Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

51qPsB+E2aL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_John Smith, A review of imperialism in the 21st century: the globalisation of production, super-exploitation and the crisis of capitalism, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016, 384pp.  Reviewed by Michael Roberts.

John Smith’s book is a powerful and searing indictment of the exploitation of billions of people in what used to be called the Third World and is now called the ‘emerging’ or ‘developing’ economies by mainstream economics (and is called ‘the South’ by Smith).  But the book is much, much more than that.  After years of research including a PhD thesis, John has made an important and original contribution to our understanding of modern imperialism, both theoretically and empirically.  In this sense, his Imperialism is a complement to Tony Norfield’s The City, reviewed previously in this blog – or should I say Tony’s is a complement to John Smith’s.  While Tony Norfield’s book shows the development of finance capital in the modern imperialist countries and the dominance of the financial powers of ‘the North’ (US and UK etc), John Smith shows how it is the ‘super-exploitation’ of wage workers in the ‘South’ that is the foundation of modern imperialism in the 21st century.


The book starts with some examples of how wage workers in the South are (more…)


51fQv6-t5VL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, Spiegel & Grau, New York, 2015 (paperback), 368pp,  reviewed by The Spark

Just Mercy is a showcase for the U.S. injustice system, particularly but not only, toward poor black people. His book looks back over some incredible cases he took during the past 30 years.

Stevenson, near retirement, has spent his entire career helping people on death row, particularly in Alabama, which has no public defenders! He quickly understood the U.S. system of incarceration, with the highest rate in the world.

Eventually he and others created the Equal Justice Initiative as a way to fight the death penalty, especially as it is applied to poor black prisoners in the U.S. If a victim of murder is white, most states give the death penalty five times more often to a black person convicted in the crime, even ten times more often, than a white person convicted of a similar crime.

And it would be his organization that finally got the Supreme Court to end life imprisonment without parole for (more…)

Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

The slim contours of this paperback are deceptive. Although at just a hundred pages it is more of an essay than a book, every sentence is laden with content. Arundhati Roy has produced a weighty work.

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

Since winning the Booker prize for her novel the The God of Small Things in 1997, Roy has lent her voice to the cause of the poor, the dispossessed and the environment. In Capitalism a Ghost Story she focuses her poetic prose on the grotesqueness of corporate India. ” “In the drive to beautify Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, laws were passed that made the poor vanish, like laundry stains.” The numbers are staggering: India’s new middle class, who have reached 300 million, are still dwarfed by the country’s 800 million impoverished. Then there are the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves.

In this work she returns again to the government’s war, Operation Greenhunt,  being waged against the people living in the forests of central India which she introduced the world to in Walking with the Comrades, in 2011.

She has a challenge for the feminists: “Why is it that the dispossession and eviction of millions of women from land that they owned and worked is not seen as a feminist problem?” (more…)

Dirty PoliticsHow attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment by Nicky Hagerdirtypolitics

Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

For over a week Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics has been in the news. With its promise of a tell-all about the links between the political right and their bloggers revealed in hacked emails, the first print run was sold out in a day.

At just over 100 pages Hager’s book is an easy, though not pleasant, read. Delving into the thoughts and motives of blogger Cameron Slater, and others around him who specialise in attack style political campaigning, is a putrid business.

Most of Dirty Politics confirms what we already knew from reading Slater’s Whale Oil blog. His style of politics is vicious and crude. What Hager adds to the picture is Slater as a PR agent for hire. (more…)

nakedgirlsby Don Franks 

A new hot thing in town is Naked Girls Reading.

Work your computer button a bit and you’ll see what I mean.

Ok, as you now know, we’ve apparently come back to books. The required reading material can be anything, even up there literary stuff like Shakespeare.

It could even be all three volumes of Capital – long and lots of difficult words does not matter and can even be an advantage because in this case we are not primarily hearing the words but looking at the reader. In fact the longer the text, the better, that’s the more the reader has to shift and shuffle and recompose her tiring young muscles. (more…)

Profiting_Without_Producing_300dpi_CMYKCostas Lapavitsas, Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All, London: Verso, 2013, 352pp; reviewed by Tony Norfield

This book aims to provide a Marxist interpretation of the global crisis, putting it in the context of a new phase of capitalism, one that is characterised by ‘financialisation’. There are many definitions and uses of this term, and the book’s back cover claims that it is “one of the most innovative concepts to emerge in the field of political economy in the last three decades, although there is no agreement on what exactly it is”. In Lapavitsas’s view, however, “The transformation of the conduct of non-financial enterprises, banks and households constitutes the basis of financialisation” (p4). In this review, I will assess the arguments made in favour of such a definition and Lapavitsas’s view of modern finance, both of which are problematic.

Key theoretical issues

After opening with a brief chapter on the rise of finance, noting especially the explosion of derivatives trading, Chapter 2 of the book (‘Analysing financialisation’) discusses the literature of recent decades, both Marxist and mainstream. This is very useful for providing a review of diverse approaches to the topic while also indicating Lapavitsas’s own perspective. His discussion of the Monthly Review School, which was among the first in more recent times to focus on the rise of finance, is interesting because it opens up his own theoretical position. He notes that Monthly Review basically has an under-consumptionist view of capitalist crises, similar to a Keynesian one, and that it sees the move into finance as a result of non-financial companies escaping from a stagnant productive sector (p. 17). His critique of this view is that it cannot explain the changed behaviour of non-financial corporations, banks and households from the 1970s and he suggests that this change of behaviour rests upon economic reasons (pp17-18). But then he only promises an examination of the three changed behaviours, not of the economic reasons behind these changes: “the examination of non-financial enterprises, banks and households takes up much of the rest of this book” (p18). As will be discussed further below, this sidesteps identifying a causal explanation for the broad financial developments from the 1970s. It is also worth noting that it is odd to exclude a wide range of financial institutions outside the banks – pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds, stock exchanges, etc – from his general definition of ‘financialisation’.

Another indication of his theoretical stance comes when he criticises Arrighi, making the point that the world market is “a creation of industrial, commercial and financial capitals that have become dominant in their respective national economies”. The latter statement is not the self-evident proposition it might seem, however, and would not account for (more…)

Adam Hanieh

Adam Hanieh

The interview with Adam Hanieh about his new book, Lineages of Revolt: issues of contemporary capitalism in the Middle East, was conducted by Jaddilayya, an independent e-zine produced by the Arab Studies Institute, the umbrella group responsible for the Arab Studies Journal, Tadween Publishing, FAMA  and Quilting Point.

img88605Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book and what are its key themes?

Adam Hanieh (AH): The book was written over the course of 2011 and 2012 and was intended as a contribution to some of the debates that emerged in these first years of the Arab uprisings. I did not want to write another narrative account of the uprisings themselves. This was partly because these were events still unfolding and shifting rapidly from day-to-day; it was also because there had already been several very useful books published along these lines, including, of course, Jadaliyya’s The Dawn of the Arab Uprisings. Rather, I wanted to present a longer-term view of the political economy of the Arab world in order to contextualize these revolts in the changing class and state structures of recent decades. I also aimed to address a number of myths and misconceptions about the region, which I believed tended to misrepresent the nature of the uprisings.

Along these lines, the book is not structured along individual country histories but rather tries to draw out general themes. There are four key arguments that run through the book:

First, I try to unpack the frequent refrain that we heard in early 2011 from many mainstream analysts and government spokespeople, namely, that the uprisings were simply a matter of dictatorship and political authoritarianism, and that if capitalist markets were allowed to flourish then all would be fine. A striking example of this perspective was Obama’s comment in a major policy speech of May 2011, in which he stated that the region needed (more…)