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Ian M. Buchanan (Cardiff, Wales)
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Tropic of Chaos
Tropic of Chaos
by Christian Parenti
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important and necessary, 26 May 2012
This review is from: Tropic of Chaos (Hardcover)
Christian Parenti is one of the most important journalists writing today. He writes with conviction about the key issues and problems the world faces. In this book he examines the effects climate change is already having in social and political terms. What he shows is that as the climate changes so desperate people are pushed into desperate situations, which is all too often followed by war. He provides on the ground accounts of what is happening/has happened in places as diverse as Dafur, India, Brazil and the US. He is unsparing in his criticism of the political stupidity that has led the planet to the situation it is in. By the same token, he doesn't pretend there are easy solutions. Even so he shows that there are some obvious solutions within reach.


The Bonds of Debt: Borrowing Against the Common Good
The Bonds of Debt: Borrowing Against the Common Good
by Richard Dienst
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable, 8 Aug. 2011
This is a brilliant little book. It is an indispensable tonic to the bitter state of the world today. I read it very quickly and found myself wishing the book was much longer. In particular, I would have relished a much longer treatment of Bono. Having said that, the existing critique of Bono as someone who hangs out with the very people whose policies cause the problems he is supposedly speaking against is wonderfully ascerbic. It has the wit and spark of Hitchens at his best. I also enjoyed the chapter on shopping, which picks up from where Rem Koolhas left off and develops a critique of the emptiness of 21st century life. My one criticism is that it is missing a key chapter -- there needed to be a chapter on taxation as a kind of debt to society. In my view, it is progressive taxation rather than debt jubilees that would constitute a radical demand in the current neoliberal climate.


Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism
Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism
by Stephen Graham
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 22 Mar. 2011
The degree to which violence not merely lurks beneath the surface of everyday life, but is an essential underpinning of it is what this book sets out to demonstrate. It shows the high degree to which state led violence (eg the police, military, secret seervice etc)is not merely peripheral to daily life, as perhaps we would like to think, but central to the way it is thought and organised. It compares and contrasts obviously violent places like Gaza and Baghdad with the less obviously violent such as London and New York, showing that the relative 'peace' of the latter is won at the expense of carnage in the former. This is a very important book written with the gusto and style of Mike Davis.


Signs Taken For Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms (Radical Thinkers)
Signs Taken For Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms (Radical Thinkers)
by Franco Moretti
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary Theory and Literary History, 13 Nov. 2010
In the striking final chapter of this book, and further developed in several essays since, Franco Moretti proposes a theory of literary evolution inspired by Charles Darwin. As is well known, Darwin's theory of `natural selection' has two key components: first, it postulates that change is random, more prone to failure than to success, and not the unfolding of a teleological process progressing towards some final form of perfection (humans are not more perfect than the humanoids they evolved from); second, it postulates that only those changes which give the creature a reproductive advantage in a given set of external conditions survive (survival of the fittest means survival of the fastest reproducer). Adapting this to the needs of literary history, Moretti renders `natural selection' as follows: (1) aesthetic variation is the product of chance; and (2) the literary marketplace determines which formal variations survive. In later works, Moretti brings in `world-systems' theory to account for the peculiarities of the market, thus departing from his initial quite strict focus on Darwin, but nevertheless maintains the original evolutionary model conceived here. The other striking piece in this work is the essay on Dracula and Frankenstein -- Moretti argues quite brilliantly that these novels reflect two different perspectives on apital -- that of owners and that of employers.


Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution
Rewilding the World: Dispatches from the Conservation Revolution
by Caroline Fraser
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hopeful, 19 Oct. 2010
This is a beautifully written, intelligent, passionate book that takes both a critical and hopeful look at grassroot efforts around the world to restore the natural habitat for plants and animals. It explains the science in a way a non-scientist can understand and shows how compelling the scientific cases are for rewilding, for restoring the wild. Its key message is that it takes real effort at the ground level to make the kinds of changes that are needed to prevent the catastrophic loss of biodiversity the planet is currently facing. In other words, it is not enough to simply throw money at the problem, although that helps, but it is more important to involve the localpeople. As Saint-Exupery famously says, if you want people to build boats then first teach them to love the sea. I think this is what Fraser is trying to do, she wants to save the planet and to do so she is teaching us to love it. She shows that we should love predators and vermin because without them the ecosystem doesn't work. This truly is one of the most inspiring books I've read in a long time.


The Weather Makers: Our Changing Climate and what it means for Life on Earth
The Weather Makers: Our Changing Climate and what it means for Life on Earth
by Timothy Flannery
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, 11 May 2010
This is an excellent book. It clearly explains the causes of climate change and provides convincing evidence to support the idea that the climate is changing. But perhaps most importantly it addresses the issue of what can be done in a clear-eyed and practical manner. Flannery shows what can help and what won't.


Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Politics, History, & Culture)
Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Politics, History, & Culture)
by LoÔc J. D. Wacquant
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading, 31 Aug. 2009
This should be essential reading for anyone interested in what 'welfare reform' really means: as Wacquant shows, it doesn't mean creating a better deal for the needy, it means extinguishing both the right and the expectation that the needy will get help from the government. Wacquant argues that the so-called 'war on crime' in the US is nothing other than a war on the poor with the aim of making them less visible. The irony is that it is costing government more to incarcerate the poor than it would to put them on welfare. So what has to be explained is why government would want to take the more expensive and obviously far less humane option. Given that the UK and Europe seem anxious to follow the same path as the US on this subject, Wacquant's claim that his research has a prophetic value is justified. This book is part of a trilogy and is obviously the product of a long and obsessive amount of research that has left no stone unturned.


Between the Assassinations
Between the Assassinations
by Aravind Adiga
Edition: Hardcover

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No second chances for the poor, 26 July 2009
This is billed as a novel, but it isn't really that. It is a collection of short stories all set in the same location. One might think of it as a constellation arrangement (in Benjamin's sense) in that the stories are connected, but only indirectly, via the eye of the observer. I think some people have been disappointed by this book because it isn't as satirical as White Tiger, but in many ways that is what makes it a better book. There is a real honesty to this book that is quite disturbing. It doesn't sugar coat things, nor does it create false tales of redemption like Slumdog Millionaire. If it has a single theme it is this: the very poor don't get to make mistakes, one error of judgement is fatal.


Still Life in Real Time: Theory After Television (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
Still Life in Real Time: Theory After Television (Post-Contemporary Interventions)
by Richard Dienst
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Book, 10 July 2009
This is, to my mind, the most interesting and most innovative book on television I have ever read. It is one of very few genuine attempts to actually theorise what TV is, as a medium, as opposed to commenting on the content of TV. It was one of the first to recognise the potential of Deleuze and Guattari's work for TV analysis, and the chapter on their work os one of clearest and most succinct accounts of Deleuze's cinema books you'll find anywhere. But it is probably the chapter on Heidegger's Ge-stell that really stands out because in it Dienst offers a powerful theory of TV as a framing device, as a form in search of content.


A Loud Call
A Loud Call
Price: £11.08

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, 27 Jun. 2009
This review is from: A Loud Call (Audio CD)
I bought this because it receieved a solid review in the Guardian. I was not disappointed. I hadn't heard of Holly Throsby before, I have to admit, but I will certainly be buying more of her CDs. Her music belongs in the same genre as Diana Krall and Norah Jones, but her sound is more sparse, less lush, and in this respect a better comparison might be Missy Higgins. This album is a perfect complement to a warm afternoon, sitting in the sun, drinking chardonnay and chillaxing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 2, 2010 2:59 PM BST


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