Ponzi Scheme Capitalism: An Interview with David Harvey

by Steffen Böhm

David Harvey’s work on political economy, urbanism and the legacy and ongoing theoretical interpretation of Karl Marx has been at the forefront of critical debate across the humanities and social sciences since the 1970s. In Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, recently published by Profile Books, the pre-eminent economist and thinker provides an incisive guide to the world around us, and a manifesto for change. In this interview, Harvey discusses the significance and centrality of the theory of political economy to understanding the post-2008 landscape; he also considers the transformation of the meaning of labour, digital technologies, rentier capitalism and emergent spaces of hope and promise. [read full interview]

The Enemy Within

Alison MacLeod, Unexploded

reviewed by David Anderson

It took until the end of the ‘Phoney War’ for the British to really act on the fear that German, Austrian and Italian migrants might rise up to augment a potential invasion, forming an insidious ‘fifth column’ of hostile forces. Up until 1940, only 486 ‘aliens’ had been interned, but as the prospect of German advance loomed ever greater, pressure from the right-wing press coalesced with growing nationalist sentiment, and was enriched by the voices of figures like Nevile Bland (who... [read more]

‘Together, We’ll Make Magic’

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

reviewed by Alexis Forss

What are the true edges, the outer limits, of a book? Of this particular book, with its ‘fully interactive paperback jacket’ (‘download the free Blippar app...’), ‘also available in a beautiful limited-edition hardback, an e-book or audio-digital download’? Where does it start, where does it begin? This is the kind of question to send us scurrying for the succour of literalism, but that will not do for this book, which is about how these questions are more mysterious to us now than... [read more]

Our Inevitable Selves

Stephen Mulhall, The Self and its Shadows: A Book of Essays on Individuality as Negation in Philosophy and the Arts

reviewed by Josh Dickson

Stephen Mulhall’s The Self and its Shadows continues the intellectual project that formed in Mulhall’s previous monograph, The Wounded Animal: JM Coetzee and the Difficulty of Reality (Princeton University Press, 2008). In that study, Mulhall is primarily concerned with elucidating JM Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello (Secker and Warburg, 2003) and discussing its eponymous protagonist, a fictional novelist who spends the entirety of the text giving lectures on issues of moral and... [read more]

Preaching to the Choir

Curtis White, The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers

reviewed by Joel White

In a recent article written in the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s death, Slavoj Žižek lists some of the key characteristics that determined both the success and the danger of Thatcher’s political stance. The most prominent of these characteristics can be summarised by a rather entertaining response that Thatcher once gave when posed the question: ‘What was your greatest political achievement?’ After pausing to think, she simply replied: ‘New Labour.’ The politico-philosophical... [read more]

A Return to Politics

Simon Hardy, Destruction of Meaning

reviewed by JD Taylor

'Propaganda that looks like propaganda is third rate propaganda': so said Lord Northcliffe, Director for Propaganda for the British Ministry of Information in 1918. Northcliffe possessed a unique monopoly on news production in the early 20th century, owning both the Daily Mail and The Times, and his work in producing effective anti-German material during the first World War has been credited as the first modern instance of effective mass propaganda. Whilst today we have our Rupert Murdochs and... [read more]

The Way of the World

Franco Moretti, The Bourgeois: Between History and Literature

reviewed by Luke Davies

The bourgeois ... Not so long ago, this notion seemed indispensable to social analysis; these days, one might go years without hearing it mentioned. Capitalism is more powerful than ever, but its human embodiment seems to have vanished. Franco Moretti suggests that the vanished bourgeois has been replaced by a middle class distanced from the conditions of subjugation that define capitalism, and so with diminished responsibilities: 'once placed "in the middle", the bourgeoisie could appear... [read more]

The Scum of the Earth

Imogen Tyler, Revolting Subjects: Social Abjection and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain

reviewed by Jemma Crew

A group of friends threw a chav party when I was in my final year at university, the idea being to don tracksuits and fake baby bumps, garish makeup and gold jewellery. An attitude problem was essential – the more abusive the better – as was the inevitable accessorial bottle of booze. The dress-code for the party wasn’t chosen out of malice: chav was just one of many fancy dress themes considered fair game, alongside ‘school uniform’ and ‘animal onesies’. (For the record, rah... [read more]

Long-Distance Relationships

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

reviewed by David Anderson

Early on in Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby a discussion of Alzeimer's disease, which runs through the book, is introduced. As I sat reading this in the back garden of a café on Walworth road, my attention was frequently arrested by the faltering exchanges of three women sitting across from me, and a curious overlap took place. I couldn’t help but notice that these other customers must be related — they were neatly divided into generations. As Solnit’s description of her mother’s... [read more]

Do You Believe in Explanation?

Anne Carson, Red Doc>

reviewed by Željka Marošević

The Canadian poet Anne Carson is too much of a riddle for some. Recently she has been the ‘inscrutable’ Anne Carson (New York Times), as well as the ‘obscure, mannered and private’ Anne Carson (Harpers). Part of the problem seems to be a question of form. Carson won’t sit still. The Beauty of the Husband is a ‘fictional essay in 29 tangos’; in her translation Antigonick the words are written out on pages overlaid with illustrated semi-transparent paper, while her previous... [read more]

The Chimera of Cult

Nadifa Mohamed, The Orchard of Lost Souls

reviewed by Alexis Forss

Nadifa Mohamed’s debut novel, 2010’s Black Mamba Boy, offered both a semi-fictionalised account of her father’s tumultuous youth in the Horn of Africa region and a perspective of the Second World War from that neglected theatre of operations. It won her many plaudits and inclusion on Granta’s 2013 list of the best young British novelists, but I found it to be a problematic work. Throughout I felt that Mohamed described to no purpose, most egregiously in her scene-setting, in which a... [read more]