Well, I dunno. A challenging book; not stylistically (it's actually a quick, compelling, easy read), but Berman"s arguments and perspective are not coWell, I dunno. A challenging book; not stylistically (it's actually a quick, compelling, easy read), but Berman"s arguments and perspective are not comfortable reading.
There's some good material and I feel the better for having engaged with it, but parts left me distinctly unimpressed. At times fascinating and persuasive, but at other times simplistic and intellectually sloppy; the final section on Fukuyama being a case in point.
There's value in here, but Berman's more polemical than thoughtful....more
Excellent historical overview. Beautifully written; a compelling narrative that intelligently explores the complex, varied processes of colonisation iExcellent historical overview. Beautifully written; a compelling narrative that intelligently explores the complex, varied processes of colonisation in North America: territorial, political, social and cultural. This is the history every American should know about: a history that has profoundly shaped the development of North American states and societies. It is also a story of survival and struggle that continues into the 21st century. There are insights here, too, that are relevant to the histories and contemporary politics of other colonial countries, from Aotearoa-New Zealand to Israel/Palestine.
If you're looking for a readable, nuanced, thoughtful introduction to the subject, this book is ideal. And more: it's a book I'll be thinking about for years, a profound exploration of cross-cultural encounters and the brutal, multi-layered realities of colonisation....more
Stunning. Serious and important: brings together many of the themes and issues of the past 40 years of political and social change to draw some powerfStunning. Serious and important: brings together many of the themes and issues of the past 40 years of political and social change to draw some powerful and necessary conclusions. Although focused on the UK, much of it is relevant to New Zealand. Should be compulsory reading for left wing politicians, all journalists and everyone who cares....more
One of those books I wish everyone would read. A necessary antidote to the political and ideological narratives and myths that dominate conversationsOne of those books I wish everyone would read. A necessary antidote to the political and ideological narratives and myths that dominate conversations about class, work, citizenship, poverty and inequality. Todd puts shifts in politics and policy firmly into the context of real people's lives as they were (and are) actually lived, undermining the simplistic assumptions we tend to carry around without realising it - picked up from political rhetoric, media and yes, even historians.
As Todd disturbs our lazy historical picture with a wealth of detail and complications, a new picture gradually emerges out of those very details and the lives and experiences of actual people. That new "big picture" turns out to be quite simple and not really new after all: the exploitation of the many by the few, a wealthy elite that clings to power, and the struggle by ordinary people to gain more control over their own lives.
At the heart of Todd's history, there is a story about the rise and fall of working class collectivity: collective identity, organisation, action. The last 40 years has largely been defined by a deliberate push to undermine and punish that collective spirit, and to redefine the working class as marginal: the enemy within, the undeserving poor or, at best, as helpless victims. The consequences for many have been devastating. But if that overall story seems bleak, don't be put off: there is so much life, love and humanity in the personal stories that fill this book, it is an absolute joy to read.
On the cover of the hardback is a photograph of workers at a picket line during the 1936 Ingram strike in Hackney Wick. Some of the women have paired up and are dancing in the street, while onlookers smile and laugh. It is the perfect image to sum up the warmth and humanity of this complex, powerful, necessary book....more
I went into this broadly sympathetic with Lukianoff's stated aims, but was thoroughly disappointed. I've read significantly more in-depth, informativeI went into this broadly sympathetic with Lukianoff's stated aims, but was thoroughly disappointed. I've read significantly more in-depth, informative and insightful blog posts (and even Facebook comments) on the subject. There's nothing new in here for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject, and Lukianoff's analysis is shallow and trite. There are plenty of much better discussions of recent anti-free speech trends available for free online....more
One reason it's so hard to talk sensibly about the current wave of online public shamings is that everyone's trying to take sides all the time; bringOne reason it's so hard to talk sensibly about the current wave of online public shamings is that everyone's trying to take sides all the time; bring up "donglegate" or #CancelColbert and most people immediately line up behind opposing barricades based on grand ideological or moral positions. So it's refreshing to read a book that pretty much sidesteps such issues and instead focuses on the human experience of both shaming and being shamed, online and in public. The result is funny, troubling, compassionate and utterly human.
Highly recommended, especially if you're someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter etc....more
Someone asked what this book was like and I found myself describing it as the most satisfying fantasy novel I'd read in a long time, only it's not fanSomeone asked what this book was like and I found myself describing it as the most satisfying fantasy novel I'd read in a long time, only it's not fantasy and it's not a novel.
If, like me, your favourite parts of The Lord of the Rings are the bits where they're walking across Middle Earth sharing stories and exploring the magic of place, then this book will rock your world.
Of course, there's much more to it than that, but it's all been said elsewhere; so I just want to add that I'm pretty sure Tolkien would have *loved* this book. And also to say that I wish more fantasy novels were like this......more
This is the second book by Malik I've read recently - the first being From Fatwa to Jihad, a look at the Rushdie affair and its consequences. That booThis is the second book by Malik I've read recently - the first being From Fatwa to Jihad, a look at the Rushdie affair and its consequences. That book was especially strong on the way the anti-racism movement and notions of cultural identity have changed in Britain since the 1980s, and made a strong case that left wing politics took a misguided turn in the wake of the controversy around The Satanic Verses.
Strange Fruit is Malik's previous book and looks more broadly at the way we have talked about race and culture over the centuries, and what that can tell us about our current assumptions and political debates. It's a difficult and flawed book, but well worth reading and wrestling with. Difficult not in terms of readability (the prose is easy and fluid), but because it challenges many assumptions and values that have become deeply embedded orthodoxy among anti-racist progressives. The book's flaws are various: at times Malik oversimplifies in order to make things fit his historical narrative; his characterisation of postmodernism is narrow and simplistic; he puts too much emphasis on intellectual history and the writings of philosophers, rather than trying to reconstruct the everyday assumptions and attitudes of average people in different periods; his arguments can be a little sloppy at times, and structurally the book is a bit all over the place. With numerous books and a steady flow of columns and essays, reading Malik can feel like dipping into an ongoing non-stop debate - but a fascinating and important one that more people should be having.
One of Malik's key points is that left-wing and anti-racism activists have become colonised by the very racial concepts they once opposed, albeit now reframed in terms of respect for cultural diversity. This isn't some crude reactionary rant against positive discrimination (which I don't think is mentioned even once); instead, Malik's concern is with the underlying ideas and mental blueprints that shape our thinking about difference, individuality and society. At times, this critique seems on the money; at others, it feels a little forced and simplistic. Certainly, it's a difficult discussion to have, but a reader willing to examine and question deeply held positions and assumptions will get a lot out of this book, even if they end up disagreeing completely.
For me, I wonder if one of the problems with what Malik calls multiculturalism is not the wish to respect diversity, but how we define that diversity. By defining diversity almost entirely according to broad, contested, flawed and crudely constructed categories like culture, ethnicity, nationality or religion, we ignore individual diversity - within and across such groups, whereby individual people hold many conflicting beliefs, opinions, values and lifestyle preferences. Before long, we're forcing all kinds of people into the same crassly stereotyped boxes that racists have used for centuries, although now we rename them "cultures," "communities" or "faiths" and claim to be supporting them. In doing so, however, we end up suppressing those who don't fit the mold in which they've been placed, empower conservative forces who seek to define and dominate these communities and even deny individual agency and human rights to those trying to live differently. It also increases the legitimacy of good old fashioned racism, whose argument that racial identity defines and divides us into discrete separate groups now forms the basis of many progressive assumptions about "culture." Malik, in contrast, emphasises our common humanity and the right of every individual to challenge the constraints of culture and to pursue social and political progress.
At his best, Malik issues a powerful call to work for a society where everyone can live with freedom, dignity and equal rights, whatever their origin, background, parentage or colour. Whether you find its arguments inspiring or infuriating, this is a book to wrestle with, and I suspect I'll be arguing with it for some time to come....more