Commune.
Marx, in The Civil War in France (1871), written during the Commune, praised the Commune’s achievements, and described it as the prototype for a revolutionary government of the future, “the form at last discovered” for the emancipation of the proletariat. Marx wrote that, “Working men’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators, history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all of the prayers of their priest will not avail to redeem them.”
Engels echoed his partner, maintaining that the absence of a standing army, the self-policing of the “quarters”, and other features meant that the Commune was no longer a “state” in the old, repressive sense of the term. It was a transitional form, moving towards the abolition of the state as such. He used the famous term later taken up by Lenin and the Bolsheviks: the Commune was, he said, the first “dictatorship of the proletariat”, a state run by workers and in the interests of workers. But Marx and Engels were not entirely uncritical of the Commune. The split between the Marxists and anarchists at the 1872 Hague Congress of the First International (IWA) may in part be traced to Marx’s stance that the Commune might have saved itself had it dealt more harshly with reactionaries, instituted conscription, and centralised decision-making in the hands of a revolutionary direction. The other point of disagreement was the anti-authoritarian socialists’ opposition to the Communist conception of conquest of power and of a temporary transitional state: the anarchists were in favour of general strike and immediate dismantlement of the state through the constitution of decentralised workers’ councils, as those seen in the Commune.
Lenin, like Marx, considered the Commune a living example of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. But he criticised the Communards for not having done enough to secure their position, highlighting two errors in particular. The first was that the Communards “stopped half way … led astray by dreams of … establishing a higher [capitalist] justice in the country … such institutions as the banks, for example, were not taken over”. Secondly, he thought their “excessive magnanimity” had prevented them from “destroying” the class enemy. For Lenin, the Communards “underestimated the significance of direct military operations in civil war; and instead of launching a resolute offensive against Versailles that would have crowned its victory in Paris, it tarried and gave the Versailles government time to gather the dark forces and prepare for the blood-soaked week of May”.
The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy
by David Graeber
Melville House, 2015
Where does the desire for endless rules, regulations, and bureaucracy come from? How did we come to spend so much of our time filling out forms? And is it really a cipher for state violence?
To answer these questions, the anthropologist David Graeber—one of our most important and provocative thinkers—traces the peculiar and unexpected ways we relate to bureaucracy today, and reveals how it shapes our lives in ways we may not even notice…though he also suggests that there may be something perversely appealing—even romantic—about bureaucracy.
Leaping from the ascendance of right-wing economics to the hidden meanings behind Sherlock Holmes and Batman, The Utopia of Rules is at once a powerful work of social theory in the tradition of Foucault and Marx, and an entertaining reckoning with popular culture that calls to mind Slavoj Zizek at his most accessible.
An essential book for our times, The Utopia of Rules is sure to start a million conversations about the institutions that rule over us—and the better, freer world we should, perhaps, begin to imagine for ourselves.
by Jackie Wang
Essays on the contemporary continuum of incarceration: the biopolitics of juvenile delinquency, predatory policing, the political economy of fees and fines, and algorithmic policing.
What we see happening in Ferguson and other cities around the country is not the creation of livable spaces, but the creation of living hells. When people are trapped in a cycle of debt it also can affect their subjectivity and how they temporally inhabit the world by making it difficult for them to imagine and plan for the future. What psychic toll does this have on residents? How does it feel to be routinely dehumanized and exploited by the police? —from Carceral Capitalism
In this collection of essays in Semiotext(e)’s Intervention series, Jackie Wang examines the contemporary incarceration techniques that have emerged since the 1990s. The essays illustrate various aspects of the carceral continuum, including the biopolitics of juvenile delinquency, predatory policing, the political economy of fees and fines, cybernetic governance, and algorithmic policing. Included in this volume is Wang’s influential critique of liberal anti-racist politics, “Against Innocence,” as well as essays on RoboCop, techno-policing, and the aesthetic problem of making invisible forms of power legible.
Wang shows that the new racial capitalism begins with parasitic governance and predatory lending that extends credit only to dispossess later. Predatory lending has a decidedly spatial character and exists in many forms, including subprime mortgage loans, student loans for sham for-profit colleges, car loans, rent-to-own scams, payday loans, and bail bond loans. Parasitic governance, Wang argues, operates through five primary techniques: financial states of exception, automation, extraction and looting, confinement, and gratuitous violence. While these techniques of governance often involve physical confinement and the state-sanctioned execution of black Americans, new carceral modes have blurred the distinction between the inside and outside of prison. As technologies of control are perfected, carcerality tends to bleed into society.
Make Rojava Green Again
by the Internationalist Commune of Rojava
Dog Section Press, 2018
“What is it about the social structures of Rojava that so inspires the fierce loyalty of its defenders and its people?
This book answers that question. In language that bridges the Utopian and the concrete, the poetic and the everyday, the Internationalist Commune of Rojava has produced both a vision and a manual for what a free, ecological society can look like. In these pages you will find a philosophical introduction to the idea of social ecology, a theory that argues that only when we end the hierarchical relations between human beings (men over women, young over old, one ethnicity or religion over another, etc.) will we be able to heal our relationship with the natural world.”
Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation
by Eyal Weizman
Acclaimed exploration of the political space created by Israel’s colonial occupation-
This new edition of the classic work on the politics of architecture—and the architecture of politics—appears on the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, which expanded Israel’s domination over Palestinian lands.
From the tunnels of Gaza to the militarized airspace of the Occupied Territories, Eyal Weizman unravels Israel’s mechanisms of control and its transformation of Palestinian homes into a war zone under constant surveillance. This is essential reading for those seeking to understand how architecture and infrastructure are used as lethal weapons in the formation of Israel.
The Return of the Political
by Chantal Mouffe
In this work, Mouffe argues that liberal democracy misunderstands the problems of ethnic, religious and nationalist conflicts because of its inadequate conception of politics. She suggests that the democratic revolution may be jeopardized by a lack of understanding of citizenship, community and pluralism. Mouffe examines the work of Schmidt and Rawls and explores feminist theory, in an attempt to place the project of radical and plural democracy on a more adequate foundation than is provided by liberal theory.
Culture and Materialism
by Raymond Williams
Raymond Williams is a towering presence in cultural studies, most importantly as the founder of the approach that has come to be known as “cultural materialism.” Yet Williams’s method was always open-ended and fluid, and this volume collects together his most significant work from over a twenty-year period in which he wrestled with the concepts of materialism and culture and their interrelationship. Aside from his more directly theoretical texts, however, case-studies of theatrical naturalism, the Bloomsbury group, advertising, science fiction, and the Welsh novel are also included as illustrations of the method at work. Finally, Williams’s identity as an active socialist, rather than simply an academic, is captured by two unambiguously political pieces on the past, present and future of Marxism.
Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?
by Mark Fisher
Zer0 Books, 2009
After 1989, capitalism has successfully presented itself as the only realistic political-economic system – a situation that the bank crisis of 2008, far from ending, actually compounded. The book analyses the development and principal features of this capitalist realism as a lived ideological framework. Using examples from politics, film (Children Of Men, Jason Bourne, Supernanny), fiction (Le Guin and Kafka), work and education, it argues that capitalist realism colours all areas of contemporary experience, is anything but realistic and asks how capitalism and its inconsistencies can be challenged It is a sharp analysis of the post-ideological malaise that suggests that the economics and politics of free market neo-liberalism are givens rather than constructions
The People’s Republic of Walmart: How the World’s Biggest Corporations are Laying the Foundation for Socialism
by Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski
Since the demise of the USSR, the mantle of the largest planned economies in the world has been taken up by the likes of Walmart, Amazon and other multinational corporations
For the left and the right, major multinational companies are held up as the ultimate expressions of free-market capitalism. Their remarkable success appears to vindicate the old idea that modern society is too complex to be subjected to a plan. And yet, as Leigh Phillips and Michal Rozworski argue, much of the economy of the West is centrally planned at present. Not only is planning on vast scales possible, we already have it and it works. The real question is whether planning can be democratic. Can it be transformed to work for us?
An engaging, polemical romp through economic theory, computational complexity, and the history of planning, The People’s Republic of Walmart revives the conversation about how society can extend democratic decision-making to all economic matters. With the advances in information technology in recent decades and the emergence of globe-straddling collective enterprises, democratic planning in the interest of all humanity is more important and closer to attainment than ever before.
Working Class History: Everyday Acts of Resistance & Rebellion
Edited by Working Class History with a foreword by Noam Chomsky
PM Press, 2020
History is not made by kings, politicians, or a few rich individuals—it is made by all of us. From the temples of ancient Egypt to spacecraft orbiting Earth, workers and ordinary people everywhere have walked out, sat down, risen up, and fought back against exploitation, discrimination, colonization, and oppression. Working Class History presents a distinct selection of people’s history through hundreds of “on this day in history” anniversaries that are as diverse and international as the working class itself. Women, young people, people of color, workers, migrants, indigenous people, LGBTQ people, disabled people, older people, the unemployed, home workers, and every other part of the working class have organized and taken action that has shaped our world, and improvements in living and working conditions have been won only by years of violent conflict and sacrifice. These everyday acts of resistance and rebellion highlight just some of those who have struggled for a better world and provide lessons and inspiration for those of us fighting in the present. Going day by day, this book paints a picture of how and why the world came to be as it is, how some have tried to change it, and the lengths to which the rich and powerful have gone to maintain and increase their wealth and influence.
Society of the Spectacle
by Guy Debord
Pattern Books (Radical Reprint), 2020
The Das Kapital of the 20th century. An essential text, and the main theoretical work of the Situationists. Few works of political and cultural theory have been as enduringly provocative. From its publication amid the social upheavals of the 1960s up to the present, the volatile theses of this book have decisively transformed debates on the shape of modernity, capitalism, and everyday life in the late 20th century. This is the original translation by Fredy Perlman, kept in print continuously for the last 30 years, keeping the flame alive when no-one else cared.
Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value
by Isaak Ilyich Rubin
Political economy, defined in the study of social relations and culture. Originally published in the former Soviet Union, was suppressed and after 1928 it was never re-issued. This is the first English-language edition. Includes an outstanding introductory essay on “Commodity Fetishism” by Fredy Perlman.
Autonomy Is in Our Hearts: Zapatista Autonomous Government through the Lens of the Tsotsil Language
by Dylan Eldredge Fitzwater
PM Press, 2019
Following the Zapatista uprising on New Year’s Day 1994, the EZLN communities of Chiapas began the slow process of creating a system of autonomous government that would bring their call for freedom, justice, and democracy from word to reality. Autonomy Is in Our Hearts analyzes this long and arduous process on its own terms, using the conceptual language of Tsotsil, a Mayan language indigenous to the highland Zapatista communities of Chiapas. The words “Freedom,” “Justice,” and “Democracy” emblazoned on the Zapatista flags are only approximations of the aspirations articulated in the six indigenous languages spoken by the Zapatista communities. They are rough translations of concepts such as ichbail ta muk’ or “mutual recognition and respect among equal persons or peoples,” a’mtel or “collective work done for the good of a community” and lekil kuxlejal or “the life that is good for everyone.” Autonomy Is in Our Hearts provides a fresh perspective on the Zapatistas and a deep engagement with the daily realities of Zapatista autonomous government.
Building Free Life: Dialogues with Öcalan
Edited by International Initiative “Freedom for Abdullah Öcalan – Peace in Kurdistan”
PM Press, 2020
From Socrates to Antonio Gramsci, imprisoned philosophers have marked the history of thought and changed how we view power and politics. From his jail cell, Abdullah Öcalan has penned daringly innovative works that give profuse evidence of his position as one of the most significant thinkers of our day. His prison writings have mobilized tens of thousands of people and inspired a revolution in the making in Rojava, northern Syria, while also penetrating the insular walls of academia and triggering debate and reflection among countless scholars. So how do you engage in a meaningful dialogue with Öcalan when he has been held in isolation since April 2015? You compile a book of essays written by an international cast of the most imaginative luminaries of our time, send it to Öcalan’s jailers, and hope that they deliver it to him.
There can be no boundaries or restrictions for the development of thought. Thus, in the midst of different realities—from closed prisons to open-air prisons—the human mind will find a way to seek the truth. Building Free Life stands as a monument of radical thought, a testament of resilience, and a searchlight illuminating the impulse for freedom.
Contributors include Radha D’Souza, David Graeber, John Holloway, Raúl Zibechi, Antonio Negri, Immanuel Wallerstein, Andrej Grubačić, Nazan Üstündağ, Peter Lamborn Wilson, Norman Paech, Donald H. Matthews, Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Damian Gerber, Shannon Brincat, Patrick Huff, Ekkehard Sauermann, and Mechthild Exo.