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Joined 3 years, 1 month 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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luxon's books

Politics / Philosophy (View all 95)

Speculative Fiction / Sci-Fi / Fantasy (View all 103)

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quoted If We Burn by Vincent Bevins

Vincent Bevins: If We Burn (Hardcover, 2023, PublicAffairs) 4 stars

The story of the recent uprisings that sought to change the world — and what …

But what about that feeling? What about that intense, life-changing collective euphoria? This was an issue on which my interlocutors were split. … For some of them, the horrible comedown, the plunge into depression that came after things did not work out, was something like a hangover. You can get yourself all fucked up on revolutionary élan [but] it warps your senses and causes you to make poor decisions. It isn't real, and you're going to pay for it later. … Then there was another interpretation, just as common. it is the most real thing that one can feel. It is not an illusion at all; it is a stunning, momentary glimpse of the way that life is really supposed to be. It is how we can feel every single day in a world where artificial distinctions and narrowly self-interested activities melt away. … As I said, they couldn't decide which one it is.

If We Burn by 

Vincent Bevins: If We Burn (Hardcover, 2023, PublicAffairs) 4 stars

The story of the recent uprisings that sought to change the world — and what …

Several people told me they believed their movements had unconsciously taken on positions developed in the First World that may not be so applicable in the Global South. One Egyptian revolutionary put it to me this way: "In New York or Paris, if you do a horizontal, leaderless, and post-ideological uprising, and it doesn't work out, you just get a media or academic career afterward. Out here in the real world, if a revolution fails, all your friends go to jail or end up dead."

If We Burn by 

Vincent Bevins: If We Burn (Hardcover, 2023, PublicAffairs) 4 stars

The story of the recent uprisings that sought to change the world — and what …

Read if you've helped with mass protests

4 stars

This was a great book! On a large scale, it made me appreciate that the 2010s were a decade with uniquely many protests, that these protests all developed in reference to one another, that they converged on a style of protest that comes with predictable benefits and weaknesses, and that all in all, most of the protests failed, often leading to something even worse than what was protested against in the first place. And that we can and should learn from these failures!

On smaller scale, it drove home that a protest without a plan will always be co-opted because there can be no political vacuum, and the most organized, not-discredited group around in chaos will end up taking power or pushing through the reforms they like. In a direct conflict, and that’s what a protest becomes if it’s at all successful, the more hierarchical, disciplined, and authoritarian group will …

Jean-Philippe Kindler: Scheiß auf Selflove, gib mir Klassenkampf (Deutsch language, Rowohlt Taschenbuch) 2 stars

Jean-Philippe Kindler ist auf der Suche nach neuen gesellschaftlichen Konzepten. Er geht mit sich, seiner …

Hilft auch nicht

2 stars

Ich kann mit diesem Buch wenig anfangen. Unklar, obs eine genervte Kritik an ~~den Linken~~ sein soll oder ein Vorschlag für eine linke politische Kommunikationsstrategie. Oder eine auf Twitter basierende Karikatur, die so vermutlich auch der politische Gegner unterschreiben würde. Die Fallbeispiele sind die Best-Ofs, was an Empörungs-Content die letzten 5 Jahre durchs Internet geisterte. Nebenan gibts Hot Takes zu Hook-Up Culture und alternativen Beziehungsmodellen als Ausdruck von internalisiertem Neoliberalismus. Leider keine Empfehlungen an politischer Strategie jenseits von Gemeinplätzen (wir müssen außerhalb unserer Bubbles agitieren!) Würde "Politics of Everybody" in jeder Hinsicht anstatt dieses Buches empfehlen.

reviewed Resonanz by Hartmut Rosa

Hartmut Rosa: Resonanz (Hardcover, 2016, Suhrkamp Verlag AG) 3 stars

Make a Noun and Study It

3 stars

I read the author’s German Thesenpapier, an interview in the German podcast Jung & Naiv, as well as this book. It’s my understanding that he’s widely received in the academic world and has also gathered a considerable following there. Apparently psychoanalysts also like him.

The work is far too big for me to comment on it in detail, I also read this book in a way of jumping back and forth, trying to find things that are useful to me. The main thing I admire Rosa for is his project of painting a vision for the future, a way of talking about what positive societal change could look like that goes beyond “more of this” or “less of that”. As he rightly points out, such visions are pretty rare.

The central idea of Rosa is that the concept of resonance is helpful for elucidating some things that are …

reviewed Es geht auch anders by Elke Kahr

Elke Kahr: Es geht auch anders (German language, edition a) 3 stars

Kommunismus, darunter versteht Elke Kahr, für Menschen da zu sein, unmittelbar und jeden Tag, im …

Es geht auch anders

3 stars

(Context: Elke Kahr was elected mayor of Graz, Austria's second-largest city, two years ago. She's a member of the Communist Party of Austria and self-describes as a Marxist)

I find this a remarkable book. The contents are basic, it's really just a long-form chance for Kahr to espouse her political views, the journalist that's supposedly doing the interrogating does not show up except for in a fawning foreword and then, presumably, as the supplier of the 6 questions that frame the chapters.

But what strikes me is the sheer simplicity of the messaging. I swim in an educated, leftish circle where nobody would dare explain what communism means to them by referring to John Lennon's "Imagine" and "Working Class Hero", but, and this is important, where also nobody manages to win any fucking elections. Kahr speaks like a moderator on public TV, appealing to a 40+ crowd with day-to-day concerns …

Sebastian Edwards: The Chile Project (2023, Princeton University Press) 4 stars

In "The Chile Project", Sebastian Edwards tells the remarkable story of how the neoliberal economic …

Helpful for understanding Chile's recent history

4 stars

I really liked this book! I found it helpful for understanding economics, the history of Chile, and the neoliberal mindset.

The core story of the book is that when neoliberalism was implemented without opposition by Pinochet after the anti-socialist coup, the country went through 8 economically difficult years of a transition to capitalism, a banking crisis, and then a gradual reaping of the economic fruits of the neoliberal reform. In particular, neoliberalism is seen to have won the war of ideas after the end of the dictatorship, with the centrist/center-left governments continuing and in some ways deepening the neoliberal reforms. These reforms led to the economic success of Chile but also increased inequality and dissatisfaction in non-economic parts of life, ultimately leading to the revolt in 2019, which was a surprised to members of the elite that considered economic markers to be sufficient for understanding the mood of the population. … assuming it's a genuine question in your title (and since I adore this book): The book was meant to be the first of a trilogy, of which only the second ("Parable of the Talents") wa also written, which may explain the fizzling out you experienced. If you're more used to plot-driven, upbeat, contemporary speculative fiction (of which I read a lot), the pace and bleakness might seem odd. To me, the bleakness is necessary to appreciate the tiny little sprouts that do come up from the words and actions that are being sown by the protagonist, and in the eponymous parable, most of the seeds fail as well. If you can immerse yourself in the world enough that mere survival as a group is grand success, you might appreciate it a bit more.

Jeremy Rifkin: The end of work (1995, G.P. Putnam's Sons) 4 stars

The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of …

The business community has long operated under the assumption that gains in productivity brought on by the introduction of new technologies rightfully belong to the stockholders and corporate management in the form of increased dividends and larger salaries and other benefits. Workers' claims on productivity advances, in the form of higher wages and reduced hours of work, have generally been regarded as illegitimate and even parasitic. Their contribution to the production process and the success of the company has always been viewed as of a lesser nature than those who provide the capital and take the risk of investing in new machinery. For that reason, any benefits that accrue to the workers from productivity advances are viewed not as a right, but rather as a gift bestowed by management

The end of work by  (Page 227)

I find this insight striking for my field of work, software development, where there is almost no work that is not intended to directly improve the efficiency offering of the company, and still productivity gains are seen as entirely due to wise investors and managers.

Jeremy Rifkin: The end of work (1995, G.P. Putnam's Sons) 4 stars

The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of …

Nearly fifty years ago, at the dawn of the computer revolution, the philosopher and psychologist Herbert Marcuse made a prophetic observation – one that has come to haunt our society as we ponder the transition into the Information Age: "Automation threatens to render possible the reversal of the relation between free time and working time: the possibility of working time becoming marginal and free time becoming full time. The result would be a radical transvaluation of values, and a mode of existence incompatible with the traditional culture. Advanced industrial society is in permanent mobilization against this possibility."

The end of work by  (Page 221)

Jeremy Rifkin: The end of work (1995, G.P. Putnam's Sons) 4 stars

The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of …

Today, the century-old utopian dream of a future techno-paradise is within sight. The technologies of the information and communication revolution hold out the long-anticipated promise of a near-workerless world in the coming century. Ironically, the closer we seem to come to the technological fruition of the utopian dream, the more dystopian the future itself appears. That's because the forces of the marketplace continue to generate production and profit, with little thought of generating additional leisure for the millions of working people whose labor is being displaced. The high-tech Information Age is now on our doorsteps. Will its arrival lead to a dangerous replay of the operating assumptions of trickle-down technology, with continued emphasis on endless produc- tion, consumption, and work? Or will the high-tech revolution lead to the realization of the age-old utopian dream of substituting machines for human labor, finally freeing humanity to journey into a post-market era? This is the great issue at hand for a world struggling to make the transition into a new period of history.

The end of work by  (Page 56)

I find it amazing that you could write this exact same paragraph today, a quarter-century later, with only marginal substitutions of AI. I wish we'd generated leisure.

quoted The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin

Jeremy Rifkin: The End of Work 4 stars

The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of …

The mass-consumption phenomenon did not occur spontane- ously, nor was it the inevitable by-product of an insatiable human nature. Quite the contrary. Economists at the tum of the century noted that most working people were content to earn just enough income to provide for their basic needs and a few luxuries, after which they preferred increased leisure time over additional work hours and extra income. According to economists of the day like Stanley Trevor and John Bates Clark, as people's income and affluence increase, a diminishing utility of returns sets in, making each increment in wealth less desirable. [...] Converting Americans from a psychology of thrift to one of spend- thrift proved a daunting task. [...] Consumption economists like Hazel Kyrk were quick to point out the commercial advantages of turning a nation of working people into status-conscious consumers. Growth, she declared, required a new level of consumer buying. "Luxuries for the well-off," she argued, had to be "turned into necessities for the poorer classes." Overproduction and technological employment could be mitigated, even eliminated, if only the working class could be re-educated toward the "dynamic consumption of luxuries." [...] Author Susan Strasser recounts the many marketing problems encountered by companies trying to sell products that never before existed and create needs that people had never before perceived: "People who never before bought com flakes were taught to need them: those formerly content to buy oats scooped from the grocer's bin were informed about why they should prefer Quaker Oats in a box. At the same time, they learned how packaged breakfast cereals fit modem urban life-styles, suiting people seeking convenience."

The End of Work by  (Page 19 - 21)

I find this fascinating, and while this particular account seems to me ascribe too much power to marketing in its capacity to sway entire people's outlooks, I'm intrigued by the idea that at one time people really did prefer working less over consuming more.