2021 Reading List (Part 3)

This is part 3 of my 2021 reading list, following on from parts 1 and 2, and the final one reaching a total of thirty books for the year. Given that last year I only read twelve, I would call that quite an improvement, and I somehow doubt I’ll read quite as many in the coming year, fingers crossed. Part 1 was fairly good, part 2 was hit and miss, but the last ten books I read this year were all great reads that I’d recommend, for the most part. Enjoy!

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2021 Reading List (Part 1)

13/12/2021

I have not written anything for a while, having gone from taking a short break at the wind down of university and then straight back into work, and thought that I should get a head start on the yearly reading list review. I hope to add another one or two by year’s end, but I am quite happy with the amount I’ve managed to get through this year. List will be in the order I read them with comments looking back over them, and with a few exceptions I would recommend most of them. Also keep in mind the earlier in the year it was the less precise details I’m going to remember about the book, so bear with that.

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The Individual: Western Liberal and Indigenous Australian Conceptions

17/11/2021

This is one of three mini essays submitted for a political science assessment. Given the limited word count and my struggles to adhere to “academic writing”, they’re likely not the best pieces, but ah well, uploading them for shits and giggles. This particular essay discusses a key difference between Western liberal thought and Australia’s Indigenous politcal thought, specifically the conception of the individual. Much more akin to branches of libertarian socialism than liberalism, Indigenous political thought realises selfhood through relational means, which is much cooler in my opinion.

Indigenous populations globally have faced longstanding oppression, not just of their people and their lands, but also their cultures, ideas and politics. From the United State’s culling of Native Americans and the invasion and takeover of half of Mexico, the genocide of Australia’s Indigenous peoples (including the entire population of what is now Tasmania (Brodie 2017)), South African Apartheid, and the current displacement and silencing of the Palestinians, settler-colonial societies have systematically separated native populations from what makes their societies. As we face the looming climate crisis and global pandemics, it is this old and not yet forgotten knowledge and wisdom that may help us.

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To What Extent is Democracy a Tyranny of the Majority?

17/11/2021

This is one of three mini essays submitted for a political science assessment. Given the limited word count and my struggles to adhere to “academic writing”, they’re likely not the best pieces, but ah well, uploading them for shits and giggles. This one basically just runs with the idea of the “tyranny of the majority” to suggest free association among equals from the ground up limits the potential of it taking place.

Democracy, meaning “rule of the people” in Ancient Greek, has taken many forms since its inception. Even Aristotle outlined different variations of both democracy and oligarchy, stating that “a particular form of government may be preferable for some people, but another form may be better for others.” (Aristotle 2020). For him, the polity was the best form of government, leaning towards democracy, although by contemporary standards this conception would be unacceptable.

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Authoritarian Socialism and the Anarchist Alternative

This is the second of two essays I submitted for university this week. For this one the question prompt I chose was “Does socialism always tend towards authoritarianism?” Short answer was no, but I had to write about 1799 more words so this is the long answer talking about the State, Russia, Spain, and anarchism and a bit of democratic confederalism. Title is iffy and unimaginative because screw putting effort into that. All references are down the bottom. Enjoy

Socialism is a school of thought most simply defined by its opposition to capitalism (Heywood 2021: 75). This is, however, an extremely broad range of ideas and there has been much conflict within and between nations, parties and movements about what, and who, constitutes true socialist ideals. Perhaps the greatest of these is the antagonism between democratic and authoritarian visions of socialism. The Twentieth Century saw the rise of authoritarian socialism, manifested primarily through the Russian Revolution in October 1917 and the horrors of the Stalinist regime, and in China under Mao’s Communist Party.

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Objectivity Requires Evidence and Context

15/09/2021

I’ve written a number of pieces over the years about objectivity, whether that be reporting in the media, the recording and study of history, or relying on science for truth. As usual, something I have read and stuff I have heard puts my own ideas in much clearer language than I have so far achieved, this time in the case of journalism. John Pilger’s 1998 book, Hidden Agendas, that came out the year I was born, basically says truly objective journalism needs one key thing – context.

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The Abolition of Borders Requires Abolishing the State

02/05/2021

It has become a bit of a cliché in movies, TV shows, games, etc. when in or around some walled off or secure location to suggest, “what if it was not meant to keep us out, but to keep something in”. The Flood in Halo, for some reason, is the first that comes to mind. I recently finished reading Against the Grain by James C. Scott about the earliest history of what we would now call “States”, the beginnings of “civilisation”. When we think of walls and borders, it’s usually in relation to keeping things or people out. But it has the inverse effect too – borders keep us in thrall to the State.

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Different Arenas, Same Tactics

06/02/2021

Drifting in and out of online political discourse as an observer (rarely bothering or daring to get swept up in Twitter threads with self-righteous mobs of any persuasion), I have noticed that there is a common thread between some unlikely groups. Pro-China, Russia, DPRK, Assad, etc. “communists” (read: people who think anything anti-US imperialism is amazing), and “right-wing” conspiracy nutcases come up with similar stories to justify their positions – it’s all fake!

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My 2020 Reading List

30/12/2020

As this rather wretched and exhausting year comes to a close, I looked back at my list from 2019 and laughed sadly at my optimistic plans to read more in 2020. Perhaps I did when you count news, analysis, etc. online, but in terms of books it was disastrously minimal. However, the books I did read offered brilliant insights or just fascinating bits of knowledge. So, in no real order:

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Historical Amnesia Goes Both Ways

07/12/2020

The first time I heard the term historical amnesia, it was in relation to a discussion about American exceptionalism and the masses “forgetting” the more bothersome parts of their history of involvement (ironically, I can’t recall the specific source or case I first came across). But, rereading Noam Chomsky’s On Anarchism (again, ironically because at the time I read it, I did so without any real focus or retention), the now seemingly obvious opposite is also true: that the true victories and battles fought by the masses themselves are also victim to this international blank slate.

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