Reading Matters

Ecosocialist Bookshelf, June 2022

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Seven important new books on science, medicine, and socialism.

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Ecosocialist Bookshelf is a monthly Climate & Capitalism feature, hosted by Ian Angus. Books described here may be reviewed at length in future. Inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement, or that C&C agrees with everything (or even anything!) these books say.

Julia Adeney Thomas, editor
Getting the Anthropocene Right

Cambridge University Press, 2022
Highly recommended. Twelve important essays, ranging from solid science to speculative fiction, united by a common understanding that getting Anthropocene right means being accurate about the physical science, balanced about its implications, and just in envisioning potential futures for humanity. Counter to the claims of some, these readable, focused, and engaging essays show that science and the humanities need not be opposed, but can (and must) reinforce each other in understanding and countering the growing Earth System crisis.

James Poskett
The Global Origins of Modern Science

HarperCollins, 2022
Highly recommended. The history of science is often told as an account of great men, all European, making discoveries on their own. Poskett breaks through that mythology, revealing that the most important scientific breakthroughs have come from the exchange of ideas from different cultures around the world, and uncovering the vital contributions of scientists in Africa, America, Asia, and the Pacific. “Whatever period we look at,” he writes, “the history of science cannot be told as a story which focuses solely on Europe.”

Vidya Krishnan
How Tuberculosis Shaped History

Hachette, 2022
In the global north, tuberculosis is now rare, but it is ravaging the south. Just when could have been extinguished as a threat to humanity, it found a way back, aided by authoritarian governments, toxic philanthropists, science denialism and medical apartheid. The story of TB shows that the state of modern medicine is inextricably bound up with race, class and caste in a profoundly unequal world.

Matthias Schmelzer, Andrea Vetter, Aaron Vansintjan
A Guide to a World Beyond Capitalism

Verso, 2022
Can we step off the treadmill of this alienating, expansionist, and hierarchical system? The authors discuss the political economy and politics of a non-growing economy, and propose a path forward for counter-hegemonic movements that want to break with the logic of growth.

Paul Le Blanc
Comrades, Critics and Dynamics in the Struggle for Socialism

Haymarket, 2022
Another excellent book from Paul Le Blanc, one of today’s most insightful historians of labor and socialist movements. In this collection of essays, he examines the contributions of leading activist-intellectuals, from Lenin to Gramsci to Bensaid, to  building the democratic and collective movements we need to change the world.

Matthew T. Huber
Building Socialism on a Warming Planet

Verso, 2022
Huber argues that the climate movement has been ineffective because it is dominated by the “professional class,” which lacks the power to effect change. He argues for organizing in the unions, with the goal of winning political power through elections. A controversial contribution to ongoing debates about movement strategy

Aviva Chomsky
Forty Critical Questions About Climate Justice

Beacon Press, 2022
In her accessible primer on the climate crisis, Chomsky breaks down the concepts, terminology, and debates for activists, students, and anyone concerned about climate change. She argues that science is not enough to change course: we need put social, racial, and economic justice front and center and overhaul the global economy.