All Reviews

Secular Moralism

Michel Wieviorka, Evil

reviewed by Belinda Webb-Blofeld

Evil is not a subject often included in course modules; it belongs more to tabloid headlines, teen-speak (that's ee-vILL) and the religious - although it is to be found in philosophy. It is non-rational, and non-scientific, both in its activity, and in how we react to it. In his new work, Evil, Michel Wieviorka, Professor of Sociology at Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, lays out the case for thinking about 'evil' as 'social', as opposed to theological. He develops a... [read more]

The Neglected Modernist

Volker M. Welter, Ernst L. Freud, Architect: The Case of the Modern Bourgeois Home

reviewed by Luke White

Histories of modern architecture tend to accord Ernst Freud (youngest son of Sigmund, and father in turn to celebrity sons Lucian and Clement) only a marginal place, in spite of the high profile of his practice in 1920s Berlin, and then in London, where he moved in 1933. At the core of Volker M Welter’s excavation of this neglected figure, is an argument about the structural reasons for his marginalisation from such histories. These understand modernism’s importance to lie in the... [read more]

Home Economics

Helma Lutz, The New Maids: Transnational Women in the Care Economy

reviewed by Zoe Williams

The stated questions of Helma Lutz’s book, The New Maids: Transnational Women in the Care Economy, are these – ‘whether and how domestic / care work changes when it becomes commodified; whether gender transformations take place in the employers’ households as a result of the “new maids” working there, and if so, in what direction; and finally, what consequences this transnational service employment has for family and gender relationships in the countries of origin’. The breadth... [read more]

The Kids Divided

Stephen Duncombe and Maxwell Tremblay Eds., White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race

reviewed by David Renton

Punk is responsible for some of the most compelling and the angriest music of the past forty years. Punk, at its best, became a shorthand for a whole family of artistic expression, oppositional and accessible (speeding up, decades before the net, the transition from audience to producer), both musical and visual. Escaping from its original settings in London, Manchester, Leeds, and other English cities, punk crossed the Atlantic and defined a counter-culture of innovation (the Dead Kennedys, US... [read more]


Eugene Holland, Nomad Citizenship: Free-Market Communism and the Slow-Motion General Strike

reviewed by Benjamin Noys

The provocation of Eugene W. Holland’s book is most immediately obvious in its use of the oxymoron in its title, but more shocking is the sub-title’s invocation of ‘free-market communism’. What on earth could the free-market, beloved of the doyens of capitalism, have to do with communism? Holland aims to provide the answer. Of course, recently we have become used to communism being back on the theoretical agenda, with the rolling road-show of the ‘Idea of Communism’ conferences... [read more]

Motive Force

Jonathan Grossman, Charles Dickens’s Networks: Public Transport and the Novel

reviewed by Gee Williams

There’s a wonderful fantasy engraving run across this book’s front and back covers entitled ‘Train of Coaches’. Depicted is a series of coach bodies, their horses uncoupled but complete with coachmen and buglers, trunks piled on roofs, Regency bucks and women of fashion gazing out beneath elegant blinds: each is set upon a primitive goods wagon, the whole lot being drawn by a steam locomotive. The illustration is from 1823 (only six years after the death of Jane Austen, fiction’s... [read more]

The Power of Culture

Carl Freedman, The Age of Nixon: A Study in Cultural Power

reviewed by Phil Jourdan

We might be forgiven for assuming that the title of Carl Freedman's new book sounds rather ambitious for a work of just over 280 pages. However, The Age of Nixon is by no means a political biography in the normal sense. In part, this is an examination of Nixon the man, certainly, but it is also a study of the man as a player in American culture: how, for instance, he used cultural prejudices to his advantage at various points in his career. More broadly, The Age of Nixon explores the idea of... [read more]

A Babble of Allusions

Sarah Edwards & Jonathan Charley (eds.), Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture, Modernity

reviewed by Rosa Ainley

Watching Steve McQueen’s Shame recently I was struck by the role Manhattan played in the film: far more than a set for the action, the spaces of the city are shot in such a way to make possible the narrative of extreme disassociation. Emerging from the clinical anonymity of his apartment where human contact comes via webcam porn subscriptions, the protagonist watches a couple having sex in a glass-sided skyscraper, the woman flattened against the window/wall, facing outwards to the... [read more]

Clearer, and Clearer, and Clearer Still

Martin Gayford, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney

reviewed by Jeremy Spencer

The art critic Martin Gayford’s book about David Hockney is a record of their conversations over ten years that expose Hockney’s obsessions and preoccupations as an artist. The text isn’t simply a straight transcription of their talks, whether in person or by telephone or email, and their exchanges, which reveal Hockney’s thoughts on art and aesthetics, are not ordered chronologically; the text is an ‘arrangement’ of different ‘layers’ and Gayford contextualises their... [read more]

'Prison Can Put Your Brain to Death'

Ashwin Desai, Reading Revolution: Shakespeare on Robben Island

reviewed by John Green

There have been literally hundreds of books written about the apartheid period in South Africa, both by outsiders and those who fought and suffered under the system. Reading Revolution provides a unique perspective on the anti-apartheid struggle and a fascinating insight into how literature can sustain resistance and keep hope alive, as well as fundamentally changing lives. Ashwin Desai has interviewed many of those who were incarcerated on Robben Island for their opposition to the apartheid... [read more]