A Reading List for the Olympics: Part One

Missing

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 UrbanismStephen 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 BritainOwen 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.


Savage Messiah
Laura Oldfield Ford

This complete facsimile of Ford’s fanzine takes the reader on a visual journey through the London’s forgotten fringes struggling with the prospect of regeneration in the face of the Olympics and beyond, proffering a vision of the reality of the Olympic legacy. 

 A People's History of LondonLindsey German & John Rees

London’s history viewed through the eyes of the people that made it culminates with the argument that 2012’s Olympic project is so misguided that in fact it will only serve to exacerbate the ever-growing chasm between rich and poor, powerful and disenfranchised that inspired the radical and revolutionary events that he documents.

Imagined CommunitiesBenedict Anderson

The concept of nationalism is at the core of the Olympic Games.  This revision of Anderson’s important book offers the definitive examination of the fundamental questions surrounding the notion of nation.

Enchanted Glass: Britain and its MonarchyTom Nairn

After the excesses of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, the London Olympic Games provide yet another opportunity to evaluate the meaning of Britishness.  Nairn’s book provides insight into the relationship between the two events by examining the impact of the monarchy on Britain’s national identity.

Comments on the Society of the SpectacleGuy Debord

Guy Debord’s seminal 1967 Situationist thesis, The Society of Spectacle provides a theoretical context to critique the spectacle that is the 2012 Olympic Games.  Comments on the Society of the Spectacle affirms the continuing relevance of Debord’s ideas.  Written twenty years later, Debord revisited the themes of the original book and applied his thinking to the period when the 'integrated spectacle' was dominant.

Race, Nation, Class. Ambiguous Identities  Immanuel Wallerstein and Etienne Balibar

This dialogue between the French philosopher Etienne Balibar and the American historian and sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein addresses the pertinent issue of nationalism within the context of the racism debate and its relationship to contemporary society. 

The Coming of the Body — Hervé Juvin

How does the physical prowess of this summer’s Olympians affect our perception of the body?  Does it exacerbate contemporary society’s fixations with youth and health? Juvin’s investigation into the growing and increasingly commercialised obsession with beauty and longevity, and the lengths we will go to enhance both, highlights how capitalist society has alienated humans from their bodies.

The Emancipated Spectator— Jacques Rancière

A reading of Jacques Rancière’s follow-up to The Future of the Image is particularly provocative after last week’s Olympics opening ceremony.  This incisive study questions the political nature of art and as such offers a framework by which to assess the place of such communal artistic spectacles within contemporary society.