Bestselling ebooks of the year

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Now is your chance to stock up on reading for the year ahead. With so many books to choose from, to make it easier here is a list of our bestselling ebooks from 2018. 
 

In The Origin of Capitalism, a now-classic work of history, Ellen Meiksins Wood offers readers a clear and accessible introduction to the theories and debates concerning the birth of capitalism, imperialism, and the modern nation state. Capitalism is not a natural and inevitable consequence of human nature, nor simply an extension of age-old practices of trade and commerce. Rather, it is a late and localized product of very specific historical conditions, which required great transformations in social relations and in the relationship between humans and nature.

In Violent Borders, Jones crosses the migrant trails of the world, documenting the billions of dollars spent on border security projects and the dire consequences for countless millions. While the poor are restricted by the lottery of birth to slum dwellings in the ailing decolonized world, the wealthy travel without constraint, exploiting pools of cheap labor and lax environmental regulations. With the growth of borders and resource enclosures, the deaths of migrants in search of a better life are intimately connected to climate change, environmental degradation, and the growth of global wealth inequality.

From rogue financial systems to shopping algorithms, from artificial intelligence to state secrecy, we no longer understand how our world is governed or presented to us. The media is filled with unverifiable speculation, much of it generated by anonymous software, while companies dominate their employees through surveillance and the threat of automation.

In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle surveys the history of art, technology, and information systems, and reveals the dark clouds that gather over our dreams of the digital sublime.

Whether class or race is the more important factor in modern politics is a question right at the heart of recent history’s most contentious debates. Among groups who should readily find common ground, there is little agreement. To escape this deadlock, Asad Haider turns to the rich legacies of the black freedom struggle. Drawing on the words and deeds of black revolutionary theorists, he argues that identity politics is not synonymous with anti-racism, but instead amounts to the neutralization of its movements. It marks a retreat from the crucial passage of identity to solidarity, and from individual recognition to the collective struggle against an oppressive social structure.

In February of 1917 Russia was a backwards, autocratic monarchy, mired in an unpopular war; by October, after not one but two revolutions, it had become the world’s first workers’ state, straining to be at the vanguard of global revolution. How did this unimaginable transformation take place?

In a panoramic sweep, stretching from St Petersburg and Moscow to the remotest villages of a sprawling empire, Miéville uncovers the catastrophes, intrigues and inspirations of 1917, in all their passion, drama and strangeness. 

This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.

In this essential new biography—the first to give equal weight to both the work and life of Karl Marx—Sven-Eric Liedman expertly navigates the imposing, complex personality of his subject through the turbulent passages of global history. A World to Win follows Marx through childhood and student days, a difficult and sometimes tragic family life, his far-sighted journalism, and his enduring friendship and intellectual partnership with Friedrich Engels.

Compulsively readable and meticulously researched, A World to Win demonstrates that, two centuries after Marx’s birth, his work remains the bedrock for any true understanding of our political and economic condition.

Everywhere we turn, a startling new device promises to transfigure our lives. But at what cost? In this urgent and revelatory excavation of our Information Age, leading technology thinker Adam Greenfield forces us to reconsider our relationship with the networked objects, services and spaces that define us. It is time to re-evaluate the Silicon Valley consensus determining the future.

Originally published in 1965, Reading Capital is a landmark of French thought and radical theory, reconstructing Western Marxism from its foundations. Louis Althusser, the French Marxist philosopher, maintained that Marx’s project could only be revived if its scientific and revolutionary novelty was thoroughly divested of all traces of humanism, idealism, Hegelianism and historicism. In order to complete this critical rereading, Althusser and his students at the École normale supérieure ran a seminar on Capital, re-examining its arguments, strengths and weaknesses in detail, and it was out of those discussions that this book was born.

Marx has returned, but which Marx? Recent biographies have proclaimed him to be an emphatically nineteenth-century figure, but in this book, Mike Davis’s first directly about Marx and Marxism, a thinker comes to light who speaks to the present as much as the past. In a series of searching, propulsive essays, Davis, the bestselling author of City of Quartz and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, explores Marx’s inquiries into two key questions of our time: Who can lead a revolutionary transformation of society? And what is the cause—and solution—of the planetary environmental crisis?

The three-volume text by Henri Lefebvre is perhaps the richest, most prescient work about modern capitalism to emerge from one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers and is now available for the first time in one complete volume. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, Critique was an inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France. It is a founding text of cultural studies and a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism.

One of America’s most historic political trials is undoubtedly that of Angela Davis. Opening with a letter from James Baldwin to Davis, and including contributions from numerous radicals such as Black Panthers George Jackson, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and Erica Huggins, this book is not only an account of Davis’s incarceration and the struggles surrounding it, but also perhaps the most comprehensive and thorough analysis of the prison system of the United State.
 

In this important intervention, Andrea Komlosy demonstrates that popular understandings of work have varied radically in different ages and countries. Looking at labour history around the globe from the thirteenth to the twenty-first centuries, Komlosy sheds light on both discursive concepts as well as the concrete coexistence of multiple forms of labour—paid and unpaid, free and unfree. From the economic structures and ideological mystifications surrounding work in the Middle Ages, all the way to European colonialism and the industrial revolution, Komlosy’s narrative adopts a distinctly global and feminist approach, revealing the hidden forms of unpaid and hyper-exploited labour which often go ignored, yet are key to the functioning of the capitalist world-system.

George Monbiot shows how new findings in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology cast human nature in a radically different light: as the supreme altruists and cooperators. He shows how we can build on these findings to create a new politics: a “politics of belonging.” Both democracy and economic life can be radically reorganized from the bottom up, enabling us to take back control and overthrow the forces that have thwarted our ambitions for a better society.

In this established classic, sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello get to the heart of contemporary capitalism. Delving deep into the latest management texts informing the thinking of employers, the authors trace the contours of a new spirit of capitalism. They argue that beginning in the mid-1970s, capitalism abandoned the hierarchical Fordist work structure and developed a new network-based form of organization founded on employee initiative and autonomy in the workplace—a putative freedom bought at the cost of material and psychological security. This was a spirit in tune with the libertarian and romantic currents of the period (as epitomized by dressed-down, cool capitalists such as Bill Gates and Ben and Jerry) and, as the authors argue, a more successful, pernicious, and subtle form of exploitation.

To further the struggle for climate justice, we need to have some idea how the existing global order is likely to adjust to a rapidly changing environment. Climate Leviathan provides a radical way of thinking about the intensifying challenges to the global order. Drawing on a wide range of political thought, Joel Wainwright and Geoff Mann argue that rapid climate change will transform the world’s political economy and the fundamental political arrangements most people take for granted. The result will be a capitalist planetary sovereignty, a terrifying eventuality that makes the construction of viable, radical alternatives truly imperative.

 Economics for the Many, edited and with an introduction by Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell, features contributions from the participants in his New Economics conferences, including Barry Gardiner, Ann Pettifor, Prem Sikka, and Guy Standing. It covers topics from housing, public ownership, and fairer international trading systems to industrial policy for the twenty-first century and how to tackle tax avoidance and regional imbalances. Together, the essays in this volume lay out a vision for a new economics, one that works for the many, not the few.

Byung-Chul Han, a star of German philosophy, continues his passionate critique of neoliberalism, trenchantly describing a regime of technological domination that, in contrast to Foucault’s biopower, has discovered the productive force of the psyche. In the course of discussing all the facets of neoliberal psychopolitics fuelling our contemporary crisis of freedom, Han elaborates an analytical framework that provides an original theory of Big Data and a lucid phenomenology of emotion. But this provocative essay proposes counter-models too, presenting a wealth of ideas and surprising alternatives at every turn.

David Roediger’s influential work on working people who have come to identify as white has so illuminated questions of identity that its grounding in Marxism has sometimes been missed. This new volume implicitly and explicitly reminds us that his ideas, and the best studies of whiteness generally, come from within the Marxist tradition. In his historical studies of the intersections of race, settler colonialism, and slavery, in his major chapter (with Elizabeth Esch) on race and the management of labor, in his detailing of the origins of critical studies of whiteness within Marxism, and in his reflections on the history of solidarity, Roediger argues that racial divisions not only tell us about the history of capitalism but also shed light on the logic of capital.

Grand Hotel Abyss combines biography, philosophy, and storytelling to reveal how the Frankfurt thinkers gathered in hopes of understanding the politics of culture during the rise of fascism. Some of them, forced to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany, later found exile in the United States. Benjamin, with his last great work—the incomplete Arcades Project—in his suitcase, was arrested in Spain and committed suicide when threatened with deportation to Nazi-occupied France. By taking popular culture seriously as an object of study—whether it was film, music, ideas, or consumerism—the Frankfurt School elaborated upon the nature and crisis of our mass-produced, mechanised society. Grand Hotel Abyss shows how much these ideas still tell us about our age of social media and runaway consumption.

In How Will Capitalism End?, the acclaimed analyst of contemporary politics and economics Wolfgang Streeck argues that the world is about to change. The marriage between democracy and capitalism, ill-suited partners brought together in the shadow of World War Two, is coming to an end. The regulatory institutions that once restrained the financial sector’s excesses have collapsed and, after the final victory of capitalism at the end of the Cold War, there is no political agency capable of rolling back the liberalization of the markets.

Peter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down. In Four Futures, Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail. Could the current rise of real-life robocops usher in a world that resembles Ender’s Game? And sure, communism will bring an end to material scarcities and inequalities of wealth—but there’s no guarantee that social hierarchies, governed by an economy of “likes,” wouldn’t rise to take their place.

How can one think of art institutions in an age defined by planetary civil war, growing inequality, and proprietary digital technology? The boundaries of such institutions have grown fuzzy. They extend from a region where the audience is pumped for tweets to a future of “neurocurating,” in which paintings surveil their audience via facial recognition and eye tracking to assess their popularity and to scan for suspicious activity. In Duty Free Art, filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl wonders how we can appreciate, or even make art, in the present age.

For nearly forty years, David Harvey has written and lectured on Capital, becoming one of the world’s foremost Marx scholars. Based on his recent lectures, this current volume—finally bringing together his guides to volumes I, II and much of III—presents this depth of learning to a broader audience, guiding first-time readers through a fascinating and deeply rewarding text. A Companion to Marx’s Capital offers fresh, original, and sometimes critical interpretations of a book that changed the course of history and, as Harvey intimates, may do so again.

Kauffman's lively and elegant history is propelled by hundreds of candid interviews conducted over a span of decades. Direct Action showcases the voices of key players in an array of movements – environmentalist, anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, feminist, LGBTQ, anti-globalization, racial-justice, anti-war, and more – across an era when American politics shifted to the right, and a constellation of decentralized issue- and identity-based movements supplanted the older ideal of a single, unified left.

How will climate change affect our lives? Where will its impacts be most deeply felt? Are we doing enough to protect ourselves from the coming chaos? In Extreme Cities, Ashley Dawson argues that cities are ground zero for climate change, contributing the lion’s share of carbon to the atmosphere, while also lying on the frontlines of rising sea levels. Today, the majority of the world’s megacities are located in coastal zones, yet few of them are adequately prepared for the floods that will increasingly menace their shores. Instead, most continue to develop luxury waterfront condos for the elite and industrial facilities for corporations. These not only intensify carbon emissions, but also place coastal residents at greater risk when water levels rise.

Historian and political thinker Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that theories of “postmodern” fragmentation, “difference,” and con-tingency can barely accommodate the idea of capitalism, let alone subject it to critique. In this book she sets out to renew the critical program of historical materialism by redefining its basic concepts and its theory of history in original and imaginative ways, using them to identify the specificity of capitalism as a system of social relations and political power. She goes on to explore the concept of democracy in both the ancient and modern world, examining its relation to capitalism, and raising questions about how democracy might go beyond the limits imposed on it.
 

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In this collection of new and previously published writings, leading activists, feminists, scholars, and writers describe the shape of the problem, chart the forms refusal has taken, and outline possible solutions. Importantly, they also describe the longer histories of organizing against sexual violence that the #MeToo moment obscures—among working women, women of color, undocumented women, imprisoned women, poor women, among those who don’t conform to traditional gender roles—and discern from these practices a freedom that is more than notional, but embodied and uncompromising.

A collection of extracts from leading second-wave feminists, including Michèle Barrett, Mary McIntosh, Lynne Segal, Sheila Rowbotham and Juliet Mitchell.

When John Maynard Keynes published The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money in the middle of the Great Depression, he predicted it would “revolutionize” economics. He was right. The book was celebrated as the destruction of “free-market” reason, cursed as a justification for government meddling, and denounced as an elite attempt to make capitalism easier to swallow—but few would deny that it upended a century of liberal capitalist common sense. “Keynesianism” changed how people understood market-based economies, and, maybe more than any other book, The General Theory helped shape the twentieth century. And yet, hardly anyone has read it. What exactly did Keynes say that caused such a storm? What ideas convinced so many he had “revolutionized” economics?

Featuring essays on the reinvention of the alt-right by journalist David Neiwert, the May Day protests of 1971 by long-time activist L.A. Kauffman, the legacy of the Russian Revolution by award-winning author China Miéville, the evolution of political policing by sociologist Alex Vitale, the perils of desire and the joys of collective action by Lynne Segal, and lots more!

The Brexit Crisis gathers together some of the most insightful and provocative reactions to this moment, from the UK and abroad, examining what happened on the 23 June and what this might mean for the UK and the EU as a whole. It looks at the ruptures, false promises and ingrained racism revealed during the campaign and afterwards. As the UK heads towards the exit, what is to be done?

In 1968, the French Marxist philosopher Henri Lefebvre wrote “Le Droit a la Ville” (“The Right to the City”), which has become one of the most essential texts in radical geography and urban studies. It transformed the way we think about urban life and the right to make and remake our cities, and ourselves. Fifty years on, the question of who is the city is for, and why, is more urgent than ever.

The Anti-Inauguration presents an initial discussion of what resistance should look like in the age of Trump—and what kind of future we should be fighting for. Featuring contributions from Naomi Klein, Jeremy Scahill, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Anand Gopal, and Owen Jones.