African Modernism

by William Harris

Still, modernism’s ideological vagueness was lent structure by the rise of the welfare state, with big public projects taking up much of its focus. And while the welfare state rose, colonialism fell, leading anxious colonial powers at times to bestow public institutions on colonised populations as gifts of appeasement. Protests shook Ghana after British officials jailed a young Kwame Nkrumah and colonial authorities responded by building more schools; a decade later trade boycotts led to a new community center in Accra. On the eve of independence African states prepared to inherit universities, libraries, housing blocks, garden cities – the patchy and underfunded skeletons of state infrastructure, much of it designed by modernists. [read full essay]

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]

The Thought of Pain and the Pain of Thought

Simon Morgan Wortham, Modern Thought in Pain: Philosophy, Politics, Psychoanalysis

reviewed by Joel White

It was in the waiting room of a hospital that I first picked up Simon Morgan Wortham’s Modern Thought in Pain: Philosophy, Politics, Psychoanalysis. Surgery was looming around the corner. Pain, in its bodily, immanent and imminent sense, was on the mind. Before I began to read, pain, as situated between the body and the mind, the material and the ideal, the past and the future, was present in all its ignominious facets. In fact, the dualisms that the thought of pain or the pain of thought... [read more]

All That Isn't

Kelly Link, Get In Trouble: Stories

reviewed by Miles Klee

Before I read Kelly Link’s Get in Trouble, I only knew her fabulist work by reputation. I actually own an earlier short story collection – she’s one of those literary unicorns who has made a name for herself without bothering about the albatross of a novel – but, and I can’t believe I’m admitting this, its ugly cover is too much. I’ve never brought myself to crack it open. Further evidence of my superficiality: I dived into her new anthology head first, head over heels in love... [read more]

A Local Theatre for Local People

Terry Coleman, The Old Vic: The Story of a Great Theatre from Kean to Olivier to Spacey

reviewed by Belinda Webb-Blofeld

A couple of months ago I watched Tree at the Old Vic, a two-man play that was a taut 90 minutes without intermission. The hubby and I were seated in the Stage Dress Circle, a few narrow rows towards the back of the theatre. And I recalled the note in Terry Coleman’s informative and well paced history of this theatre, that even though the Vic is today the same size as it was in its earliest days, it had once accommodated more than treble the audience. There were no stalls then, only a pit,... [read more]

Cognitive Mapping

Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle, Cartographies of the Absolute

reviewed by Alex Fletcher

In a world abounding with mapping devices of various kinds (from SatNavs to GoogleMaps and GIS) there is nonetheless a surfeit of social, political and economic disorientation. Visual art and literature (as well cinema and television) often explore cartographic forms as a means for manufacturing a fragile compass for orienting the increasingly complex spatial and social relations of contemporary global capitalism. Yet such cartographic prominence, as Alberto Toscano & Jeff Kinkle highlight in... [read more]