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luxon

luxon@bookwyrm.social

Joined 1 year, 7 months ago

Looking for a place to share reviews with some of my friends. Starting by adding the mini-reviews I've emailed people in the past here.

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Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

The relation between comrades is not the same as the relation between friends. This is a crucial point today given the problems in left milieus that can seem exclusive and cliquish. People who would otherwise be on the same side may not come together because closed and unwelcoming friendship groups prevent them from feeling a sense of commonality and belonging.

Comrade by 

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

For some contemporary activists, well versed in the politics of identity, often as a result of their own experiences of sexism and racism online and in the movements, there may be some lingering suspicion that comrade isn’t formal enough or empty enough, and that no expansive account of the inclusion of positive difference can ever suffice. Attention to the negative dimension of comrade may address this concern. Comrade entails taking a side, rather than refusing to acknowledge and avow the existence of sides. Belonging on the same side lends a generic quality to comradeship: Comrades are indifferent to individual difference, and equal and solidary with respect to their belonging. Comradeship thus requires the dissolution of attachments to the fantasy of self-sufficiency, hierarchy, and individual uniqueness. There is no place for such attachments in the comrade.

Comrade by 

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

he comrade is also not the same as the neighbor understood in an ethical sense. “Love thy comrade as thyself” makes no sense: Comrades don’t love themselves as uniquely special individuals. They subordinate their individual preferences and proclivities to their political goals. Comrades’ relation to each other is outward-facing, oriented toward the project they want to realize, the future they want to bring into being. They cherish one another as shared instruments in common struggle; comrades are a necessity.

Comrade by 

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

Comrades may be friends but friendship and comradeship are not the same. We see this most clearly when friendships fray. Personal dislike does not mean that the person is not a comrade. In tight associations, comrade and friend relations blur and overlap. Maintaining the difference and the distance between them takes work, important work. Comradeship requires a degree of alienation from the needs and demands of personal life to which friends must attend.

Comrade by 

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

The distinction between the comrade and the friend also points to an inhuman dimension of the comrade: Comradeship has nothing to do with the person or personality in its specificity; it’s generic. Comradeship abstracts from the specifics of individual lives to consider how these specifics might contribute to collective goals. What matters is not the uniqueness of a skill or experience but its utility for party work. In this sense, the comrade is liberated from the determinations of specificity, freed by the common political horizon. Ellen Schrecker makes this point in her magisterial account of anticommunism in the United States. During the McCarthy period of communist persecution, there was a common assumption that “all Communists were the same.” Communists were depicted as puppets, cogs, automatons, robots, even slaves. In the words of “one of the McCarthy era’s key professional witnesses,” people who became communists were “no longer individuals but robots; they were chained in an intellectual and moral slavery that was far worse than any prison.” The truth underlying the hyperbolic claims of anticommunism is the genericity of the comrade, of comrade as a disciplined and disciplining relation that exceeds personal interests. Comradeship isn’t personal. It’s political.

Comrade by 

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

Precisely because he was engaged with others in a common purpose, the comrade experienced deep political meaning. We have to reject the bourgeois fiction that intimacy depends on personal disclosure, individual experience, or the way a singular person feels about people and events. There are other intimacies of common work and shared purpose: preparing the newspaper, making the banners, planning an action, knocking on doors.

Comrade by 

"de-individualize meaning" will be my new slogan

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

The working class demonstrates through proletarian discipline that capitalists and landlords are superfluous. We don’t need them. We can—and will—do it ourselves. In each kind of discipline, what matters is that discipline is freely accepted. For Lenin, discipline itself is revolutionary, more revolutionary than the defeat of the bourgeoisie: “for it is a victory over our own conservatism, indiscipline, petty-bourgeois egoism, a victory over the habits left as a heritage to the worker and peasant by accursed capitalism.

Comrade by 

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

Enthusiasm, energy, is expected of comrades because it is that extra, that surplus benefit of collectivity, which enables them to do more, even to win. What distinguishes comrades from politically minded and hardworking individuals is the energy that accrues to collective work. Because they combine forces, they generate more than each could by working alone. Enthusiasm is the surplus that collective discipline generates.

Comrade by 

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

Socialist and communist parties are expected to engage in the struggles of the oppressed, organize for revolution, and maintain a certain unity of action. Absent expectations of solidarity, comrade as term of an address is an empty signifier. Rather than figuring the political relation mediated by the truth of communism, it becomes an ironic or nostalgic gesture to a past utopian hope.

Comrade by 

Comrade (2019, Verso Books) 4 stars

very helpful in articulating my own political experience

4 stars

This book has helped me articulate a few things I’d experienced before. For one, the sense of joy of being seen as a comrade. I distinctly remember being in a very large online seminar on labour organizing when one of the Indian workers casually addressed everyone else as comrades, creating a unity where before I’d only felt the detachment of yet-another-zoom-call.

It also reminded me of when someone I’d just met said they were quite excited about knowing me now because they so rarely encounter “peers”. I understand now that the it was comradeship that happened in that moment – meeting someone else who is also trying to change the world the way you are, and whom you recognize as being on your side, and who is ready to judge you and be judged by you about the value of your activities in pursuit of that goal.

I know a …

Governing the Commons (2015, Cambridge University Press) 4 stars

What makes these models [i.e. prisoner dilemmas] so interesting and so powerful is that they capture important aspects of many different problems that occur in diverse settings in all parts of the world. What makes these models so dangerous – when they are used metaphorically as the foundation for policy – is that the constraints that are assumed to be fixed for the purpose of analysis are taken on faith as being fixed in empirical settings, unless external authorities change them. The prisoners in the famous dilemma cannot change the constraints imposed on them by the district attorney; they are in jail. Not all users of natural resources are similarly incapable of changing their constraints. As long as individuals are viewed as prisoners, policy prescriptions will address this metaphor. I would rather address the question of how to enhance the capabilities of those involved to change the constraining rules of the game to lead to outcomes other than remorseless tragedies.

Governing the Commons by 

"As long as individuals are viewed as prisoners, policy prescriptions will address this metaphor." – we need a catchy version of this to spray paint.

Governing the Commons (2015, Cambridge University Press) 4 stars

Analysis of institutional change is also far more difficult than analysis of operational decisions within a fixed set of rules. The rules affecting operational choice are made within a set of collective-choice rules that are themselves made within a set of constitutional-choice rules. The constitutional-choice rules for a micro-setting are affected by collective-choice and constitutional-choice rules for larger jurisdictions. Individuals who have self-organizing capabilities switch back and forth between operational-, collective-, and constitutional-choice arenas, just as managers of production firms switch back and forth between producing products within a set technology, introducing a new technology, and investing resources in technology development.

Governing the Commons by 

I liked this positive description of what it means to be an "individual who [has] self-organizing capabilities", and particular its comparison to managers of production firms.