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Reading List

Jacobin series

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Verso has partnered with Jacobin magazine on a series of books offering short, radical political interventions on the most important issues of our time: housing rights, teacher's strikes, decriminalization of sex work, nationalizing corporations like Walmart, post-scarcity theorizing, the privitization of education, and (coming up soon!) the history of abortion rights organizing and the bipartisan war against immigrants.

Red State Revolt is a compelling analysis of the emergence and development of the historic teachers' strike wave, with an eye to extracting its main strategic lessons for educators, labor organizer, and radicals across the country. A former high school teacher and longtime activist, Eric Blanc embedded himself into the rank-and-file leaderships of the walkouts, where he was given access to internal organizing meetings and secret Facebook groups inaccessible to most journalists. The result is one of the richest portraits of the labor movement to date, a story populated with the voices of school workers who are winning the fight for the soul of public education—and redrawing the political map of the country at large.

Samuel Stein shows that the explosive transformation of urban life and politics has been driven not only by the tastes of wealthy newcomers, but by the state-led process of urban planning. Planning agencies provide a unique window into the ways the state uses and is used by capital, and the means by which urban renovations are translated into rising real estate values and rising rents. Capital City explains the role of planners in the real estate state, as well as the remarkable power of planning to reclaim urban life.

An engaging, polemical romp through economic theory, computational complexity, and the history of planning, The People’s Republic of Walmart revives the conversation about how society can extend democratic decision-making to all economic matters. With the advances in information technology in recent decades and the emergence of globe-straddling collective enterprises, democratic planning in the interest of all humanity is more important and closer to attainment than ever before.

Since 2011, a wave of popular uprisings has swept the globe, taking shape in the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, 15M in Spain, and the anti-austerity protests in Greece. The demands have been varied, but have expressed a consistent commitment to the ideals of radical democracy. Similar experiments began appearing across Latin America twenty-five years ago, just as the left fell into decline in Europe. In Venezuela, poor barrio residents arose in a mass rebellion against neoliberalism, ushering in a government that institutionalized the communes already forming organically.

Drawing on Erickson’s own experience as a teacher in the New York City school system, Class War reveals how modern education has become the real “hunger games,” stealing opportunity and hope from disadvantaged children for the benefit of the well-to-do.

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.

Enter the new prophets of capital: Sheryl Sandberg touting the capitalist work ethic as the antidote to gender inequality; John Mackey promising that free markets will heal the planet; Oprah Winfrey urging us to find solutions to poverty and alienation within ourselves; and Bill and Melinda Gates offering the generosity of the 1 percent as the answer to a persistent, systemic inequality. The new prophets of capital buttress an exploitative system, even as the cracks grow more visible.

The Chicago Teachers Union strike was the most important domestic labor struggle so far this century—and perhaps for the last forty years—and the strongest challenge to the conservative agenda for restructuring education, which advocates for more charter schools and tying teacher salaries to standardized testing, among other changes. The teachers took on the bipartisan, free market school reform agenda that is currently exacerbating inequality in education and waging war on teachers' livelihoods. In the age of austerity, when the public sector is under attack, Chicago teachers fought back—and won. 

In Playing the Whore, journalist Melissa Gira Grant turns these pieties on their head, arguing for an overhaul in the way we think about sex work. Based on ten years of writing and reporting on the sex trade, and grounded in her experience as an organizer, advocate, and former sex worker, Playing the Whore dismantles pervasive myths about sex work, criticizes both conditions within the sex industry and its criminalization, and argues that separating sex work from the "legitimate" economy only harms those who perform sexual labor.

Written with the wit and verve of Kunkel’s best-selling novel, Indecision, this introduction to contemporary Leftist thinkers engages with the revolutionary philosophy of Slavoj Žižek, the economic analyses of David Graeber and David Harvey, and the cultural diagnoses of Fredric Jameson. Discussing the ongoing crisis of capitalism in light of ideas of full employment, debt forgiveness, and “fictitious capital,” Utopia or Bust is a tour through the world of Marxist thought and an examination of the basis of Western society today.

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All our student reading is 50% off as part of our Back to University/School sale. Ends September 30 at 11:59PM EST. See all our student reading lists here.