Books

It’s been just over 40 years since the Trilateral Commission issued their landmark report, The Crisis of Democracy: On the Governability of Democracies. Although the commission (which still exists) has become, in practical terms, fodder for the paranoid fantasies of fringe groups like the John Birch Society, in the 1970s, it was not always so. (More…)

A former academic colleague used to complain that people who wrote about Heidegger invariably ended up writing like Heidegger. This is not entirely fair to Heidegger scholars (although not entirely unfair either). Peter Trawny’s recently translated Freedom to Fail: Heidegger’s Anarchy affirms the legitimacy of both complaints. This is, in fact, the first of Trawny’s works that I have read in translation and, oddly enough, it is the one that I feel like I understand the least. (More…)

Tzvetan Todorov’s The Inner Enemies of Democracy wants to use the accumulated wisdom of the West to address a modern problem. In this particular case, the problem is that, although democracy has become the  lingua franca of the West, there are dynamics internal to it that have the potential to vitiate the progress that has been made towards more humanistic social orders. (More…)

Camus’ writings deal intensely with the problem of death; suicide in Myth of Sisyphus (1943), and the death of others in L’Homme Révolté (1951). For Camus, the issue is that humans have no direct experience of death, but it remains their only certainty, and shapes their existence. (More…)

Of all the notable literary events of the past year, perhaps none was so important as the release of the complete works of Primo Levi. The three volumes of this edition make available in one place a wealth of Levi’s novels, his shorter fictional and occasional pieces, as well as his more general autobiographical writings such as The Periodic Table. (More…)

Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism constitutes one of the clearest statements of what people for better or worse like to call the ‘postmodern condition’. On Fisher’s account, culture in the late capitalist world exists in a condition of stasis, having lost the impulsion to novelty that Fisher imputes to systemic competition with actually existing socialism. (More…)

Few writers in the Anglosphere have written about the situation of modern capitalism, and its cultural consequences, than British scholar Mark Fisher. Whether in books, in Wired and New Statesman, or on his own blog, Fisher prose cuts to the chase, capturing subtle nuances without feeling the need to drown the reader in verbiage. (More…)

It seems like a long time ago, when rebellious poets lashed out against a takeover of the field by academics who, according to the familiar curse, “had everything but an audience.” They were trying, in part, to return poetry to its popularity in the early twentieth century–think of Carl Sandburg’s large following when he was only years from his socialistic journalism—before modernism turned most radical poetry inward. (More…)

If I may begin with a bit of oversimplification, Slavoj Žižek basically writes two kinds of books: long and incomprehensible, and short and to the point. His Less Than Nothing is an example of the first sort. (More…)

On January 7 2015, Cherif and Said Kouachi, two French Algerians radicalised by the war in Iraq, entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo. It was a Wednesday, and the writers had gathered for an editorial meeting. When the shooting began, the satirists thought it was firecrackers. (More…)

I’d been looking forward to reading ex-Bitch Magnet guitarist Jon Fine’s Your Band Sucks, his memoir of his life in the indie rock scene, for some time. I’d been fascinated with (the stupidly named) Bitch Magnet ever since I first heard Ben Hur in Thirty Ought Six front man Sean Roberts’ basement in Portland a couple of lifetimes ago. (More…)

Several years ago, I spent the night carousing in Prenzlauer Berg. As things broke up after two, I realized that I had stayed out too late – which meant until after the north-south U-Bahn lines had stopped running. In those days, I was living in Neukölln which, for those unfamiliar with Berlin, is a considerable distance. (More…)