Reading List

Emerging Futures

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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.
 

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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?

“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. 

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.

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.

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.

A pocket colour manifesto for a new futuristic feminism.

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.

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

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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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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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

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 

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.

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.

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

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.

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