Reading list

Emerging Futures

A reading list of utopian thinking featuring Leslie Kern, Aaron Bastani, James Bridle, Andrea Long Chu, and Lizzie O’Shea.

Verso Books 5 August 2021

Emerging Futures

In this moment of pandemic, economic crisis and wide-scale rejection of establishment politics, we need utopian and radical visions of society more than ever. This is not escapist wishful thinking but a reimagining of society as one that values people over profits, that rules democratically and collectively, that provides for the needs of all citizens.

The following books question what our future might look like, offering utopian thinking that can inform our social movements today.

All our student reading is 40% off as part of our Back to University/School sale. Ends September 30, 23:59 EST. See all our student reading lists here.

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Through history, personal experience and popular culture Leslie Kern exposes what is hidden in plain sight: the social inequalities built into our cities, homes, and neighborhoods. Kern offers an alternative vision of the feminist city. Taking on fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, and the joys and perils of being alone, Kern maps the city from new vantage points, laying out an intersectional feminist approach to urban histories and proposes that the city is perhaps also our best hope for shaping a new urban future.

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Taking as its inspiration the new wave of feminist militancy that has erupted globally, this manifesto makes a simple but powerful case: feminism shouldn’t start—or stop—with the drive to have women represented at the top of their professions. It must focus on those at the bottom, and fight for the world they deserve. And that means targeting capitalism. Feminism must be anticapitalist, eco-socialist and antiracist.

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This anthology, global in scope, presents voices of dissent from every era of human history: speeches and pamphlets, poems and songs, plays and manifestos. Every age has its iconoclasts, and yet the greatest among them build on the words and actions of their forerunners. The Verso Book of Dissent should be in the arsenal of every rebel who understands that words and ideas are the ultimate weapons.

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In Fully Automated Luxury Communism, Aaron Bastani conjures a vision of extraordinary hope, showing how we move to energy abundance, feed a world of 9 billion, overcome work, transcend the limits of biology, and establish meaningful freedom for everyone. Rather than a final destination, such a society merely heralds the real beginning of history.

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Key intellectuals—inspired by the new movements and by the seminal work of the scholar Cedric J. Robinson—recall the powerful tradition of Black radicalism while defining new directions for the activists and thinkers it inspires.

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How can we learn to value difference when it is too often enlisted in the service of domination? Hark and Villa make a compelling case for the urgent necessity for a detoxification of feminism as a matter of urgency, and for an ethical mode of living-with the world, that is, living with alterity.

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One day in the spring of 2013, a box appeared outside a fourth-floor apartment door in Brooklyn, New York. The recipient, who didn’t know the sender, only knew she was supposed to bring this box to a friend, who would ferry it to another friend. This was Edward Snowden’s box—materials proving that the U.S. government had built a massive surveillance apparatus and used it to spy on its own people–and the friend on the end of this chain was filmmaker Laura Poitras.

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Erik Olin Wright has distilled decades of work into this concise and tightly argued manifesto: analyzing the varieties of anticapitalism, assessing different strategic approaches, and laying the foundations for a society dedicated to human flourishing. How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century is an urgent and powerful argument for socialism, and an unparalleled guide to help us get there

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In his brilliant book, 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.

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In the age of runaway inequality and Black Lives matter, there is an emerging consensus that our society has failed to redress racial disparities. But who is the culprit?

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“Everyone is female, and everyone hates it.”

Females is Andrea Long Chu’s genre-defying investigation into sex and lies, desperate artists and reckless politics, the smothering embrace of gender and the punishing force of desire. 

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In Bigger than Bernie, activist writers Meagan Day and Micah Uetricht give us an intimate map of this emerging movement to remake American politics top to bottom, profiling the grassroots organizers who are building something bigger, and more ambitious, than the career of any one candidate.

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In Revolting Prostitutes, sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring a fresh perspective to questions that have long been contentious. Speaking from a growing global sex worker rights movement, and situating their argument firmly within wider questions of migration, work, feminism, and resistance to white supremacy, they make clear that anyone committed to working towards justice and freedom should be in support of the sex worker rights movement.

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Rather than looking at surrogacy through a legal lens, Lewis argues that the needs and protection of surrogates should be put front and center. Their relationship to the babies they gestate must be rethought, as part of a move to recognize that reproduction is productive work. Only then can we begin to break down our assumptions that children “belong” to those whose genetics they share. Taking collective responsibility for children would radically transform our notions of kinship, helping us to see that it always takes a village to make a baby.

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A pocket colour manifesto for a new futuristic feminism.

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When we talk about technology we always talk about the future—which makes it hard to figure out how to get there. In Future Histories, Lizzie O’Shea argues that we need to stop looking forward and start looking backwards. Weaving together histories of computing and social movements with modern theories of the mind, society, and self, O’Shea constructs a “usable past” that help us determine our digital future.

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Sinews of War and Trade is the story of what the making of new ports and shipping infrastructure has meant not only for the Arabian peninsula itself, but for the region and the world beyond. The book is an account of how maritime transportation is not simply an enabling companion of trade, but central to the very fabric of global capitalism. 

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24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep explores some of the ruinous consequences of the expanding non-stop processes of twenty-first-century capitalism. The marketplace now operates through every hour of the clock, pushing us into constant activity and eroding forms of community and political expression, damaging the fabric of everyday life. 

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In this radical and visionary new book, McKenzie Wark argues that information has empowered a new kind of ruling class. Through the ownership and control of information, this emergent class dominates not only labour but capital as traditionally understood as well. And it’s not just tech companies like Amazon and Google. Even Walmart and Nike can now dominate the entire production chain through the ownership of not much more than brands, patents, copyrights, and logistical systems. 

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Leading artists, theorists, and writers exhume the dystopian and utopian futures contained within the present.

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Peter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down. 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.

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NOT AVAILABLE IN NORTH AMERICA

An international bestseller, originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put forth a feminist theory of politics. She presents feminism as the key radical ideology, the missing link between Marx and Freud, uniting their visions of the political and the personal. The Dialectic of Sex remains remarkably relevant today—a testament to Firestone’s startlingly prescient vision. 

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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.

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What is the true meaning of happiness? Radical Happiness is a passionate call for the re-discovery of the political and emotional joy that emerge when we learn to share our lives together.

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What is the function of art in the era of digital globalization? In Duty Free Art, filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl wonders how we can appreciate, or even make art, in the present age.

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The acclaimed analyst of contemporary politics and economics argues that capitalism is now in a critical condition. Growth is giving way to secular stagnation; inequality is leading to instability; and confidence in the capitalist money economy has all but evaporated.

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Inventing the Future is a bold new manifesto for life after capitalism. Against the confused understanding of our high-tech world by both the right and the left, this book claims that the emancipatory and future-oriented possibilities of our society can be reclaimed. Instead of running from a complex future, this book demands a postcapitalist economy capable of advancing standards, liberating humanity from work and developing technologies that expand our freedoms.

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What is it that makes humans human? As science and technology challenge the boundaries between life and non-life, between organic and inorganic, this ancient question is more timely than ever. Acclaimed object-oriented philosopher Timothy Morton invites us to consider this philosophical issue as eminently political.

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Five hundred years since its first publication, Thomas More’s Utopia remains astonishingly radical and provocative. In this quincentenary edition, More’s text is introduced by multi-award-winning author China Miéville and accompanied by four essays from Ursula K. Le Guin, today’s most distinguished utopian writer and thinker.

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The essays in this book—some newly written, others gathered from scattered sources—look at the ways in which contemporary science fiction films draw on, rework, and transform established themes and conventions of the genre: the mise-en-scene of future worlds; the myth of masculine mastery of nature; power and authority and their relation to technology.

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A companion volume to Alien Zone, this book continues to pursue the critical and theoretical issues opened up in the earlier book and energetically explores fresh territory with an eye which is both reflective and interventionist: visionary cities, psycho-cybernetics, internet fandom, the convergence of science fiction literature and science action film, the body and its limits are just some of the subjects brought under its gaze.

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“Murphy tells the story of this counter-revolution pithily and well. . . A fresh and haunting way of explaining what happened to the radical 60s and 70s as a whole, in Murphy’s view quite possibly the last chance the west had of creating a decent and environmentally sustainable society.” – Andy Beckett, Guardian

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After the financial crash and the Great Recession, the media rediscovered Karl Marx, socialist theory, and the very idea that capitalism can be questioned.

“For anyone who cares about historical necessity, the crisis of capitalism, and our fate.” – Rachel Kushner 

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Fredric Jameson’s path breaking essay “An American Utopia” radically questions standard leftist notions of what constitutes an emancipated society. Includes responses from philosophers and political and cultural analysts, as well as an epilogue from Jameson himself.

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A toxic ideology of extreme competition and individualism has come to dominate our world. Only a positive vision can replace it, a new story that re-engages people in politics and lights a path to a better future.Urgent and passionate, Out of the Wreckage provides the hope and clarity required to change the world.

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Keller Easterling reveals the nexus of emerging governmental and corporate forces buried within the concrete and fiber-optics of our modern habitat.

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This wry and highly readable investigation of the role of space travel in popular imagination looks at the way NASA has openly borrowed from the TV show Star Trek to reinforce its public standing. It also celebrates the work of a group of the show’s fans who rewrite its storylines in porno-romance fanzines. Constance Penley advocates that scientific experimentation be accompanied by social and sexual experimentation, and devoted to exploring inner as well as outer space.

Feminist City
What should a metropolis for working women look like? A city of friendships beyond Sex and the City. A transit system that accommodates mothers with strollers on the school run. A public space wi...
Feminism for the 99%
Unaffordable housing, poverty wages, healthcare, climate change, border policing; not the issues you ordinarily hear feminists talking about. But don’t these issues impact the vast majority of wome...
The Verso Book of Dissent
Throughout the ages and across every continent, people have struggled against those in power and raised their voices in protest-rallying others around them or, sometimes, inspiring uprisings many y...
Fully Automated Luxury Communism
Fully Automated Luxury Communism promises a radically new left future for everyone. New technologies will liberate us from work, providing the opportunity to build a society beyond both capitalism ...
Futures of Black Radicalism
Black rebellion has returned, with dramatic protests in scores of cities and campuses, bringing with it a renewed engagement with the history of Black radical movements and thought. Here, key schol...
The Future of Difference
The Future of Difference theorises contemporary regimes of power as engaged primarily in the violent production of difference. In this moment, the logic of ‘other and rule’ thoroughly permeates the...
Snowden's Box
One day in the spring of 2013, a box appeared outside a fourth-floor apartment door in Brooklyn, New York. The recipient, who didn’t know the sender, only knew she was supposed to bring this box to...
How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century
Capitalism has transformed the world and increased our productivity, but at the cost of enormous human suffering. Our shared values equality and fairness, democracy and freedom, community and solid...
New Dark Age
From the highly acclaimed author of WAYS OF BEING. We live in times of increasing inscrutability. Our news feeds are filled with unverified, unverifiable speculation, much of it automatically gener...
Toward Freedom
For many progressives, racial identities are the engine of American history, and by extension, contemporary politics. They, in short, want to separate race from class. While policymakers and pundit...
Females
“Everyone is female, and everyone hates it.”So begins Andrea Long Chu’s genre-defying investigation into sex and lies, desperate artists and reckless politics, the smothering embrace of gender and ...
Bigger Than Bernie
The political ambitions of the movement behind Bernie Sanders have never been limited to winning the White House. Since Bernie first entered the presidential primaries in 2016, his supporters have ...
Revolting Prostitutes
How the law harms sex workers - and what they want insteadDo you have to endorse prostitution in order to support sex worker rights? Should clients be criminalized, and can the police deliver justi...
Full Surrogacy Now
"Rooted in historical, site-based, narrative, and political accounts, Full Surrogacy Now is the seriously radical cry for full gestational justice that I long for. This kind of gestation depends on...
The Xenofeminist Manifesto
The Xenofeminist Manifesto is an attempt to articulate a feminism fit for the twenty-first century. Unafraid of exploring the potentials of technology, exploring both oppressive and emancipatory po...
Future Histories
The key to understanding technology lies not in the future--but in the past. That's the contention of Lizzie O'Shea's Future Histories, a grand tour through past and present to explore the practica...
Sinews of War and Trade
On the map of global trade, China is now the factory of the world. A parade of ships full of raw commodities—iron ore, coal, oil—arrive in its ports, and fleets of container ships leave with manufa...
24/7
24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep explores some of the ruinous consequences of the expanding non-stop processes of twenty-first-century capitalism. The marketplace now operates through ev...
Paperback
Capital Is Dead
In this radical and visionary new book, McKenzie Wark argues that the all-pervasive presence of data in our networked society has given rise to a new mode of production, one not ruled over by capit...
Supercommunity
“I am the supercommunity, and you are only starting to recognize me. I grew out of something that used to be humanity. Some have compared me to angry crowds in public squares; others compare me to ...
Four Futures
“It is easier to imagine the end of the world,” the theorist Fredric Jameson has remarked, “than to imagine the end of capitalism.” Jacobin Editor Peter Frase argues that technological advancements...
The Dialectic of Sex
An international bestseller, originally published in 1970, when Shulamith Firestone was just twenty-five years old, The Dialectic of Sex was the first book of the women’s liberation movement to put...
Paperback
Radical Technologies
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 Gree...
Radical Happiness
Why are we so obsessed by the pursuit of happiness? With new ways to measure contentment we are told that we have a right to individual joy. But at what cost? In an age of increasing individualis...
Duty Free Art
In Duty Free Art, filmmaker and writer Hito Steyerl wonders how we can appreciate, or even make art, in the present age. What can we do when arms manufacturers sponsor museums, and some of the worl...
How Will Capitalism End?
After years of ill health, capitalism is now in a critical condition. Growth has given way to stagnation; inequality is leading to instability; and confidence in the money economy has all but evapo...
Inventing the Future
Neoliberalism isn’t working. Austerity is forcing millions into poverty and many more into precarious work, while the left remains trapped in stagnant political practices that offer no respite.Inve...
Humankind
What is it that makes humans human? As science and technology challenge the boundaries between life and non-life, between organic and inorganic, this ancient question is more timely than ever. Accl...
Utopia
Five hundred years since its first publication, Thomas More’s Utopia remains astonishingly radical and provocative. More imagines an island nation where thousands live in peace and harmony, men and...
Alien Zone
This is especially true of the science fiction film—a genre as old as cinema itself—which has rarely received the serious attention devoted to such genres as the western, the film noir and recently...
Alien Zone II

Alien Zone II

Science fiction, more than any other film genre, allows cinema to exhibit its own distinctive matters of expression. Whether these be the state-of-the-art special effects technologies of 2001: A Sp...
Last Futures
In the late 1960s the world was faced with impending disaster: the height of the Cold War, the end of oil, and the decline of great cities throughout the world. Out of this crisis came a new genera...
Utopia or Bust
After the financial crash and the Great Recession, the media rediscovered Karl Marx, socialist theory, and the very idea that capitalism can be questioned.But in spite of the publicity, the main...
An American Utopia

An American Utopia

Fredric Jameson’s pathbreaking essay “An American Utopia” radically questions standard leftist notions of what constitutes an emancipated society. Advocated here are—among other things—universal co...
Out of the Wreckage
Today, our lives are dominated by an ideology of extreme competition and individualism. It misrepresents human nature, destroying hope and common purpose. But we cannot replace it without a positiv...
Extrastatecraft
Extrastatecraft is the operating system of the modern world: the skyline of Dubai, the subterranean pipes and cables sustaining urban life, free-trade zones, the standardized dimensions of credit c...
NASA/TREK
This wry and highly readable investigation of the role of space travel in popular imagination looks at the way NASA has openly borrowed from the TV show Star Trek to reinforce its public standing. ...

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