If you think the latest tome of Giddens’ Sociology is the one textbook you need to get you through your undergraduate days, think again. Impress your tutor and learn something beyond the lecture theatre with these essential Verso titles.
Bolster any politics, philosophy, economics, literature, sociology or history essay with one of these books and not only score the grade, but begin your lifelong love affair with radical writers.
We are black, it is true, but tell us, gentlemen, you who are so judicious, what is the law that says that the black man must belong to and be the property of the white man? ... Yes, gentleman, we are free like you, and it is only by your avarice and our ignorance that anyone is still held in slavery up to this day, and we can neither see nor find the right that you pretend to have over us ... We are your equals then, by natural right, and if nature pleases itself to diversify colours within the human race, it is not a crime to be born black nor an advantage to be white.
This excerpt is from a letter written in July 1792 by the leaders of the revolution of Haitian slaves. The letter has been republished in the collection of writings of the black leader Toussaint L'Overture, The Haitian Revolution, which includes also the correspondence between him and Napoleon Bonaparte. In the late eighteenth century, Toussaint L'Overture and his supporters established the first black republic in the world.
In the United Kingdom, October is Black History Month. The celebration was originally introduced in 1926 on the initiative of Carter G. Woodson, the editor of the Journal of Negro History. In 2007, no fewer than 6,000 events were held in the UK as part of its programme. Here are some key Verso titles past and present that are relevant to the study and celebration of African and Caribbean history.
Barbaric Sport: A Global Plague — Marc Perelman
Perelman’s book takes a subversive look at sport and global sporting events such as the Olympics to reveal their darker side. He argues that sport has become an instrument of political control and a vehicle for capitalist monoculture. This timely polemic offers refreshing reading to those looking for an antidote to this summer’s Olympian frenzy.
Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism — Stephen Graham
This authoritative study examines the rapid and dangerous spread and normalization of surveillance and state policing in western cities and warzones alike under the guise of national security. As such it provides an unsettling and provocative insight into the global backdrop of the rising costs and militarization of London’s Olympic Games security operation.
A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys through Urban Britain— Owen Hatherley
Hatherley’s critical tour of Britain’s urban centres incorporates the latest and most high profile attempt at regeneration offering a carefully considered indictment of the architectural and social failures of Stratford’s Olympic sites.
Immanuel Wallerstein, writing for Al Jazeera, argues that the spirit of 1968 flows through Arab Spring and Occupy movement, but warns that its counter-current is attempting to suppress real change.
Wallerstein, co-author of Anti-Systemic Movements, argues that the Arab Spring is composed of "two quite different currents" that are "going in radically different directions," - something that has not be been fully analysed. Understanding this division is key to negotiating a sustainable resistance.
Wallerstein identifies one of these currents as "the 1968 current", or the "second Arab revolt" which aims to "achieve the global autonomy of the Arab world" that was prevented by Franco-British measure during the "first Arab revolt". Arguing that the Arab Spring is the heir of the "world revolution of 1968," Wallerstein points out that both movements are rooted in anti-authoritarianism and rejection of corrupt power systems. He writes that, like the rebels in the Arab world,
the revolutionaries of 1968 were protesting against the inherently undemocratic behaviour of those in authority. This was a revolt against such use (or misuse) of authority at all levels: the level of the world-system as a whole; the level of the national and local governments; the level of the multiple non-governmental institutions in which people take part or to which they are subordinated (from workplaces to educational structures to political parties and trade-unions).
The Occupy Wall Street movement - for now it is a movement - is the most important political happening in the United States since the uprisings in 1968, whose direct descendant or continuation it is.
Why it started in the United States when it did - and not three days, three months, three years earlier or later - we'll never know for sure. The conditions were there: acutely increasing economic pain not only for the truly poverty-stricken but for an ever-growing segment of the working poor (otherwise known as the "middle class"); incredible exaggeration (exploitation, greed) of the wealthiest 1% of the U.S. population ("Wall Street"); the example of angry upsurges around the world (the "Arab spring," the Spanish indignados, the Chilean students, the Wisconsin trade unions, and a long list of others). It doesn't really matter what the spark was that ignited the fire. It started.
In Stage one - the first few days - the movement was a handful of audacious, mostly young, persons who were trying to demonstrate. The press ignored them totally. Then some stupid police captains thought that a bit of brutality would end the demonstrations. They were caught on film and the film went viral on YouTube.