International Women’s Day Reading List

From feminist theory, to history and contemporary politics, these are some of Pluto’s best books, old and new, that celebrate radical women.

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Revolutionary Learning: Marxism, Feminism and Knowledge by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab Carpenter T03129

Revolutionary Learning by Sara Carpenter and Shahrzad Mojab explores the Marxist and feminist theorisation of knowledge production and learning. From an explicitly feminist perspective, the authors reconsider the contributions of Marx, Gramsci and Freire to educational theory, expanding Marxist analyses of education by considering it in relation to patriarchal and imperialist capitalism.  The reproductive nature of institutions is revealed through an ethnography of schools and pushed further by the authors who go on to examine how education and consciousness connects with the broader environment of public policy, civil society, the market, and other instruments of ‘public pedagogy.’

The book’s use of work by feminist, anti-racist and anti-colonial scholars means it will have significant implications for critical education scholarship, but its use value extends beyond educational praxis; providing the tools dissect, theorize, resist and transform capitalist social relations.

 

Captive Revolution: Palestinian Women’s Anti-Colonial Struggle within the Israeli Prison System by Nahla AbdoAbdo T02851

Throughout the world, women have played a part in struggles against colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression, but their vital contributions to revolutions, national liberation and anti-colonial resistance are rarely chronicled.

Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution seeks to break the silence on Palestinian women political detainees. Based on stories of the women themselves, as well as her own experiences as a former political prisoner, Abdo draws on a wealth of oral history and primary research in order to analyse their anti-colonial struggle, their agency and their appalling treatment as political detainees. Through crucial comparisons between the experiences of female political detainees in other conflict; a history of female activism emerges.

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Dry Your Eyes and Organise! A Pluto Press reading list

With the election of Donald Trump it’s time for the left to take action! We cannot and will not let racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism be legitimised and normalised. Here are our list of books to arm yourself against the rise of proto-fascism!

dump-trump

 

THEORY:

Using Gramsci: A New Approach by Michele Filippinifilippini-t02985

Released this month, Michele Filippini proposes a new approach based on the analysis of previously ignored concepts in his works, creating a book which stands apart. Look on Wikiquote and you won’t unearth Antonio Gramsci’s much-quoted dictum ‘I love the poorly educated’. Gramsci stressed the need for popular workers’ education to encourage development of intellectuals from the working class. His work sought to reveal, rather than obscure; through his writing we come to understand how hegemony is produced, likewise ideology, how civil society functions and what constitutes collective organisms, society and crisis. In this time of crisis, we need Filippini’s rigorous reappraisal of Gramsci’s work to better understand the political machinations we encounter.

Racism: A Critical Analysis by Mike Cole

Cole T02813.jpg

Racism traces the legacy of racism across three countries in-depth: the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. In examining the United States, Cole charts the dual legacies of indigenous genocide and slavery, as well as exploring anti-Latina/o and anti-Asian racism. As we contemplate histories of racism, Cole asks us to re-engage with arguments about the central role of capitalism in perpetuating the most vicious of inequalities. Anxieties about migrant labour and the dilution of ‘authentic’ – read White – American culture the election landscape. However Cole distances himself from the liberal platitiudes of ‘Love Trumps Hate’, instead showing that racism is both endemic and multifaceted and not solvable by the election of a Democratic candidate. This book serves as an important reminder of the need to take a long view as we renew our shared struggle against the racism still scarring human lives across the globe.

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks

In Feminist Theory, hooks maintains that mainstream feminism’s reliance on white, middle-class, and professional spokeswomen obscures the involvement, leadership, and centrality of women of colour and poor women in the hooks-t00702movement for women’s liberation. The campaign of Hillary Clinton relied too heavily on false assumptions about identity politics, it presumed a universal experience of womanhood, embodied by Clinton, which was not substantiated by most American women’s lived experiences. Failing acknowledge the full complexity and diversity of women’s experience, in order to create a mass movement to end women’s oppression resulted in the election of a sexist tyrant. Hooks argues that feminism’s goal of seeking credibility and acceptance on already existing ground – rather than demanding the lasting and more fundamental transformation of society – has shortchanged the movement. In order to resist and fight towards an equal world for women we must conceive of a society outside of the confines of the patriarchal pre-existing one. Let’s follow hooks to the letter, her writing established her as one of feminism’s most challenging and influential voices and it could not be more necessary, urgent and relevant.

After Queer Theory: The Limits of Sexual Politics by James Penneypenney-t02732

After Queer Theory is predicated on the provocative claim that queer theory has run its course, made obsolete by the elaboration of its own logic within capitalism. James Penney argues that far from signalling the end of anti-homophobic criticism, however, the end of queer presents the occasion to rethink the relation between sexuality and politics. The regressive homophobia of the American election suggests that queer politics subsumption into mainstream political discourse was in vain, queer politics finds itself at a critical juncture. After Queer Theory argues that it is necessary to wrest sexuality from the dead end of identity politics, opening it up to a universal emancipatory struggle beyond the reach of capitalism’s powers of commodification.

ACTION:

We Make Our Own History: Marxism and Social Movements in the Twilight of Neoliberalism by cox-t02839Laurence Cox and Alf Gunvald Nilsen

We live in the twilight of neoliberalism: the failed election of another Clinton president proves that the ruling classes can no longer rule as before, and ordinary people are no longer willing to be ruled in the old way. Pursued by global elites since the 1970s, neoliberalism is defined by dispossession and ever-increasing inequality. The refusal to continue to be ruled like this appears in an arc of resistance stretching from rural India to North America. Written prior to Trump’s election, Cox and Nilsen’s emphasis lies with left wing movements, but this should not be read as a disconnected from our present reality, instead because the book shows how movements can develop from local conflicts to global struggles; how neoliberalism operates as a social movement from above, and how popular struggles can create new worlds from below, the book is a guide to resisting the current crisis.

Change the World Without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today by  John Holloway

‘The concept of revolution itself is in crisis’, writes John Holloway, difficult to eshew when the word has foundholloway-t01965 itself in the mouths of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump. In this book, John Holloway asks how we can reformulate our understanding of revolution as the struggle against power, not for power. Modern protest movements ground their actions in both Marxism and Anarchism, fighting for radical social change in terms that have nothing to do with the taking of state power. This is in clear opposition to the traditional Marxist theory of revolution which centres on the overthrow of government. Holloway reposes some of the basic concepts of Marxism in a critical development of the subversive Marxist tradition represented by Adorno, Bloch and Lukacs, amongst others, and grounded in a rethinking of Marx’s concept of ‘fetishisation’– how doing is transformed into being. This radical rethinking demonstrates how we can bring about social and political change today.

Common Ground: Democracy and Collectivity in an Age of Individualism by Jeremy Gilbert

Common Ground explores the philosophical relationship between collectivity, individuality, gilbert-t01517affect and agency in the neoliberal era. Jeremy Gilbert argues that individualism is forced upon us by neoliberal culture, fatally limiting our capacity to escape the current crisis of democratic politics. The book asks how forces and ideas opposed to neoliberal hegemony, and to the individualist tradition in Western thought, might serve to protect some form of communality, and how far we must accept assumptions about the nature of individuality and collectivity which are the legacy of an elitist tradition. Along the way it examines different ideas and practices of collectivity, from conservative notions of hierarchical and patriarchal communities to the politics of ‘horizontality’ and ‘the commons’ which are at the heart of radical movements today. Exploring this fundamental faultline in contemporary political struggle, Common Ground proposes a radically non-individualist mode of imagining social life, collective creativity and democratic possibility.

Solidarity without Borders: Gramscian Perspectives on Migration and Civil Society Alliances edited by Óscar García Agustín and Martin Bak Jørgensen

This book presents an argument for Gramsci’s theory of the formation of a transnational agustin-t03061counter-hegemonic bloc, methods of modern resistance and new forms of solidarity between these forming groups. With case studies of the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey, social movements in Ireland and the Lampedusa in Hamburg among others, the argument is explored via national contexts and structured around political dimensions.

Four themes are discussed: the diversity of new migrant political actors; solidarity and new alliances across borders; avoiding misplaced alliances; and spaces of resistance. Migrants are often deprived of agency and placed outside the mobilisations taking place across Europe. Solidarity without Borders will demonstrate how new solidarity relations are shaped and how these may construct a new common ground for struggle and for developing the political alternatives we will desperately need over the coming four years.

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All books are available from the Pluto website

 

‘Lacan is like a mountain’, could you be the next Lacan?

It’s been 35 years since the death of Jacques Lacan. We here at Pluto reckon that it’s time enough we had another controversial, ground-breaking philosopher-cum-psychoanalyst. So, as Lacan would have wanted, let’s turn this investigation in on ourselves, using passages from Martin Murray’s ‘Jacques Lacan: A Critical Introduction’, we can understand the formation of Jacques Lacan’s character and thought, and determine if you’ve got what it takes to be the next Lacan.

Are you a Polymath?jacques_lacan_ironie

‘Controversy about his eclecticism never put Lacan off. In many senses, he relished it. Not only did he not relinquish his researches in unfamiliar fields, he extended them. As his career progressed, he engaged less with psychoanalytic theories and more with other ones. This is ironic, given that he increasingly claimed to be isolating what was ‘fundamental’ to psychoanalysis and to be doing so by ‘formulating’ what is essential to it.

The irony is well exemplified by Lacan’s late and quite notorious logical, mathematical and topological speculations. He claimed that these offered an overall, accurate, rigorous and definitive formulation of psychoanalytic principles. He even claimed that they offered an effective critique of philosophy and science per se. They don’t. In fact, there’s a debate about whether they achieve anything at all. In any case they confirm a contention that […] Lacan’s speculations, researches and theorisations, although sometimes ‘brilliant’ were idiosyncratic. They were looking to discover or establish something that is essential to psychoanalysis outside of psychoanalysis (for example in logic, topology and mathematics). In other words Lacan’s method was split, just as he was. Lacan wanted to be an acclaimed para-logician, a supra-formulator and a scientific (as well as philosophical) polymath (a sort of poly-mathematician). Yet he only convinced his followers that he was any such thing.

The division – between what Lacan would like to have been and what he was – corresponded with the conflict between the various and particular roles that he played but couldn’t decide between or give up (psychoanalyst, philosopher, healer, teacher, priest, genius, rebel etc.). All of these conflicts were probably symptomatic of a fear of and ambivalence about loss. In other words they were borne of a terror that success as one thing means failure as another, that gaining something means giving something else up, or that sacrificing one thing means losing everything.’

Do you recognise this multiplicity of spirit within yourself? Do you work in HR, but envisage yourself as a shaman/geographer/veterinary nurse? Well, our imposed methods of deduction suggest that you could be the next Lacan…

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Do Communists have better sex? An extract from William Pelz’s ‘A People’s History of Modern Europe’

We present an extract  from William Pelz’s ‘A People’s History of Modern Europe’. From the chapter ‘Europe Falls into the Twentieth-Century’,  an insight into the objective of Pelz’s book emerge; to rewrite histories away from the platitudes of the privileged, by focussing here on the position of women in the formerly communist sections of Europe, Pelz shows that unification or demolition of the Soviet Union did not mean freedom from ‘slave psychology’, but its reconfiguration under neoliberalism:  

The Berlin Wall came crashing down, albeit whilePelz PHOME DDR border guards stood around waiting
for orders that never came; the evil Soviet Empire had collapsed into the recycling bin of history. The euphoria of those dancing on the Wall was real—and often enhanced by impressive quantities of drink or something special to smoke. It was, as some said, “the end of history,” where all was right in this best of all possible worlds. The captive Europeans had liberated themselves. No more secret police spying on innocent, ordinary citizens. Freedom combined with unheard-of levels of individual consumption. If it was capitalism, it was to be capitalism with a human face. What could go wrong after that?

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Enlisting Memory: An extract from Yakov Rabkin’s ‘What is Modern Israel?’

We recently published Yakov Rabkin’s What is Modern Israel? Founded on the premise that every Jew is not a Zionist and not in favour of Israel, the book shows that Zionism is a sharp break with Judaism and not the zenith of Jewish history.What is Modern Israel?

In this extract, Rabkin shows how the Israeli
state all too often uses the Holocaust as an ideological apparatus to justify their actions; problematising the use of Nazism as a benchmark for evil and examining how memories of the Shoah inform Israel’s bellicosity.

During the early post-war years, the Israeli press presented almost exclusively articles devoted to the memories of resistance fighters, while those that dealt with “simple survivors,” accused by Zionist public opinion of having gone “like sheep to slaughter,” were often published at their author’s expense or by associations of survivors. During the first Zionist commemorations of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, not a word was spoken of the 6 million victims of the Nazi genocide. Some historians described the commemorations organised by survivors outside the official Zionist framework as a “semi-clandestine act.” In any event, the Israeli press lent far greater weight to the accounts of Zionist resistance fighters than to those of other members of the resistance, the Bund for example, creating the impression that Zionists held a monopoly of anti-Nazi resistance. It was not until the trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961 that survivors’ accounts, including their explanation of the absence of resistance on their part, emerged into Israeli public awareness.

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Reading List: Left Wing Movements in Africa

To coincide with the publication of two new Pluto titles The Spirit of Marikana and Naija Marxisms we have compiled a list of books that explore Left Wing Movements across the African continent; chronicling the diverse labour movements, social thoughts and political economies of Botswana, South Africa, Nigeria and Zanzibar.

The Spirit of Marikana: The Rise of Insurgent Trade Unionism in South Africa by Luke Sinwell and Siphiwe MbathaSinwell SOM cropped

On the 16th August 2012 on a platinum mine in Marikana, the South African Police Service opened fire on thirty-four protesting black mine workers. This would come to be known as the Marikana massacre; one of the most lethal uses of force by South African security services since the apartheid era.

Through oral testimonies and exhaustive fieldwork, Sinwell and Mbatha create a gripping account of the incidents that followed. What began as a simple dispute over pay became an emblem of working class resistance in South Africa. The Spirit of Marikana is a testament to the mine workers’ heroic resistance against the cronyism of mine bosses, the government authorities and the crooked union establishment. Continue reading