New and noteworthy – 20 April 2017

Economics, modernised; remembering Bob Crow; the emergence of globalisation from a war-torn world; Big Brother; and a history of squatting

April 20, 2017
Colourful doughnuts
Source: iStock

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist
Kate Raworth
Random House

This is sharp, significant scholarship, high-concept title and all. A young Oxford academic, holster full of case studies, strides through the funhouse-mirrors of the “deeply flawed” economics she learned as an undergraduate (and that successive generations, she notes, are rejecting). En route to detailing new ideas informed by ecological, feminist and behavioural theory for reinventing economics and our world, her takedown of the pretend science served up for decades in support of rapacious rentierism and “deadly addiction to GDP growth” is thrilling. And the doughnut? A sweet-spot society with an accountable state, prosperity and sustainability. Take that, Kuznets curve. Take that, Circular Flow diagram man.

Bob Crow: Socialist, Leader, Fighter – A Political Biography
Gregor Gall
Manchester University Press

The late leader of the small but politically important RMT union – a “Marxist Millwall supporter”, as the papers had it, and he was both; “the most hated man in Britain”, as some papers tried on, and he wasn’t – is well served by an account of his career set against informed analysis of 21st-century UK trade unions’ far-from-dinosaurish determination to grapple with changing workplaces, state rollback, electoral politics after Labour’s Blairite takeover, gender equity and globalisation. Gall is wary of the “great man” approach, but wherever Crow’s own words appear, the tale shifts from scholarly grey to vivid, quotable, charismatic and quip-filled Red Flag red – and the words “great man” look pretty spot on.

The Emergence of Globalism: Visions of World Order in Britain and the United States, 1939-1950
Or Rosenboim
Princeton University Press

Globalisation may seem a creature of the post-1989 world, but 1940s debates about global order by public intellectuals laid important groundwork. Already referred to by disciplinary peers as a major work of intellectual history, this study by a young Cambridge academic considers a “foundational moment in the process of shaping global political consciousness”, in an age shaped by war, demographic shifts and the battle against totalitarianism, via thinkers of varying ideological hues including Barbara Wootton, Friedrich Hayek, Michael Polanyi, Reinhold Niebuhr, Raymond Aaron, H. G. Wells and Lionel Robbins.

We Know All About You: The Story of Surveillance in Britain and America
Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
Oxford University Press

It started in the Wild West: a historian of intelligence serves up a fascinating US- and UK-focused account of extrajudicial snooping by the state – and, more importantly, as Jeffreys-Jones argues, by the private sector – long before WikiLeaks, red-top phone hacking and Special Branch files on Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Bernie Grant. Pinkerton union-busters, McCarthyism, COINTELPRO, Thatcher and the miners, and a fine chapter on Edward Snowden: they’re all here. And doubtless many other for-their-eyes-only places as well.

The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting
By Alex Vasudevan

“Squatting can be configured as violent and marginalising. It can also be a means to construct new practices of care and subversion…different and more socially just ways of organising and sharing urban space.” Modern-day “self-managed space” stories feature as strongly as those of 1960s and 1970s in a human geographer’s detailed, readable tour of New York, Vancouver, Detroit, Hamburg, Milan and Bologna, Barcelona and pensioner-squatters in Berlin, and a valuable look back at the battle of Byggeren in Copenhagen and the exploits of Amsterdam’s kraak-heads without a trace of hey-man spliffy hagiography.

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