More books

These are some recently-published books that members and friends of Engaging Issues are enjoying at the moment. Watch this space to see which of these themes make it into a future season of Engaging Issues.

For reviews of books directly connected with the talks in this season of Engaging Issues, see the main book reviews page.

The Twittering Machine

Richard Seymour, 2019

As you watch people in a restaurant playing with their phones, rather than talking to each other, you have an image of the way in which communication is being re-defined by social media. It seems that we cannot bear, even for a few minutes, to be out of the loop, even for the most trivial of issues.

This is “the economic organisation of addiction”. We are hooked. And what we read and pass on does not have to be true or meaningful; the key is to be entertaining or attention-grabbing, to feed the wants and desires of the addicts. In this way the pushers create economic value.

The consequences for individuals and society are deeply worrying, and are still working themselves through. We need to opt out of the seductive calling of the twittering machine and reclaim our freedom and ourselves. It is time to escape before it is too late.

Review by David Howard

Plunder of the Commons. A Manifesto for Sharing Public Wealth

Guy Standing, 2019

If ever there was a time, when our society appear so fractured, to point us in a different and more positive direction, then that is the occasion for this radical portrayal of an alternative future, and the restoration of a new commonality.

Since the 1980s, when we told that “there is no such thing as society”, our institutions and our lives have been privatised, individualised and commodified. You are what you buy. If you do not or cannot buy, you have no value as a person. The results have been devastating, both to communities and individuals. Inequality has reached appalling levels, where the rich take what they can, and the poor have to accept what they must.

There is an alternative. We need to rediscover what we hold in common: the land that we live on, the air we breathe, the ties that bind us together, a politics of cooperation, a shared discourse.

Guy Standing’s argument, and his “Charter of the Commons” will challenge everyone and may shock and appal. But the question we have to ask is: Do we really want to continue on the present road?

Review by David Howard