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In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  118 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
The author of City of Quartz and Planet of Slums attacks the current fashion for empires and white men’s burdens in this blistering collection of radical essays. He skewers contemporary idols such as Mel Gibson, Niall Ferguson, and Howard Dean; unlocks some secret doors in the Pentagon and the California prison system; visits Star Wars in the Arctic and vigilantes on the b ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 1st 2007 by Haymarket Books
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Dale
May 31, 2008 Dale rated it really liked it
In Praise of Barbarians is a collection of articles written by Mike Davis, most for the journal Socialist Review. Davis is a socialist writer living in San Diego. He's been an activist since his high school days, once serving as southern California organizer for the SDS in the mid 1960s.

He writes in a very engaging style - slightly ironic, seldom doctrinaire. Even if you don't share his socialist viewpoint you might still enjoy many of his articles. His perspective is that of an engaged politica
...more
xDEAD ENDx
Mar 15, 2015 xDEAD ENDx rated it did not like it
About 80% of this book focuses on the failures of certain American political parties/politicians with a nod towards how the other guys could do it better. Or if not that, how real democracy would fix such-and-such issue. I have no interest in this. A majority of these pieces were written for Socialist magazines, which creates a rather detestable orientation to an otherwise reasonable historian.

There is one stand-out piece (interview, really) in which Davis discuses a project he seems to at one p
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Mike
Apr 17, 2008 Mike rated it really liked it
Collection of essays by socialist egghead Mike Davis. Most or all of them were written after 2000, and many of them cover current topics still developing, such as the reconstruction of New Orleans, the Democratic takeover of Congress and the Senate, and anti-immigrant vigilante efforts on the U.S. - Mexico border. At other times the author waxes nostalgic-indignant over the past: the great anarchist movements during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the youth 'riots' on the Sunset ...more
Stephen
Aug 07, 2011 Stephen rated it it was amazing
I have read several things by Mike Davis, mostly Urban Theory, but lately I have been branching out. He is an incredible writer, thinker and social critic. Leave it to say, nothing I read here surprised me, believing completely that America is an empire on the decline. But I still got really pissed when I read the essays. He skewers a lot of "sacred American stuff" and leaves you with an ugly taste in your mouth for America and her ruling class. Here is the final paragraph from the Afterword: In ...more
Simon Wood
Aug 25, 2013 Simon Wood rated it it was amazing
A ROBUST AND WIDE RANGING WRITER

Theres few in the same league as Mike Davis - he has all the attributes of a good essayist, he can write well, with humour and wit, and can make the inexplicable comprehensible in a relatively short space.

He writes on a wide range of topics in this collection of essays - from the post hurricane Katrina ethnic cleansing of New Orleans to figures past and present in the American Union movement. His speciality is California, his home state, and his point of view is
...more
Josh
Apr 01, 2008 Josh rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Socialists, Californians, and Anti-Imperialists
Recommended to Josh by: ak press
Mike Davis is an old-school, die-hard US socialist who has been causing trouble for over 40 years now, this book is a great collection of his work since late 2001 though it is not anywhere as much about the Roman Empire or barbarians (in the classical sense) as I thought. Davis titles and a few epigraphs evocative of Roman history-- Romans at Home, Legions at War, The Unease in Gaul, Dark Water Rising, and Old Flames -- to discuss US politics, the US war machine, the hell that is home for David- ...more
Shawn
Sep 11, 2008 Shawn rated it it was amazing
WOW!!! Davis continues to be the most eloquent leftist writer of the day! I generally don't follow radical works but the analysis of the 2006 midterm elections alone is worth the price. The analogies to Imperial Rome are sublime and the phantasmogoric, vertigo-inducing leaping from New Orleans to the Mexican border to Puerto Vallarta to 1930s Chicago, to 1840s Paris. Bravo!
Patrick
Dec 06, 2010 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a good book to get a sense of the range of Mike Davis's subject matter. Despite the abundant quantity of quantitative sources giving his writing a fact sandwich flavor, his polemics are deliciously digestible. The chapters on Left politics in Greenland & Upton Sinclare's EPIC campaign(End Poverty In California) are the mustard and sauerkraut.
Rayroy
May 09, 2017 Rayroy rated it liked it
Most of the Essays are available on-line.
Ryan Mishap
Jul 04, 2009 Ryan Mishap rated it liked it
I really just got this because I like the title so much....Well, and Davis is one of the left's premier historians. Anarchists may not be fond of him, but he digs up the history of the working class like no other.
Those were the best parts of this collection--the IWW, the anarchist assassins from around the world at the turn of the last century, and so on. A lot of this deals with the election in 2004, the start of the Iraq war, and the devestation in the aftermath of the government's calculate
...more
Peter
Oct 14, 2008 Peter rated it liked it
Some of these essays are a bit past shelf-date (the book comprises his journalism pieces since 2001), but Davis is consistent, and if you liked his longer, quirky social/historical books (City of Quartz, the disaster book I can't recall the name of...) the short pieces give you a context on his socialist pedigree and current political outlook, keeps yer bullshit detector nicely tuned. Good subway read--each piece is about one bus-to-train transfer long.
Eileen F
May 29, 2008 Eileen F marked it as to-read
Recommended to Eileen by: Noam Chomsky
In a January 2008 interview, Alex Green asked Noam Chomsky, "What was your favorite book of last year?" Chomsky could not name only one favorite nor could he name them all.
Chomsky suggested, among others "In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire" by Mike Davis.
Erica
Jul 23, 2008 Erica rated it it was ok
Mike Davis can be very hit and miss. This book consists of lots of 5-page rants for Socialist magazines. I should have known this wouldn't be one of his better books, but I was excited to read his take-down of "What's the Matter with Kansas?" It was alright.
Corey
Oct 24, 2014 Corey rated it really liked it
A great collection of essays on the American political-economic system.
Phil Demers
Jan 14, 2015 Phil Demers rated it it was amazing
Just awesome. Read anything you can get your hands on by Davis. His analysis puts the beltway to utter shame.
Torie
Dec 03, 2007 Torie rated it really liked it
Another Counterpoise review. Unlike the Frances Moore Lappe title, however, I am looking forward to this one.
Terence
Mar 24, 2008 Terence rated it liked it
Despite sloppy editing and a somewhat idiosyncratic use of words like "antinomy," the substance of these essays makes for provocative reading.
Pete
Jan 15, 2008 Pete rated it liked it
a bit sloppy. more substantive comments to come.
Richard Goff
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Social commentator, urban theorist, historian, and political activist. He is best known for his investigations of power and social class in his native Southern California.
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