Dissidence, Compromise and Submission in Higher Education Today

by Scarlett Baron

It is risky to teach or conduct research in ways that depart from certain modish formulae. To teach in ways which do not fit the assessment-focused, packaged-learning formats that are currently in vogue is to risk jeopardising one’s own standing within a department, but also, via the National Student Survey, to damage that department in the eyes of the faculty, the school, the university, and of course the media and its league tables. And to carry out research into areas of thought or knowledge that are not currently fashionable (that is, easily convertible into mercantilistic political clichés), is drastically to reduce one’s chances of obtaining external funding, the securing of which is key to the realisation of major scholarly projects. So by and large we muddle on, teaching in ways we hope are worthwhile whilst also (or despite) satisfying fee-paying students; and writing often preposterous research proposals which make promises about ‘impact deliverables and milestones,’ gush about ‘leadership development plans,’ and detail unique ‘project management skills.’ [read full essay]

'It’s a funny country...'

Charles Ferrall & Dougal McNeill, Writing the 1926 General Strike: Literature, Culture, Politics

reviewed by David Renton

The General Strike of 1926 has entered collective memory as a decisive moment in British industrial history. It was the the turning point when the two great strike waves which sit on either side of the first world war came to an end. After periods of ruling-class concession and then hostility it was the occasion when it became clear that there was not going to be a British counterpart to the Russian Revolution of 1917. All this history is often summarised in the one fact that everyone knows... [read more]

A Special Kind of Wealth

Zoe Williams, Get it Together: Why We Deserve Better Politics

reviewed by Elliot Murphy

With the recent election of a new Tory majority government, it is timely to consider Guardian columnist Zoe Williams’s urgent assessment of the central problems of British politics. Get it Together: Why We Deserve Better Politics reverses the common Tory mantra of ‘individual responsibility’ by insisting that if someone is in full employment and suffers from a lack of food and warmth, then the fault lies not with them, but with the structure of their utilities provider and food supply.... [read more]
 

The Dancing Narcissus

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Dancing in the Dark: My Struggle Vol. 4

reviewed by Hilary Ilkay

Meeting Karl Ove Knausgaard at the Edinburgh Book Festival last August was both a thrilling and terrifying experience. After binge-reading the first three instalments of My Struggle, I felt intimately connected to the narrating Knausgaard, who leaves no introspective stone unturned, but I had no idea what I would say when confronted with the grizzled, bearded Norwegian himself. Knausgaard lays bare the figures in his life, both transient and lasting, with as much candour as he does himself, and... [read more]

So Just How Fucked Are We?

Danny Dorling, Inequality and the 1%

reviewed by Luke Davies

According to Professor Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford: pretty fucked. Inequality and the 1% is more of a statistical overview than a polemic. Published towards the end of last year, now seems like a good time to remind ourselves of its existence. Because it’s devastating. And because it’s full of sober, irrefutable data analysis – it is a product of research, with 50 pages of footnotes. In other words, not the kind of public school... [read more]
 

We Need to Talk About Bifo

Franco 'Bifo' Berardi, Heroes: Mass Murder and Suicide

reviewed by Robert Barry

I have been getting worried about Franco Berardi. He seems upset. Should someone be checking up on him? From the evidence of his latest book for Verso, Heroes, the Italian writer and activist, known as Bifo, is in the midst of one god-awful funk: obsessing over catastrophe, spending all his time reading dubious websites composed of mass-murderers’ manifestos, seemingly incapable of finding enjoyment in any other form of media. ‘Why,’ he asks repeatedly throughout the text, ‘did I write... [read more]

The Question of Power

Victor Serge, trans. Mitchell Abidor, Anarchists Never Surrender: Essays, Polemics, and Correspondence on Anarchism, 1908–1938

reviewed by Ian Birchall

Victor Serge was witness to some of the most momentous events of the first half of the 20th century. He was an anarchist in Brussels and Paris, then, after a spell in jail, went to post-Revolutionary Russia. He supported the Revolution loyally for some years, then opposed the rise of Stalin, returned to the West and ended up in Mexico, escaping the Nazi occupation of France. Best known for his Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1951) and novels such as The Case of Comrade Tulayev (1967), he was also a... [read more]
 

‘An infinite degradation of everything’

Eric Hazan and Kamo, First Measures of the Coming Insurrection

reviewed by Stephen Lee Naish

If the proposed revolution in First Measures of the Coming Insurrection is successful then future generations will recall right-wing commentator and television host Glenn Beck unwittingly promoting the subversive literature that brought about the revolt. In 2014, Beck drew conclusions to mankind's downfall via the nihilistic content of a little-known philosophy book by Eugene Thacker entitled In the Dust of This Planet (2011), the popular TV show True Detective (the show’s writer Nic... [read more]

Against Foukant

Maurizio Ferraris, trans. Sarah De Sanctis, Introduction to New Realism

reviewed by Paul Ennis

Introduction to New Realism is an interesting text for a number of reasons. It is a short, but fruitful introduction into the English-speaking world of the Italian philosopher Maurizio Ferraris. Ferraris is a proponent of the philosophical position of new realism. What makes his thinking distinct is that Ferraris emerged as a thinker from a postmodern culture wherein antirealism was long considered the default position. The book is structured as follows: it begins with a detailed Foreword by... [read more]
 

Exploitation, Misery, Suffering, Poverty, Illness, Torture & Ignorance

Willie Thompson, Work, Sex and Power: The Forces That Shaped Our History

reviewed by Stuart Walton

The first of four epigraphs to Willie Thompson's global human history is Marx's dictum from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: 'Man makes his own history, but he does not make it out of the whole cloth; he does not make it out of conditions chosen by himself, but out of such as he finds close at hand'. The historian, on the other hand, makes it out of just what he or she chooses to, and the abiding themes of any historical narrative, whether of biological evolution or of economic... [read more]

What Will We Do With Our Fear?

Eula Biss, On Immunity: An Inoculation

reviewed by Peter Marshall

Early in 2015, following years of growing unease about the safety and necessity of vaccination, an outbreak of measles that began in Disney World resulted in over 100 cases of the once eradicated disease being reported throughout the United States. The parents who chose not to vaccinate their children, and so precipitated the outbreak, were not religious nor were they necessarily right-wing science deniers. Many were affluent, educated, white, and from the upper middle-class. That is, they came... [read more]