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Old 03-14-2017, 09:36 AM   #101
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I read Chomsky On Anarchism before this thread and it was very good. I will get around to more of the earlier prominent and explicitly Anarchist authors if I can get past Proudhon and Bacunin wanting to kill all the Jews. But there are a ton of writers in the anarchist spectrum like Tolstoy, Rousseau, Thoreau, Emerson, Wilde, Godwin, Camu, Shelley...

ACism is the antithesis of most of Anarchism. Proudhon said "all property is theft" and ACist say everything is property.

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Old 03-14-2017, 10:45 AM   #102
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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Not aware enough of relevant in jokes
Nielsio was famous for rhetorically asking if 'X was why I can't free?' where X could be anything from gold to the War in Iraq to Santa Claus to school lunches or whatever. I assume if you look around on YouTube there's a video of him doing a 45 minute poetry slam of all the reasons why he can't be free.
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Old 03-15-2017, 02:49 AM   #103
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Candide - Voltaire

I made this note about 2/3rd the way through:

"Somewhat clever and entertaining satire, but just somewhat. It's like slightly subpar Dave Barry. I wonder what people will think of him in 250 years."

At the end I warmed up to it a bit as it wrapped things up pretty well. I upgrade it to fully par Dave Barry.

I supposed if Candide were written a hundred years earlier Voltaire would have been burned at the stake for lampooning monarchs and religion. I'm not sure how bold it was in 1759, but it was pretty biting and maybe Mark Twain is a better comparison than Dave Barry, though even some of the sillier Twain takes some care for character while Candide really doesn't.

This is a good book if you want to look like you're reading something serious, but really want something fairly light.

There's room in there for some utopian socialist anti-capitalist interpretation, but I wouldn't get too carried away with it.

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Old 03-15-2017, 08:23 AM   #104
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, by Emmanuel Carrere.

I got this as an introduction to Carrere, but it revived an old interest in scifi. I hadn't realized how much scifi (Matrix, etc.) was influenced by Dick's fixation on the sense of self and its struggle to remain distinct from the environment.

I hadn't read Dick as an adolescent, it was all Harry Harrison, Asimov, and Dune. But it turns out Dick had debilitating paranoid delusions. Carrere makes a strong case that Dick really believed he was receiving messages from God about how to launch a new age, although he could also use that delusion as a literary source by critiquing it from the skeptical side of his brain that remained.

The style is fictionalized biography. Carrere researched deeply to establish a scene, but then invented a lot of inner thoughts that he believed must have been going on. The effect is very convincing. I trusted that he was creating a reasonable facsimile, consistent with verifiable evidence.

One chapter I glossed through because it became too lit crit -- taking the ideas way too seriously. Dick is compelling as an extraordinary, autodidact pulp writer, not as a philosopher. But I really enjoyed the rest of the book, especially how a tortured psyche was integral to the stories that swirled out. You may be interested to know he only dropped acid once. Didn't need it. There's also plenty of titillating debauchery and his painfully pathetic personal life.

Now that I read the bio, I'm less bored with Amazon's Man in the High Castle.

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Old 03-15-2017, 01:19 PM   #105
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

Re: Coates. I'd recommend the book 'Racecraft' too which talks a lot about how racism as a social construct leads to race. The book is a slog to read, however.
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Old 03-15-2017, 02:25 PM   #106
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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His description of Cortez defeating the Aztecs is hackneyed: Aliens riding strange beasts could "produce lightning and thunder out of shiny metal sticks." Bah. Cortez won by allying with the Aztec's many enemies and because Tenochtitlan was weakened by disease. Harari does mention the devastation of epidemics, but mistakenly places it after conquest instead of before.
Wow that's bad. I did hear the mythical God theory about how Cortez beat the Aztecs when I was in junior high so it surprised me, on first reading, that several expeditions to Mexico got easily slaughtered even with advanced 'mythical technology' that was supposed to awe the Aztecs before Cortez showed up. But yea that Cortez won because of the Aztec awe at Spanish technology falls apart at even a basic reading of what happened.
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Old 03-15-2017, 07:44 PM   #107
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Walden - Thoreau
If you want more of the political side of Thoreau, I highly recommend his short essay on "Civil Disobedience," which was very influential on both Gandhi and MLK.
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Old 03-16-2017, 01:12 AM   #108
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

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If you want more of the political side of Thoreau, I highly recommend his short essay on "Civil Disobedience," which was very influential on both Gandhi and MLK.
Thanks. Just yesterday I noticed that we have a copy in our house. I have 3 library books to read first though.

I just finished the audiobook of the Communist Manifesto. I think I'll either listen again or grab the book next time I'm in the library just to make some notes for a review. After the book I'm reading now, there will be a shift away from the radical and more towards liberal mainstream/enlightenment at least for a couple books. Not that anyone cares, but I've been on a streak of radical stuff and I don't want y'all to think I've gone over the bend and I guess mentioning The Communist Manifesto seems a little like a taboo.
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Old 03-24-2017, 09:06 PM   #109
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

A couple mini reviews. These are books I listened to from librivox. I didn't take any notes or prepare for this at all.

God and State - Mikhail Bakunin 1882

If you're an atheist this is probably a lot of preaching to the choir. There's a lot of stuff about the how the state supported religion and vice versa and how Christianity in particular changed dramatically about 3 centuries in to essentially become state friendly. I guess the book wasn't quite finished and it shows a bit.

I don't think it's essential or anything, but it was interesting.

Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution Peter Kropotkin 1902

The version I listened to was terrible. The guy had a very strong accent (French I think), was very monotone and he read all the footnotes wherever they hit, even if they were just citations and said "open footnote blah blah open bracket blah p. 242-244 blah close bracket blah close footnote" and there were a lot of footnotes. So, don't listen to the librivox version here.

But the book was really good and interesting so I persisted. The early part of the book is about social behavior among animals and much of it is interesting and based on field observation which wasn't always the rule at the time. There is a lot of romanticization of animals and more intelligence is ascribed to animals with small brains than is right, but Kropotkin is not without nuance in any of this. He would of course have benefited from modern studies, but on the whole and as a reaction to the exaggerated notion of tooth and claw that prevailed at that time and for a long time afterward I would say that he was quite insightful.

I also found his descriptions of European village life, the guilds, medieval cities and the history of common people and the tendency towards cooperation to be very interesting and well supported in a relatively scientific way despite it being quite a broad overview. It is probably over-romantic at times, but again, against the back drop of ideologies of ruthless individualism it was I guess reactionary, but an understandable reaction. At some point I want to read something just on the history of the guilds. That part was particularly interesting and got me wondering specifically about whether the freemason/anti-freemason conflict was part of a larger power struggle over centralization of power. Or maybe not, but the guilds at one point seemed to wield a fair amount of power.

I missed a lot from this book because of the reading, so I have to somewhat temper my recommendation, but I still recommend it and at some point I will check out the print version and read it.
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Old Yesterday, 01:05 PM   #110
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Re: Politics Book Review Thread

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

I'd give this book 3 1/2 stars. It's an interesting but not too particularly surprising look at class politics, specifically the intra white class politics where the poor have always been looked down upon. The book starts in chronological order starting with the first colonists in America but I find it useful to go in reverse chronological order. The grand narrative is found in the epilogue.

It states simply that America never has been a meritocracy, people never have, holistically, been able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and elites have forever needed to explain that discrepancy. The did/do it by substituting heredity and blame on the poor themselves. You see echos of this in the jokes during 2012 election when people joked that Romney and Huntsman's kids should intermarry to produce beautiful, smart, wealthy children. You see it in liberals talking about smart elitist types wanting to marry other smart highly educated elitist types, while blaming the poor electoral decisions on the poor who vote against their own interests ( their interests usually being how to reduce the problems of their woeful existence). You see it in Conservatives' angst that the poor are marrying other poor whose genes will only produce more dumb stupid children so implicitly only the rich and wealthy "who can afford kids" should breed.

You can trace those modern examples through eugenics that compared breeding people to breeding horses. (One example during the eugenics craze was that women would sign a pledge to only marry a man after she had seen his genealogical pedigree) to the original aristocratic idea that there are some amount of surplus people that simply have no use and must be 'disposed of' in some way, that being that conscripted into armies, or sent to do dangerous labor, etc.

The book also talks about the cultural aspect of 'white trash'. How through the 60's, 70's, and 80's, as the 'New South' rose in economic power, a kind of 'white trash chic' appeared. These new 'chic white trash' didn't conform to middle class standards but were also admired for their forthrightness. You can see examples in Dolly Parton and Elvis (the son of a sharecropper). This new 'white trash chic' didn't transfer approval to all poor whites though. The poorest of white trash was still an object of scorn a la Honey Boo Boo. The book does make a defense of Sarah Palin's 'country-ness' and points out how liberals used the white trash stereotype to push against Palin. The book also talks about Jimmy Carter, who ran as a 'Bubba' but who also denied having any part of the stereotype of a redneck. He ran on being smart, truthful, intelligent and not flamboyant while the media and nation, seeking a confirmation of the stereotype, found one in Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy Carter. Also included is Bill Clinton, who was a 'Bubba' but whose Rhodes Scholarship insulated him a bit from the charge of being a complete redneck.

Interestingly the book sets up the Republicans as being the high class snobs looking down at the two 'white trash' liberal Presidents we had. Nancy Reagan had the White House stripped and complained that the Carters had made the White House a 'pigsty' while Republicans blasted Clinton as no good white trash who double dealed, lied, and cheated (all white trash attributes) and tarnished the high class Hollywoodism Reagan brought to the office. The book traces this dynamic back to the scalawags, people who were supposed to be white trash but who usurped their rightful place in the order of things by claiming that blacks deserved the same rights as whites and/or that poor whites deserved more than what the upper classes handed down.

The most interesting parts of the book are the first parts. The book starts out with the idea that American revisionism has cast the original settlers as intrepid entrepreneurs or, perhaps, religious exiles seeking a better life, when in reality, America was very much imagined as Australia once was, a refuse bin with which to throw the useless white trash of Britain out. Some 60% of the settlers came here for 'economic reasons' mainly being in debt or sent to America to avoid debt. Even in the original colonies, America wasn't envisioned as some egalitarian land, but very much had a landed aristocracy who tried to replicate much of British aristocracy. In the same way that America as a whole was thought of as a way to get rid of white trash, westward expansion was seen as a way to get rid of the 'white trash' in America as well. Let them settle the hinterlands, while the slave owning aristocrats had thousands of good acres. Benjamin Franklin started off poor, but through having patrons became extremely rich. This didn't stop him from blaming the poor for their own problems. (He once complained that the poor moved aimlessly without a purpose forgetting that his move to Philadelphia was simply to get away from trouble). The book also gives an account of Jefferson and Madison and their political ideas all revolved around the same aristocratic idea of what to do with the landed gentry vs the poor white trash living in hovels and the nature of the work that each did.

That fulcrum of how society should be ordered continued through to the Civil War. If people thought the Civil War was merely fought over tariffs, this expanded out the cultural war to be two ways of viewing the civilizational order pitted against each other. The South continued the old British aristocratic idea, that there were a subset of people that bore civilization and there were those beneath them, be they slaves or white trash whose purpose was either to support the rich (and who in turn would be paternalistically loved by the rich), or die. The North on the other hand believed that slavery ruined not only the slaves (who were a bit of a secondary concern) but also the poor white trash who had no work because the free labor provided by the slaves and also made slaveholders slothful. The South, in turn, believed the North to be pure white trash, full of Irish and German immigrants who were dumb and slow who were taken advantage of by the wealth industrialists. The North also used psych-ops during the war, purposefully burning and looting the wealthy while leaving the poor alone to get the point across that the wealthy were the problem. The South were always afraid of the poor whites rising against the slave owners, and, in fact, desertions because the poor were 'fighting a rich man's war' were more common in the South than in the North.

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