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How Did We Get Into This Mess?

Verso Books15 December 2016

How Did We Get Into This Mess?

A British politics reading list


It's been a landmark year for this rainy island. Labour coup attempts, Brexit chaos, rising poverty, thriving right-wing politics, and yet! we've seen more outrage over a potential marmite shortage than the spike in racially motivated attacks.

Beyond that, there's been an accelerated rise of the far-right throughout Europe (and, of course, the horror in the US), a refugee crisis so poorly managed that an even worse humanitarian crisis awaits us in 2017, and a global climate catastrophe that isn't going away but continues to be (largely) ignored. Capitalism is still doing it's bit for the rich, whilst failing everyone else, creating a wealth divide so large that it's hard to see where it will end.

Our British politics reading list includes books that look at these very issues, as well as the historical contexts and political conditions that have allowed them to thrive in the last year. Until Jan 1: all our print books are 50% off (with free shipping worldwide and bundled ebooks), all our ebooks are 90% off.

Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
 by Richard Seymour
Seymour tells the story of how Corbyn’s rise was made possible by the long decline of Labour and a deep crisis in British democracy. It surveys the makeshift coalition of trade unionists, young and precarious workers, and students who rallied to Corbyn. It shows how a novel social media campaign turned the media’s “Project Fear” on its head, making a virtue of every accusation thrown at him. And finally it asks, with all the artillery that is still ranged against Corbyn, and given the crisis-ridden Labour Party that he has inherited, what it would mean for him to succeed.

Inequality and the 1% by Danny Dorling
Since the great recession hit in 2008, the 1% has only grown richer while the rest find life increasingly tough. 

What is to be done? In Inequality and the 1% leading social thinker Danny Dorling lays bare the extent and true cost of the division in our society and asks what have the superrich ever done for us. He shows that inquality is the greatest threat we face and why we must urgently redress the balance.

Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else by James Meek
How the British government packaged and sold its people to the world— winner of the Orwell Prize for Books.

“The essential public good that Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and now Cameron sell is not power stations, or trains, or hospitals. It’s the public itself. it’s us.”

Urgent, powerfully written and deeply moving, this is a passionate anatomy of the state of the nation: of what we have lost and what losing it cost us – the rent we must pay to exist on this private island.

The Ministry of Nostalgia: Consuming Austerity by Owen Hatherley
In this brilliant polemical rampage, Owen Hatherley shows how our past is being resold in order to defend the indefensible. From the marketing of a “make do and mend” aesthetic to the growing nostalgia for a utopian past that never existed, a cultural distraction scam prevents people grasping the truth of their condition.

The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani
A powerful critique of UK and US surveillance and repression of Muslims and prosecution of homegrown terrorism.

Based on several years of research and reportage, in locations as disperate as Texas, New York and Yorkshire, and written in engrossing, precise prose, this is the first comprehensive critique of counterradicalization strategies

Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move by Reece Jones
A major new exploration of the refugee crisis, focusing on how borders are formed and policed.

"This book is the antidote to the world of walls that we live in, an argument for a world of humanity." – Vijay Prashad, author of The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South

Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain's Far Right
 by Daniel Trilling

The rise and fall of the British National Party and the English Defence League

“Racism and the rise of the far-right in Britain are often discussed but rarely understood. Daniel Trilling is an exception … his voice must be heard.” – Owen Jones

How Will Capitalism End?: Essays on a Failing System by Wolfgang Streeck
“Streeck writes devastatingly and cogently … How Will Capitalism End?provides not so much a … forecast as a warning.” Martin Wolf, Financial Times

“At the heart our era’s deepening crisis there lies a touching faith that capitalism, free markets and democracy go hand in hand. Wolfgang Streeck’s new book deconstructs this myth, exposing the deeply illiberal, irrational, anti-humanist tendencies of contemporary capitalism.” – Yanis Varoufakis

How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature by George Monbiot
Leading political and environmental commentator on where we have gone wrong, and what to do about it.

“A dazzling command of science and relentless faith in people … I never miss reading him.” – Naomi Klein

Working Class Politics in Crisis: Essays on Labour and the State by Leo Panitch
Panitch examines the British Labour Party in the 1960s and 70s as a classic example of social democracy in power. He also considers the genesis and development of corporatism in such liberal democracies as Sweden and West Germany, developing a non-corporatist socialist alternative.

Politics in a Time of Crisis: Podemos and the Future of Democracy in Europe by Pablo Iglesias
Since 2011, Pablo Iglesias has led Podemos, a new radical left party in Spain that is reframing the nature of modern politics. Under his guidance, the party has unmasked the ideological motives behind European austerity, revealing the true nature of this power grab conducted on behalf of elites intent on dismantling the welfare state. 

Politics in a Time of Crisis is a manifesto for a new, democratic left: a political programme poised to transform Europe.

The ABCs of Socialism edited by Bhaskar Sunkara
This book steps into this moment to offer a clear, accessible, informative, and irreverent guide to socialism for the uninitiated. Disarming and pitched to a general readership without sacrificing intellectual depth, this will be the best introduction an idea whose time seems to have come again.

The New Rulers of the World by John Pilger
Pilger tackles the injustices and double standards inherent in the politics of globalization and exposes the terrible truth behind the power and wealth of states and corporations.

The Age of Jihad: Islamic State and the Great War for the Middle East
by Patrick Cockburn
From the award-winning author of The Rise of Islamic State, the essential story of the Middle East’s disintegration.

"This book confirms Cockburn's reputation as a reporter and analyst." – Max Hastings, Sunday Times

The Verso Book of Dissent: Revolutionary Words from Three Millennia of Rebellion and Resistance edited by Andrew Hsiao and Audrea Lim. Preface by Tariq Ali
A compendium of revolt and resistance throughout the ages, updated for 2016 to include resistance to war and economic oppression from Beijing and Cairo to Moscow and New York City.

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams
A major new manifesto for a high-tech future, free from work.

“A powerful book: it not only shows us how the postcapitalist world of rapidly improving technology could make us free, but it also shows us how we can organise to get there. This is a must-read.” – Paul Mason, author of Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future

The BBC: Myth of a Public Service by Tom Mills
The BBC: The mouthpiece of the Establishment?

“Impressive ... a direct challenge to the notion of the BBC as a pillar of liberalism and social democracy” – Ivor Gaber, Times Higher Education

The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left by Stuart Hall
Stuart Hall's writings on the political impact of Margaret Thatcher; establishing him as the most prescient and insightful analysts of contemporary Conservatism. 

The End of Parliamentary Socialism: From New Left to New Labour by Colin Leys and Leo Panitch
This trenchant account of the last twenty-five years of the British Labour Party argues that Tony Blair's modernizing tendency was profoundly mistaken in asserting that the only alternative to traditional social democracy and narrow parliamentarianism was an acceptance of neo-liberalism. In this new edition, the authors, in collaboration with David Coates, review the debate in light of the Blair government's first three years in office.

A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain by Owen Hatherley
A darkly humorous architectural guide to the decrepit new Britain that neoliberalism built.

Against the Troika: Crisis and Austerity in the Eurozone by Heiner Flassback and Costas Lapavitsas
The Eurozone is in a deep and prolonged crisis. It is now clear that monetary union is a historic failure, beyond repair—and certainly not in the interests of Europe’s working people. This book is a radical anti-capitalist alternative to Eurozone austerity.

NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Health Care by Allyson M. Pollock
How the ideal of universal healthcare was eroded by the application of market principles. 

The Enemy Within: The Secret War Against the Miners by Seumas Milne
"The best book on the Thatcher era", according to Naomi Klein, The Enemy Within reveals the astonishing lengths to which her government and its intelligence machine were prepared to go to destroy the power of Britain’s miners’ union. In this 30th anniversary edition new material brings the story up to date with further revelations about the secret war against organized labour and political dissent, and the devastating price paid for the Thatcher administration's onslaught by communities across Britain.

The Extreme Centre: A Warning by Tariq Ali
Britain’s leading radical delivers an eviscerating attack on the indistinguishable political elite of the UK.

Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy by Peter Mair
"Every so often one comes across a book, a poem or a work of art that is so original, perfectly crafted, accurate and true that you can’t get it out of your head... Peter Mair has written what is by far and away the most powerful, learned and persuasive anti-EU treatise I have come across." - Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph 

Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class by Owen Jones
The book that made his name, Chavs is an acclaimed investigation into the class structure of contemporary Britain through the lens of the "Chav". Exposing the ignorance and prejudice at the heart of the caricature, Jones portrays a far more complex reality. The chav stereotype, he argues, is used by governments as a convenient figleaf to avoid genuine engagement with social and economic problems and to justify widening inequality.

English Questions by Perry Anderson
Examines British society in the sixties, and the changes wrought by the next two decades.

Class War Conservatism and Other Essays
by Ralph Miliband
When, in 2013, the Daily Mail labeled Ralph Miliband “The Man Who Hated Britain,” a diverse host rallied to his defense. This book collects together his most significant political essays and shows the scope and brilliance of his thinking. 

Border Vigils: Keeping Migrants Out of the Rich World by Jeremy Harding
Searing reportage and analysis of the new politics of immigration in both Europe and America.

The New Old World by Perry Anderson

A magisterial analysis of Europe's development since the end of the Cold War.

All Until Jan 1: all our print books are 50% off (with free shipping worldwide and bundled ebooks), all our ebooks are 90% off.  See our End of Year Highlights and Gift Guide