Social Contradictions and Awakened Dreams in Latin America

March 24, 2015

Luis Martinez Andrade gives an overview of his new essay collection, ‘Religion without Redemption‘.

Andrade RWRSince 1492, the history and the appearance of the Americas (Abya Yala) acquire a new nature. The Invasion of the Conquistadores is a critical moment not only in the constitution of modern Western subjectivity but also in shaping the pattern of world domination, in the words of Aníbal Quijano, “modernity, capitalism and Latin America were born the same day”. Indeed, to understand the paradoxes and challenges of the Latin American people one has to understand the self-destructive logic of capitalist´s modernity-coloniality. Therefore, inspired by Walter Benjamin’s project, this work proposes a contrary reading of history in order to track both major colonial paradigms as well as liberation struggles of its victims.

Through evangelization, religion played an important role in the colonization of indigenous imagination: myths, beliefs lines and legends of the Christian world were imposed on dominated societies. However, religion as “sigh of the oppressed creature” (Marx) enabled the emergence of liberation Christianity: an ethos against colonial domination and against the idols of death. The theoretical expression of this liberating ethos was a school of thought that emerged in the mid-twentieth century in Latin America and today is known as Liberation Theology.

The theoretical and historical importance of liberation theology lies in its critique of the ideology of development, in its denunciation of the dynamics of modernity and in its fight against the idolatry of the market. Supported by Marxist and critical analysis applying categories of social sciences, liberation theologians(of both sexes) made a radical reading of the Gospel and thus showed the fetish character of capitalism and the destructive dynamics of modernity. However, such criticism was always articulated to organizations and popular movements fighting for radical transformation of society.

While it is true that some parts of Latin America are undergoing profound changes, – some profound others not so Radical- at various levels (political, economic, cultural, etc.), changes that a few decades ago (i.e. during the National Security Doctrine and its extension in the Long neoliberal night) would be inconceivable, it is also true that it has not broken with dependence (both theoretical and material) from the pattern of neo-colonial domination. Although the launch of “Socialism of the XXI Century” has been proclaim from the rooftops by some governments called “progressive”, it is clear that the dynamics of capital continues to set the tenor of existing social relations in Latin American. Currently, through the extractivist logic and the destruction of nature, the chameleon-like ability of capitalism tries to hide its death dynamics of the really existing modernity. Therefore, if we want to break with the capitalist continuum and renounce its dogmas of faith, we need the theoretical arsenal that liberation theologians have contributed to the emancipation of peoples and up in arms communities.

The epochal change that is being experienced in Latin America cannot be understood if the influence and legacy of liberation theology in what concerns the development of a new political culture and the formation of social movements is not addressed. Needless to say that theological reflection follows a particular practice, in this sense, the variety of claims and demands from popular movements has led to the development of new trends in the Theology of Liberation where gender, racial, inter-cultural and ecological dialogue have become more intense. Therefore, the prophetic message, the radical critique of “structural sin” and the denouncing fetishistic logic of liberation theology has not lost actuality today.

Facing a bleak picture (environmental disaster, increased poverty, food crisis, hedonistic individualism, alienation), where the “pessimism of reason” is imposed it is also important to recover the “optimism of the will”, i.e. resume the awaken dreams of the wretched of the earth to continue the struggle for liberation. Tradition as subversion, concrete utopia as criticism of reality, memory as terrain of struggle and solidarity as communion with the crucified of history are some of the features of this school of thought. The XXI century is the last chance for humanity to choose between the will of life or ecocidal dynamics, among the gods of life or death idols, and Eco-socialism or barbarism.


‘Guilty as charged: I did once have a Jawal Card’ – Alice Rothchild in Israel and Palestine

March 23, 2015

Two weeks ago when the permit to Gaza finally arrived the travel nightmares began, lost luggage, harsh Israeli interrogators, forgetting a flight, the neurotic pulsations of an anxious mind already on high alert.

The flight from Boston to Newark has the worst turbulence I have ever experienced. The tight lipped stewardess races the drink cart down the aisle as the plane lurches and pounces through the air, cups and plates clattering wildly as I brood over the striped suit sitting next to me, white knuckled, grimly gripping the seat ahead.  I briefly ponder my short but meaningful life. Is this another message from the angry travel goddess?

As expected, C 138, the terminal for the flight to Tel Aviv, is hidden behind a food court at the end of a long corridor, blocked off from general traffic, “SECURED GATE HOLD AREA.” I can feel my pulse leaping, a tightness in my chest, as the smatterings of Hebrew, Spanish, and the twang of New Jersey and New York meld with the drawl of southern accents.  We line up for the second bout of screening, (see message: all the world hates us, Israeli security is our most important product), but the cursory bag inspection and spread eagle wanding seem more for show than anything else.

An eager young man wearing a yarmulke pours over a heavy organic chemistry text book.  He explains to me that he had gone to Israel and “gotten religious” and now he dreams of medical school, do I have any advice for getting in?  Read the rest of this entry »


Intervention – “Future Shock” by Andy Merrifield

March 18, 2015

The following article by Pluto author Andy Merrifield first appeared on AntipodeFoundation.org.

9780745334837Speculating on the future, especially on the political future—and especially especially on a Left political future—is something you get slammed for these days; “they” tell you you’re writing fiction, particularly if your future threatens the status quo. (Check out Austin Williams’ recent review in the Architectural Review of my The New Urban Question.) On the other hand, if your future can be absorbed within the status quo, or else puts a different spin on that status quo, your future is realistic, permissible not dismissible: technocratic futures are okay, as are big futuristic master plans that involve lots of high-tech urban design stuff—lots of corporate high-tech urban design stuff—ones endorsed by some billionaire and administered by a patented scientific corporation. The reasons behind this are of course intellectual and political, particularly when ideology and politics underwrites commercial economics.

Contemporary academia and a lot of scholarly social science have pretty much given up thinking about radical futures.[1] It’s sad how low the bar is set, how unambitious and unimaginative the academy is with its knowledge production, keeping its thought within the narrow confines of academic specialization and arcane professional journals. Social science has retreated inwards, or has become servile, a mere handmaiden of power. Crucial therein is the dominance of the positivist-empiricist tradition, something perhaps obvious in our age of “experts,” in our era some describe as “post-political.” Positivism has always hidden behind the shield of quantification and “objectivity,” always tried to rid itself of politics. Now positivism/empiricism is a convenient methodological foil for technocrats trying to find consensus without conflict, gaining grants without upsetting anyone. Their opinions are neutral and expert, right? Their objective knowledge isn’t value-laden. Yours, if it’s critical and theoretically partisan, is warped, ideological; worse, fantasy. Read the rest of this entry »


Video: Mel Evans – Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts

March 17, 2015

Check out our latest short video of Mel Evans talking about her forthcoming book, Artwash. The book explores the unsavoury relationship between Big Oil and many of the nation’s most venerated cultural institutions; how corporate sponsorship of the arts, (or ‘artwash’) serves to erase unsightly environmental destruction and obscures the strategies of oil company PR executives who rely on cultural philanthropy.

The story Mel tells in the video is just one among hundreds of examples of individuals and campaign groups taking action on the issue, and already hope is on the horizon: major institutions (such as the Southbank Centre) have already agreed to cut sponsorship, and tribunals are happening which are taking these relationships to task. Artists and employees are developing new methods of work which publicly confront the oil companies. Like the anti-tobacco campaign before it, this will be an important cultural and political turn for years to come.

You can find out more about Artwash at plutobooks.com. The full version of the video can be found on Pluto’s Youtube channel.

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Pluto Books Partners with Haven Distribution to Distribute Books to Prisoners

March 12, 2015

Image provided by Clifford HarperPluto Press is very pleased to announce an ongoing partnership with Haven Distribution, supplying free books to prisoners in the UK.

Haven is a charity that has been operating since 1996, which aims to help with prisoners’ self-education and resettlement. It seeks to encourage self-worth and raise self-esteem in inmates by providing a structured service, which will assist in the resettlement of the offender back into his or her community.

Pluto’s Marketing Manager, Emily Orford said: “We are extremely pleased to announce our partnership with Haven Distribution, a fantastic charity who allows us to donate books from across our list to prisons and prisoners throughout the UK. As a radical publisher, we have responsibilities to use our books in a way that aids intellectual, political social emancipation wherever possible.”

Lee Humphries, chair of Haven Distribution, said of the partnership: “We’re a very small charity, run by a handful of volunteers, so the support we get from partner publishers makes an enormous difference to us. We’re grateful to have established an ongoing partnership with Pluto, and we look forward to working with them to provide more UK prisoners with new and interesting books to read.”

The partnership follows last year’s high profile campaign against the Ministry of Justice’s new rules which banned people from sending books to prisoners. The ban was overturned in December last year when Mr Justice Collins declared it unlawful.


Tansy E. Hoskins shortlisted for the Bread and Roses Award 2015 – and more!

March 11, 2015

Tansy Hoskins, author of 'Stitched Up'. Credit:  Henna MalikIt’s been an exciting few days for Tansy Hoskins, author of the excellent Stitched Up! The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion (Pluto, 2014). Today it was announced that her book has been shortlisted for the 2015 Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing, the winner of which will be announced at this year’s London Radical Bookfair.

The shortlisting comes just a matter of weeks after the ICA bookshop named Stitched Up! their 2014 book of the year. Writing about the book – which won the public vote by a clear margin – The ICA said:

‘It seems you’re a fashionable bunch, as Tansy E. Hoskins’ Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion came out on top, with just under 55% of the vote. Beautifully illustrated with specially commissioned designs, Stitched Up delves into the alluring world of fashion to reveal what is behind the clothes we wear. Moving between Karl Lagerfeld and Karl Marx, the book explores consumerism, class and advertising to reveal the interests that benefit from exploitation.’

Tansy has also been busy recently with events; this Monday saw her speaking about the book at Paris’ famed Shakespeare & Company bookshop. For anyone not lucky enough to have been in the bookshop’s intimate audience, a podcast of the discussion is available online, here.

To find out more about Stitched Up!, which Susie Orbach, author of Fat is a Feminist Issue (2006), has called “an incredible accomplishment,” go to plutobooks.com where the book is available to buy at 10% off.


Rebel Footprints last few days to pre-order

March 6, 2015

Our advance copies for David Rosenberg’s brilliant new book Rebel Footprints: A Guide to Uncovering London’s Radical History arrived in the Pluto office yesterday and they are looking truly beautiful!

As such, it won’t be long before we start posting out pre-ordered copies. But it’s still not too late to get your hands on one before the official publication date. Just go to www.rebelfootprints.co.uk. The book costs £8.50 and we’ll throw in a whole load of extra goodies too (including a 20% discount voucher for your next order).

In case your interest isn’t already piqued, nor your appetite whetted, here’s a video of David Rosenberg out-and-about in London, retelling some of the stories, and visiting some of the key places in the book…

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