Reviews

Latest Release: Wednesday, February 10, 2005

A Critical Review of Niall Ferguson's Colossus

Ryan Winger

It is this gift of rhetorical ability - what Joseph Conrad simply calls "a voice" - that author Niall Ferguson is certainly endowed with. In his latest book, Colossus, Ferguson demonstrates that he understands not only its power but its utility when, through various rhetorical techniques, he attempts to convince the reader of the validity of his neoconservative argument. His polemic challenges the traditional truism which denies that America has been, is, or ever could be an empire. Ferguson asserts that empire is not to be denied, but instead desired. Ironically, because of his astute rhetorical tactics, he manipulates the reader with a superficially convincing, yet disappointingly illiberal argument for a "liberal American empire."

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Latest Release: Monday, January 31, 2005

Two Parties, Same Bosses: A Book Review

Mark Yu

Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils (Canada: AK Press, 2004), 289 pages, $15.95.

Many progressives in the United States, including some who jumped onto the "Anybody But Bush" bandwagon during the recent election, realize that the Democratic Party does not stand for the cause of peace, jobs, and justice. Often, however, this understanding is accompanied by a faint hope that, at some grave and climactic moment, the Democratic Party leadership will discover its long lost "backbone" and finally resist the steady rightward march in American politics.

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Latest Release: Friday, December 31, 2004

Reaching for Babel: A Review of John Sabonmatsu's The Postmodern Prince

Reviewed by Chad Faldt

Taking a look around the globe, and evaluating the relative positions of the political right and left, in many ways it is still clear that the right is riding triumphantly on the wave of communism's collapse. The political right has been able to wage a pivotal war in Iraq, which, despite the difficulties being encountered, has provided them with massive opportunities to loot and accumulate wealth and further their agenda of global domination by the market. Social movements may be sprouting up all over the world, but 'leftwing' governments are still following the prescriptions of neo-liberalism; global and in-country wealth inequality is continuing to increase, and there are forebodings of possible major calamities in the future, with the re-emergence of pre-WWII nation-state imperial politics and the coming environmental crisis.

While the right crusades forth, smashing past commitments to the welfare state and common good, waging wars and proxy wars with near impunity, the left remains quite in a lurch, stuck in a strategic impasse. John Sabonmatsu's book The Postmodern Prince comes as a refreshing effort to offer the outlines of a coherent strategy to the political left, by attempting to carry the Machiavelli-Gramscian concept of the 'prince' into the 21st century.

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Latest Release: Monday, December 27, 2004

Book Review: Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century

Derek Seidman

Richard Ohmann's Selling Culture is a rigorously intelligent study of the emergence of a national mass culture in the United States at the turn of the nineteenth century as seen through the rise of widely-consumed popular magazines. Ohmann argues that the economic crisis of the early 1890s compelled the capitalist class to devise new and more stable profit-making avenues, and that this was done through orchestrating the emergence of a consumer culture targeting the rising "professional-managerial class" (PMC). At the vanguard of this project was the rise of cheap, mass-circulated magazines, and this story is at the center of Ohmann's work: "I propose to consider what conjunction of interests, needs, activities, and forces led to the invention and success of the modern magazine industry" (32). Not only were magazines the vehicles for advertisements (both direct and indirect profit-makers), but more importantly, they helped to solidify the identity of the rising PMC and generally shape a new consumer-oriented mass culture.

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Latest Release: Friday, November 26, 2004

Review of The Take: A Documentary by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein

Peter Brogan

"Occupy, resist, produce." This is the popular slogan and the central tenet of the Argentine recovered companies movement, which is what Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein's new film "The Take" chronicles. This movement is a product of the worst economic meltdown in the history of neoliberal "economic miracles." "The Take" is a riveting depiction of one of the most inspirational movements to emerge in the Southern Cone of Latin America in decades. The very title of the film is instructional for people the world over: We must take back our humanity and dignity from the bosses and politicians who have stolen it from us. We will not be given social and economic justice by our governments or our companies; we must seize these things ourselves from the bottom up in our workplaces and our communities.

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Latest Release: Monday, November 22, 2004

Book Review of From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map: Essays by Edward W. Said

Seth Sandronsky

An important intellectual, the late Edward W. Said taught many people around the world how to better grasp complex truths about life in the Middle East. He did that by being a strong voice for the Palestinian people. Said was a prolific author (his classic book Orientalism is a must-read for those studying the Middle East) who also taught English and comparative literature at Columbia University. His posthumously published 'From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map: Essays' collects 46 of his last political works, written between December 2000 and July 2003. The articles, many of which first ran in Arabic papers, take readers from the U.S.-brokered 1993 Oslo peace accord between Israel and Palestine through the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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Latest Release: Thursday, November 18, 2004

A review of Michael Tigar's re-released "Law and the Rise of Capitalism"

Chad Faldt

Michael Tigar's book "Law and the Rise of Capitalism" is an excellent book for leftwing youth to read in order to gain a historical understanding of capitalism and its institutions- in this case the 'Law' and "legal ideology"- in their historical development, extending all the way back to the Roman Republic/Empire, and then moving, in this republished version all the way to legal developments in the late 20th Century.

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Latest Release: Saturday, October 30, 2004

Review of Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing The Lies Behind War Propaganda

M. Junaid Alam

The overwhelming propaganda barrage to bolster America's latest civilizing mission can take quite a toll on even the staunchest radical. It's no easy task to filter out all the fabrications and distortions, rhetorical tricks and historical myths, used to deceive and coax the people into supporting war. Even if you stand against it, sorting out and understanding exactly how the war is being peddled can be cumbersome. Enter Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing The Lies Behind War Propaganda, authored by Mickey Z. Identifying seven major themes of pro-war propaganda, Seven Deadly Spins concisely and effectively targets and destroys each and every one with well-presented examples and evidence drawn from our own history.

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Latest Release: Friday, October 22, 2004

Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past (Book Review)

Seth Sandronsky

David Roediger's most recent book, Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past, is a gem. This collection of readable essays helps us to better appreciate what W.E.B. Du Bois, the African American scholar, called the "color line" in the U.S. Colored White builds on two earlier collections of Roediger's essays. The first is The Wages of Whiteness: Race & the Making of the American Working Class (Verso, 1991). That was followed by Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, & Working Class History (Verso, 1994). Roediger is arguably America's top scholar of critical whiteness studies.

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Last Release: Friday, September 10, 2004

Che Guevara on screen and in print: The Motorcycle Diaries

Derrick O'Keefe

Ernesto �Che� Guevara, the ubiquitous t-shirt icon, will be coming to North America�s movie theatres this fall in The Motorcycle Diaries, which chronicles the young Che�s formative journey across Latin America. Or rather, I should say that Che is returning to the big screen, for those who remember Omar Sharif as the guerilla fighter in the 1969 film Che!, which also starred, believe it or not, Jack Palance as Fidel Castro. This latest effort, produced by Robert Redford, and directed by Walter Salles, appears at least sympathetic to its subject�s later revolutionary career. Already playing in Latin America, it is set for a wide North American release on September 24, and promises to generate interest in Che Guevara�s life, ideas, and struggle.

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Last Release: Thursday, September 2, 2004

Review of Class Struggle in the Information Age

Matt Nichter

"The title of this book is intentionally provocative," writes radical economist Michael Perelman. "Mention of class struggle evokes images of a grimy age in which bygone captains of industry callously oppressed armies of overworked and underpaid proletarians. This dark portrait stands in stark contrast to the glorious promise of an information age" in which, as the hype has it, computer technology will steadily lighten our toils and democratize access to knowledge. But to mention class struggle in the same breath as palm pilots and the internet is not anachronistic, argues Perelman. "[T]o the extent that we are entering an information age, the process will reinforce existing class structures, rather than bring us to a classless, harmonious world."

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Last Release: Monday, August 30, 2004

Film Review: The End of Suburbia

Thomas Wheeler

A simple fact of life is that any system based on the use of nonrenewable resources is unsustainable. Despite all the warnings that we are headed for an ecological and environmental perfect storm, many Americans are oblivious to the flashing red light on the earth's fuel gauge. Many feel the "American way of life" is an entitlement that operates outside the laws of nature. At the Earth Summit in 1992, George H.W. Bush forcefully declared, "The American way of life is not negotiable." That way of life requires a highly disproportionate use of the world's nonrenewable resources. While only containing 4% of the world population, the United States consumes 25% of the world's oil. The centerpiece of that way of life is suburbia. And massive amounts of nonrenewable fuels are required to maintain the project of suburbia.

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Last Release: Thursday, August 26, 2004

A Review of Elizabeth Fones-Wolf's Selling Free Enterprise, plus a few personal observations

Chad Faldt

Noam Chomsky says that this book is the best, indeed only, work to take a systematic look at the efforts of the business community to attain and impose an ideological hegemony after World War II. Selling Free Enterprise is not the most engaging book, Fones-Wolf is reluctant to state her own opinions explicitly-save for in the 6-page conclusion-so the book comes off in many ways as a purely academic effort. Perhaps that is all she wanted it to be. But the subject of her book is an extremely important one; there is a reason that Chomsky takes special note of this work, and the historian Norman Ware's work on the same topic in an earlier period of American history. The subtitle of Fones-Wolf's book gives a good description of what the book is about, and is close to being the strongest language the author uses in providing her own opinion on the subject matter-The Business Assault on Labor and Liberalism, 1945-60.

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Last Release: Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Edges of "Externality": A Review of The Corporation

Joe Ramsey

Following Fahrenheit 9/11 and Super Size Me!, the two docudrama hits of the season, comes The Corporation, bearing accolades from not only the Sundance Film Festival, but Premiere magazine, the LA, and New York Times. Directed by Mark Achbar (previous co-director of Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media) and Jennifer Abbot, and based on the book by Joel Bakan-The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power and Profit-this radical Canadian documentary features Left-notables such as Michael Moore, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Naomi Klein, as well as thirty-odd lesser-known corporate experts: "CEOs, whistle blowers, brokers, gurus, spies, players, pawns, and pundits," as the film's promotional blurb proudly declares. As both a critical analysis and a dramatic indictment of the "dominant institution of our era," The Corporation probes far deeper than Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock's work. This film merits serious attention and deserves a truly super-sized audience, (one that it seems unfortunately, unlikely to get in the US).

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Last Release: Thurdsay, August 05, 2004

A Review of Stan Goff's Full Spectrum Disorder

Derek Seidman

Stan Goff is a unique voice on the American Left. Before becoming an activist, author, and outspoken progressive voice, he spent twenty-six years in the military, many of them with Special Forces, participating in notorious US interventions in places like Panama, Haiti, Grenada, Somalia, and Vietnam. As he retrospectively remarks, his military career turned out to have provided him "the most superlative education imaginable" on both a personal and political level. In his most recent book, Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century, readers are presented with the fruits of this education. It is a must-read for anyone on the Left looking to gain some important insights into the US military, the people who are in it, and the direction in which it and the system it works for are heading. It is also a very challenging book for all the right reasons, sure to make the honest person think a lot more critically about a lot of things.

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Last Release: Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Another take on Fahrenheit 9/11

By Zia Ahmed

"It's so great," said my dinner companion firmly, "that someone is finally speaking up for OUR side!"

I nodded in mock agreement.

"The liberals, you know," she clarified, sensing my confusion.

I nodded again, still hesitant.

The topic of our dinner conversation was the incendiary documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, and the someone speaking up for "our" side was Michael Moore: gadfly extraordinaire, self-styled crusader for the people, bane of the Republican party.

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Last Release: Friday, July 2, 2004

February 15th Goes to the Movies: Farenheit 911 Review

Keith Rosenthal

With the anti-war movement facing a bit of a lull over the past year, Michael Moore's new movie, Fahrenheit 9-11, is just what the doctor ordered. A scathing attack on the record of the Bush administration over the past four years-and the war and occupation of Iraq in particular-Fahrenheit has the potential to revivify a layer of activists by proving conclusively that we were right to march against the war.

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Last Release: Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Reviews of Paul Buhle's Writings

Seeing that we were lucky enough to score an interview with Paul Buhle for this edition of Left Hook, we wanted to point readers towards some recent reviews of his books. Below are excerpts from three reviews, with links to the full review, covering just a few of Buhle's large and diverse body of work. We urge everyone to check out his stuff.

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Last Release: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Review of Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival

M. Junaid Alam

Noam Chomsky's latest book, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, methodically and relentlessly exposes the motives and ambitions of America's political, corporate, and military elite, tearing off the veil of high-sounding rhetoric to reveal the face of brute imperial behavior undertaken by America since the end of World War II.

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Last Release: Thursday, February 19, 2004

William Blum's Killing Hope (Book Review) Killing Myths, Shaming Deniers

Macdonald Stainsby

William Blum's "Killing Hope: US military and CIA interventions since World War II" would be used as a textbook in colleges and universities, were a course that gave a realistic appraisal of imperialism in the 20th Century offered. However, it is both heavily detailed and researched while remaining actually engaging.

The credibility of his research is hard to top; Blum is a former employee of the US State Department who began a lifelong dedication to anti-imperialist work after his opposition to American interventionist policy grew well beyond isolated incidents, and instead into a critique of the nature of US Imperialism itself. "Killing Hope" is the culmination of this sea-change in outlook. (Read full)


Last Release: Saturday, January 24, 2004

Book Review Review of Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water Mark Yu

Corporate-led water practices are endangering the planet and the people who share its resources. This is the urgent warning of Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke's recent book, Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate Theft of the World's Water. Barlow and Clarke offer an overview of the freshwater situation, an analysis of the forces at work, and a guide to action. (Read full)


Last Release: Friday, December 16, 2004

(Book Review) Now Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Dave Lindorff

Mumia Abu-Jamal is a famous prisoner of the left, in the tradition of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Rosenbergs. NowKilling Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal by Dave Lindorff, (Common Courage Press, $19.95) offers us the first credible, carefully researched narrative of the case. The book is commendable for its allegiance to truth, even as it describes how Abu-Jamal, a black man in the clutches of a racist criminal justice apparatus, has seen justice repeatedly thwarted for twenty-one years. Lindorff brilliantly managed the hardest play of all, which is to have written a book with good politics which isn't just a hero-gram about an icon of the left. (Read full)


Last Release: Tuesday, November 25, 2003

(Book Review) Michael Yates' Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy

Derek Seidman

In his new work, Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy, radical economist and labor educator Michael D. Yates attempts to illustrate the reality of the post-1990s-boom global capitalism for the people of the world. He debunks the myths of the "new economy", showing how the major problems we see in the world today-once dismissed by neoliberal advocates as a thing of the past-are in fact inevitable byproducts of the capitalist system. In doing so, he paints a compelling picture-pillared by up-to-date facts and trends and personal stories-of the miserable reality that capitalism has rendered for the majority of the world's inhabitants. If these facts and illustrations weren't enough to discredit the reigning economic system, Yates in turn uses them, as well as the basic tenets of radical economic theory, to issue a scathing critique of neoliberalism. (Read full review here)

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