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S P Mead "A Lecturer"

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State Theory: Putting the Capitalist State in Its Place
State Theory: Putting the Capitalist State in Its Place
by Bob Jessop
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent critique of state theories, 15 Nov. 2008
This excellent book (from 1990) comprises of a collection of essays and other short pieces which, for the most part, were first published in academic journals - what this text does, therefore, is provide access to some of the most important articles written by Jessop.

These essays, here offered in a revised form and presented as a series of coherent chapters, focus on various aspects of state theory. Jessop presents a highly adept and sophisticated analysis of the capitalist state - developing a sustained critique on the ideas advanced by other theorists.

Jessop develops a Marxist analysis, one that is especially influenced by Poulantzas. Overall, this is both an informed and insightful theorisation. One minor problem, though, is the use of language presented by Jessop - I fear that many students new to his work will have at least a little difficulty following his complex terminology and abstract logic. As such, the book might need re-reading a few times. Still, it deserves this - as it is extremely useful for an understanding of the critique of state theory.

The only genuine 'negative' aspect of the book is that it says very little in terms of what the state actually is. Rather, the bulk of the text is concerned with criticism of others. For me, a critique must involve both (a) showing the limitations of existing knowledge, and (b) developing new knowledge as a result of such criticism. Jessop more than succeeds in relation to the former, but says a lot less regarding the latter.

This review is made in 2008, and in the interim Jessop has made up for this identified limitation - see his "The Future of the Capitalist State" and "State Power".

Anyone interested in state theory, especially those who are fascinated by Marxist analyses of the capitalist state, I recommend this book.

State Power
State Power
by Bob Jessop
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important contribution to state theory, 15 Nov. 2008
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This review is from: State Power (Paperback)
Jessop's latest book is an important work, and deserves to be read, referred to, and engaged with by all those interested in political sociology. This book explicitly advances a 'strategic relational approach' to the theorisation of the capitalist state. In so doing, he builds upon his own existing work, while also making use of (and examining) the theories of Marx, Gramsci, Poulantzas, and Foucault. All of this is both interesting and insightful - and, at the same time, enjoyable and refreshing.

However, what it odd is how Jessop refers to the development of the strategic relational approach [SRA] - doing so only in terms of his own intellectual evolution. He tends to speak of this development as if his own work is the basis of the SRA. This is clearly not the case. The basis of the approach lies with Marx (i.e. his treatment of capital as a social relation); and, in terms of applying this approach to the state, the real genesis of the SRA lies with Poulantzas. Rather than directly explore the SRA itself, Jessop guides us through his use of it in his earlier work. Then, having done so, he "applies" it to his examination on Marx, Poulantzas and Foucault. Fascinating, yes - but he is wrong to focus so intently on his own intellectual evolution. Few readers, I suppose, intend engaging with this book so as to discover autobiographical musings.

Notwithstanding this criticism, Jessop's examination of the state is extremely useful - and he is correct to argue that the SRA is crucial to our understanding of the capitalist state. Rather than simply subject the theories and ideas of other contemporary writers to critique (as he tended to do in the book "State Theory"), Jessop now says something positive - explaining what, in theoretical terms, the state actually is. Yet, having said this, I find the book somewhat limiting - as, for the most part, it merely repeats (often in a simplified manner) what Jessop has said elsewhere. This book constitutes a collection of revised essays and articles, previously published, as well as whole sections which repeat what has been argued in his earlier books. Really only the final chapter is entirely 'new'.

As such, I can't agree with the reviews offered above - that this book "represents the culmination of three decades of path-breaking work"; that it is "Jessop's tour de force." It is not.

For a better examination of the thought of Poulantzas, see Jessop's book "Nicos Poulantzas". With regard to a far better exploration of state theories, including the ideas of Foucault, see Jessop's "State Theory". And with regard to an understanding of the contemporary state, see Jessop's "The Future of the Capitalist State".

There is very little in "State Power" in relation to his engagement with theory that cannot be found in these earlier writings - except for the fact that he now advocates, and explicitly advances throughout the text, a SRA. However, in a crucial sense this is enough - because a strategic relational approach should be central to all social science. Jessop's book highlights this potential, and on this basis I fully recommend it.

Had the book been offered as a collection of essays (as his earlier "State Theory" was), I would have given it 5 stars. As it is, I nearly only awarded it 3 stars - but for the fact that his use of a SRA exemplifies the need to develop this approach in all fields of social science.

I'm sure that Jessop's tour de force analysis remains to be written.

State, Power, Socialism (Verso Classics)
State, Power, Socialism (Verso Classics)
by Nicos Poulantzas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding contribution to state theory, 15 Nov. 2008
This is, quite simply, one of the finest examinations of the capitalist state ever advanced. Nicos Poulantzas develops an original Marxist approach which conceptualises the state as a 'social relation' (similar, in this regard, to Marx's treatment of capital as a social relation).

This project is, like much of Poulantzas' work, highly theoretical - the point, however, is that until this publication an adequate theorisation of the state was altogether lacking. Here, the state is treated as a 'strategic field' - a site at which various social classes, organised as social forces, exert their interests as part of the class struggles that take place in a capitalist social formation.

This book was originally published in 1978 - and, since then, some really excellent reviews have appeared elsewhere (I recommend these, as an adequate review of the book cannot be provided in such a short space here). Suffice it is to say, for anyone interested in understanding the theory of the capitalist state, this book is a crucial point of research and reference.

As far as I'm concerned, "State, Power, Socialism" is the most important work on the capitalist state ever written. Poulantzas' state theory develops from his political theory, as outlined in detail in his earlier publication "Political Power and Social Classes". This political theory proposes a 'regional' approach to understanding the different levels (economic, political, ideological, etc.) in a social formation. Put briefly, I consider his later 'relational' approach as not distinct from, but being an extension of, his earlier 'regional' theorisation. Regional theory allows us to understand the political; relational theory allows us to understand the state as a strategic site within the political region. As such, the two works complement each other - and I fully recommend both.

The Poulantzas Reader: Marxism, Law, and the State
The Poulantzas Reader: Marxism, Law, and the State
by Nicos Poulantzas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful collection of essays, 14 Nov. 2008
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This is a collection of articles and essays written by Nicos Poulantzas. It constitutes an extremely useful means of accessing some of the more obscure publications by this author - given that, for the most part, these articles originally appeared in academic journals in the 1960's and 1970's (and often then not in English). Bringing these pieces together, James Martin (the editor, who provides an informative introduction to the text) allows us to read, enjoy and learn from Poulantzas' remarkable teachings. For me, this was a wonderful experience - as I'd not previously read many of these articles.

This collection demonstrates the evolving focus of Poulantzas - as he shifts attention from law to his analysis of the political region, before finally developing a relational approach to the capitalist state (treating the state as a social relation). In so doing, the book testifies to the sheer brilliance of the authors examination of these subjects, and to his seminal contribution to Marxist theory.

For those who have engaged with his other work, especially "Political Power and Social Classes" and "State, Power, Socialism", this book adds further depth to Poulantzas' theoretical insights. Additionally, the two 'interview' pieces show a more personalised account of his views and ideas.

Those uninitiated with Poulantzas' work may well find some aspects of his theory a little difficult to grasp - and, in all probability, this collection is not the appropriate point of entry into such theory. But for those who have already engaged with Poulantzas, these essays are an important addition to Marxist understanding of class struggle, politics, and the state.

Overall, this "Reader" shows - once again - the significance of Poulantzas as a political theorist. His contribution to knowledge is ongoing.

The Dark Knight (Batman)
The Dark Knight (Batman)
by Dennis O'Neil
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK - but more like a children's adaptation, 17 Aug. 2008
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This book is the official 'novelisation' of the new film "The Dark Knight". Accordingly, the story of the book follows the plot of the film. In this sense, it's a good story - as the movie is well written and action packed. However, in every other sense this is a poor novel.

There is very little character development, and the overall style and tone of the book feels as if it were written for very young adults (age 11 to 14). But this is not the intended readership - as there is a children's novelisation, quite distinct from this book.

Like a different reviewer, I agree this book reads as if its writer were rushed. I say this because I've read other books by the same writer - Denny O'Neill. In fact, he wrote the novelisation for the film "Batman Begins" - which was a better book (3 stars).

Even so, in my view O'Neill should not have been asked to write this book (or any other Batman novel, regardless of whether they are slightly better than this) - because he's simply not a "great" fiction writer in terms of full-length novels. He is good in terms of comic books, but that's very different from novels.

The story of Batman's origins, as well as his first few years, has never been well presented in conventional book format. The story needs to be handled by a great writer - which O'Neill is not.

If you are a big fan, or a young reader, this will be ok - otherwise avoid.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2010 6:15 PM BST

Batman: Gotham Knight [DVD] [2008]
Batman: Gotham Knight [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Shojiro Nishimi
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.36

3.0 out of 5 stars Good - but not great, 26 July 2008
As a BIG fan of (almost) everything "Batman", I was looking forward to this new animated film. Having just watched the movie "The Dark Knight" at the cinema, I bought this DVD to watch the events that take place between this new movie and "Batman Begins". As a fan, I enjoyed "Gotham Knight", and give it a solid 3 stars out of five. The animation is, from a certain point of view, quite wonderful. However, I think it will be something I don't re-watch too often (unlike my B:TAS dvd collection), and I don't think kids will enjoy it (it's just not designed for children - thus its '15' rating).

This DVD is an ensemble of short animated stories (each about 10 minutes long), each produced in a different animated style (by different writers and different artists). As such, this is quite distinct from previous Batman animated dvd's. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with this - and, for the adult fan of Batman, I fully recommend it.

However, I felt the overall effect is one that emphasises 'style' over 'story'. There is little in terms of character development, and with only 10 minutes per story so very little exists by way of plot. Rather, we see Batman engage with his enemies - in bloody fights.

For me, this DVD is (a) too short, at about 70 minutes; (b) lacking in overall story; (c) rather disjointed in terms of how each short film, with its own animated style, fits together to form a supposed whole; and (d) lacking with regard to special features - there is merely a commentary, and no 'making of' or other added extras.

If you are a fan of such dvd's as the 'Animatrix', and enjoy how it relates to the Matrix trilogy, then you may well enjoy this. My final comment is this: with such excellent productions as "The Dark Knight" film, and "Batman: The Animated Series", a lot is to be expected in terms of new Batman releases. This is an ok contribution - but it adds nothing new, and I see it as a missed opportunity. Buy it if you're a fan, otherwise rent or borrow it!

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Xbox)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Xbox)
Offered by multimedia-online
Price: £12.90

4.0 out of 5 stars A fun game - better than most other reviews say it is., 23 Jun. 2008
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
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In this game - the official one of the movie - you get to play as the Terminator (a T-850, as portrayed by Schwarzenegger in the film). It's a 'first-person' shooter, with - for the most part - a free roaming environment.

The story is simple: in the year 2032 you're reprogrammed by the human fighters, and you're mission is to make your way into Skynet and find the time-travel equipment. Then, sent back to 2003, you must protect John Connor from the TX.

There are plenty of levels - and, for the most part, these involve engaging in battles with other terminators and Skynet baddies (from T-900's to Hunter/Killers) in the future. As such, only a small part of the game involves being in 2003, i.e. the events of the film. Given this, the game "adds" to the overall story.

The gameplay resembles most other 'FPS' games (e.g. the AVP games for the PC). The graphics are fine - but not great (in fact, they're similar to the standard of the AVP2 games for the PC). Yes, that does mean they could have been better - since other games from this time included the likes of HALO 2. Still, the video footage (of the 'Arnold' terminator) is fun to watch.

I say this: if you're a fan of the Terminator films and you enjoy first-person shooter games, then you'll have fun.

On the downside, if you're expecting something original then this game might not be for you. Also, the game takes quite a while to load between levels (and at times you might think its froze).

Nonetheless, it's fun and should be played.

The New Policing
The New Policing
by Eugene McLaughlin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.39

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A very poor contribution, 9 April 2008
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This review is from: The New Policing (Paperback)
This book aims to examine the nature of policing in modern society. Unfortunately, it fails to achieve this purpose.

There is no genuine social science analysis of the police here, rather the author sets out to tell a tale on how the police has been 'imagined' during the past 50 or so years. The focus, for example, is Dixon of Dock Green!

Chapter after chapter looks at various 'imaginings' (that is, portrayals) of the police. Why the police itself, as an institution of the state system, is not examined is never explained.

If you're after a book that contributes to our knowledge on policing, that offers proper analysis and critique, try a different book altogether! I found this one a waste of money.

Gender and Policing: Sex, Power and Police Culture
Gender and Policing: Sex, Power and Police Culture
by Louise Westmarland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £30.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A flawed and failed attempt at understanding the dynamics of gender relations within the field of policing in British society., 9 April 2008
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I cannot recommend this book - or, rather, I recommend that you avoid reading it (and that you certainly don't buy it).

It's not that the subject matter isn't interesting, for it is. Both the broad field of criminology, and the ever-developing `new' discipline of police studies, are equally fascinating. The fact is, `crime' is an important facet of contemporary society. Similarly, the role of the Police is important too - for, as an institution, the Police increasingly intervenes in our `everyday' lives, and its presence is nowhere negligible.

As a sub-area of police studies, interest in gender relations is - of course - a legitimate enterprise. Yet, notwithstanding the potential a book on this subject has, Louise Westmarland's effort falls far short of being either an enjoyable read or an engaging study on it's declared object.

The fundamental flaw of the work is the authors' inability to offer anything of genuine substance regarding explanation of gender relations within policing. This flaw is compounded by various secondary limitations. Foremost of these concerns the fact that the book is a (bad) re-working of Westmarland's PhD thesis. As such, it tends to follow a rather unimaginative (and down-right boring) structure - starting out with a literature review, then moving on to a discussion on methods, and finally offering some `data'. What was required, if it had been judged that such data was of actual interest, was a shift away from this student-style presentation to a more scholarly approach.

Having managed to endure the suffering of reading the early chapters, one finds that this supposed study of gender relations within policing in British society is in fact little more than a description of goings-on in a limited number of urban areas - taking place over a period of about a year - involving the author accompany a couple of dozen Police officers while on duty. As such, this is a very `microscopic' study - and in no way can make any real or sustained claim to examine gender relations within policing in general at a societal level.

Even as a `micro' study, the work suffers from its authors' selected methodology - an "ethnography" of Police "culture". A very simplified form of ethnography is employed (involving little more than conversation between the author and Police officers), while Police culture - although being highlighted as central to the work - is merely taken for granted, its meaning assumed and nowhere explored. And with regard to the problem of Police power (again highlighted in the title), such analysis is completely absent.

In the end, all this amounts to is a waste of time. Westmarland has produced only a sterile work. There are far better books available on this subject - and I recommend any of them in place of this one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2010 10:39 AM BST

ATMT Media Tank, 300GB HDD, 16X DL DVDRW, Memory Card Reader & USB2 Hub, With USB2
ATMT Media Tank, 300GB HDD, 16X DL DVDRW, Memory Card Reader & USB2 Hub, With USB2
Price: £171.93

15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It works, but you need to figure it out yourself!, 13 July 2006
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Ok, the basics: this media tank does function, and so the fact it has a 300GB storage capacity makes it useful. It looks good, and every other one of its functions (memory card reader, DVD-RW) work also.

But ... and it's a BIG but ... it comes without any useful instructions. Indeed, the instructions you get make it seem as if this item only works when connected to a PC, and internally at that, rather than externally for a laptop. You are left guessing how it operates - in fact, you have to figure out yourself how to set it up!

The answer is: simply attach it to your computer and plug it in! I did this - as it seemed logical, given the total lack of instructions - and transferred 10GB's of info to it - and it works fine.

However, there are two further down sides: (1) the disc that comes with it - by NERO, making the DVDRW work - makes certain things not work! I found that audio no longer functioned on media player, for instance. In the end, I had to get rid of NERO. (2) never try turning on your computer with the media tank attached to it - it simply will not function. Rather, get your computer up and running and then - only then - reattach the media tank.

So, if you don't mind these problems, it works ok. Off course, I had to get softwear to make the DVDRW work, as NERO does not function. If you can't do this, you will not have a DVDRW.

Overall, if you know what you are doing, then it's ok. If not, you'll have problems.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2008 11:16 AM BST

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