All Reviews

Quite Ordinary Men

David Leeson, The Black and Tans: British Police and Auxiliaries in the Irish War of Independence, 1920-21

reviewed by John Newsinger

Early reviews - including one particularly scathing piece in History Ireland magazine - portrayed DM Leeson’s new book as yet another revisionist work, re-writing Irish history for the benefit of the British and on this occasion, actually, rehabilitating one of the most hated British exports to Ireland: the Black and Tans. In some quarters this has led to it being welcomed, in others condemned. In fact, this is a serious misreading of what is a well-researched and thoughtful study that... [read more]

The God That Failed

Simon Critchley, The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology

reviewed by Benjamin Noys

The current obsession with religion in contemporary theory is hard to miss – what had seemed a secular enterprise has turned out more books concerning Saint Paul than the average theology faculty. Simon Critchley’s new take on religion is, like many of these efforts, also an attempt, or as he prefers experiment, in ‘political theology’. At the heart of the work is God-envy; an envy of believers for the motivational power of religion, which is not dissimilar to those annoying reports... [read more]

The Battle for Higher Education

Michael Bailey and Des Freedman (eds.), The Assault on Universities: A Manifesto for Resistance

reviewed by Tom Steele

Do we need universities? The radical educational critiques of the 1960s and 1970s, most associated with the philosopher Ivan Illich but carried forward by other ‘deschoolers’, argued that universities were only the end point of an educational system bent on producing conformist individuals, pruned of critical and imaginative capacities, for the capitalist workplace. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu went on to show how the university functions as the finishing stage in the reproduction... [read more]

Eurocentric Angst

Jűrgen Habermas, The Crisis of the European Union: A Response

reviewed by Tony Norfield

Jűrgen Habermas is one of Europe’s prominent sociologists and philosophers. As he correctly points out, the economic troubles in Europe are of critical importance to the European Union as a whole, rather than simply members of the Euro currency area. Were the Euro project to fail, it would not only be a major economic event; it would represent the destruction of decades of political planning by Europe’s major powers, Germany and France, and throw into turmoil the relationships between all... [read more]

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]