Twenty-six years later, what can we learn from Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations?
A “clash of civilisations” will occur not because of Islamic rage, Russian revanchism or China’s rise, but because the West arrogantly believes it must spread its culture across the globe. Western cultural expansion invariably triggers a backlash in non-Western societies. Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” sits in the naughty corner of most academic bookshelves. Huntington’s insistence that…
Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women (2020) by Kate Manne
Although I see myself as a feminist, I had never read any books on feminism. Pretty poor form, I thought. So, I decided to change that. There was just one small problem though: I had absolutely no idea where to start. Sure, I could have begun with Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, but since graduating…
How to be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century (2019) by Erik Olin-Wright
Why be an anti-capitalist? Because capitalism systematically erodes the values that we care about. Equality and fairness, democracy and freedom, community and solidarity; these values are anathema to capitalism. Instead, capitalism promotes competitive individualism and privatised consumerism. Economic inequality is inherent – not incidental – to the proper functioning of capitalist systems. If we care…
The Enigmatic Mr Deakin (2017) by Judith Brett
I really enjoy (Australian) political biographies. This might seem odd, given my belief that individual agency barely matters in the broad sweep of political history. But done well, biographies offer us a glimpse into a different time. They show how individuals are ultimately products of their environment, no matter how original they think they are.…
Heaven in Disorder (2021) by Slavoj Žižek
The key to reading Slavoj Žižek is not to take him too seriously. His writing can be difficult to follow at the best of times. His thoughts trail across the page like a series of intellectual paroxysms. For the uninitiated, this apparent chaos can be alarming, giving the impression that Žižek is actually a charlatan.…
Materialism (2017) by Terry Eagleton
Materialism (2016) is definitely not Terry Eagleton at his best. Ostensibly the book’s purpose is to explain materialism, the philosophical-cum-political theory in which all phenomena derives from and/or is reducible to physical matter. However, the first half is a polemic directed against an ill-defined opponent. Eagleton lambasts the “commissars of contemporary cultural discourse”, but is often…
Against Individualism by Henry Rosemont Jr.
Our self-understanding informs how we relate to others. Understanding humanity as essentially individualistic leads to a spiritually shallow existence epitomised by contemporary capitalism. Solving the socio-political ills of our time — inequality, climate change, political polarisation — requires embracing the Confucian concept of role-bearing persons; we are all inextricably interrelated with one another. This is…
Dark Forest by Liu Cixin
Life in the cosmos is nasty, brutish and short.
In the Shadow of the Cold War by Timothy Lynch
Timothy Lynch’s highly accessible monograph “In the Shadow of the Cold War: American Foreign Policy from George Bush Sr. to Donald Trump” is lucidly written and extensively well-researched. Anyone looking for a basic overview of contemporary American foreign policy could do far worse than reading this book. I picked up Lynch’s work expecting to vehemently…
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
The most telling thing about this book is its reception. The fact that J.D. Vance is now hailed as America’s “class whisperer” and is a paid contributor to CNN speaks volumes about how class is virtually absent from American political discourse. Only in a political vacuum such as this could a book as superficial as…