Reading Matter That Matters

Ecosocialist Bookshelf, May 2023

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Seven books to help reds and greens understand and change the world

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Ecosocialist Bookshelf is a monthly column, 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.

Alex Callinicos
Polity Books
The world faces a multidimensional crisis, embracing the increasing destruction of nature and the degradation of labor, a world economy stagnant since the global financial crisis, and escalating inter-imperialist conflicts. The capitalist system is hitting the buffers and hurling us towards societal collapse. Multiple fault lines in the system will provoke still more mass movements that can challenge myriad forms of oppression and open the way to a just and sustainable world.

Bartow J. Elmore
Monsanto’s Past and Our Food Future

W.W. Norton
Elmore traces Monsanto’s evolution from a small chemical startup in St. Louis to a global agribusiness powerhouse. Monsanto used profits derived from toxic products, including DDT, PCBs and Agent Orange, to build an agricultural empire based on genetic engineering and some of the most powerful poisons ever made.

Jonathan Kennedy
A History of the World in Eight Plagues

Penguin Random House
Drawing on the latest research in fields ranging from genetics and anthropology to archaeology and economics, Kennedy takes us through sixty thousand years of history, exploring eight major outbreaks of infectious disease, arguing that it is not human strength but the humble microbe that wins wars and topples empires.

Bruce Clark & Sebastien Dutreuil, editors
The Scientific Correspondence of James Lovelock & Lynn Margulis

Cambridge University Press
In the 1970s and 1980s, James Lovelock wrote several best-selling books to promote his view that Earth is a self-regulating system in which life itself maintains conditions that are favorable to life. The controversial “Gaia Hypothesis” was jointly developed with biologist Lynn Margulis, who eventually rejected Lovelock’s argument. This well-documented book traces their decades-long collaboration through over 300 letters.

Tsenay Serequeberhan, editor
Selected Texts of Amilcar Cabral

Monthly Review Press
Revised and Expanded. Pan-African freedom fighter and anti-imperialist theorist Amilcar Cabral led the fight for the independence of Guinea-Bissau from 1956 until his assassination by a Portuguese agent in 1973. First published in 1973, this new edition has been expanded to include important texts from Revolution in Guinea to Our People Are Our Mountains, along with speeches made in the last years of his life.

Gregory Claeys
Life After Consumerism

Princeton University Press
Claeys examines the ways that utopian thought, from its origins in ancient Sparta and ideas of the Golden Age through to today’s thinkers, can offer moral and imaginative guidance in the face of catastrophe. The utopian tradition, which has been critical of conspicuous consumption and luxurious indulgence, might light a path to a society that emphasizes equality, sociability, and sustainability. He offers a radical program that combines ideas from the theory of sociability with proposals to withdraw from fossil fuels and cease reliance on unsustainable commodities.

Aiton Krenak
Polity Books
Brazilian indigenous activist Aiton Krenak challenges the ideas of order, progress, development, consumerism, and capitalism have taken over our entire existence. He argues that life is not ‘useful’ and ‘civilization’ is not destiny. In the wake of the pandemic we have an opportunity to create deep and meaningful change in the way we live.