Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Five-Star Bookshelf, Part Nine

David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism

As the writing of my dissertation went on and on (and on and on), my focus began to shift from the English Language Arts curriculum per se to the construction of class identity through the politicization of text. One of the most important sources for my specific focus on Alberta political economy was A Brief History of Neoliberalism. If you want to understand concepts like the shrinking of the middle class, the growing gap between rich and poor, and the destruction of the so-called Nanny State, you need this book. It will help you recognize both the specific political entity that is neoliberalism and the historical and philosophical contexts that brought it into being — and that allow it to remain strong. The retrenchment of economic survival of the fittest following the systemic weakening of the welfare state is not an accident, he explains: it is a deliberate and calculated effort to protect the interests of the power elite around the world.

David Harvey is really, really smart. He doesn't just make a claim; he makes an argument, and he knows what he's talking about. He's critical. His analysis of the political economy of developed and some developing countries is acute (look Harvey up on Youtube if you want to see/hear him in action). This book, as well of some of his others, gave me both a model to describe what I perceived in my own location and had read about in other texts and the analytical tools for situating and connecting various forms of neoliberal thought. Given my theoretical orientation, the careful parsing of classical liberal, contemporary liberal, and neoliberal (and of conservative and neoconservative) is crucial. Harvey's text was, and remains, an important basis for explaining the significance of my dissertation topic.

But there's another layer to Harvey's book. Following the familiar paraphrasing of Marx, Harvey does not merely explain the world; he seeks to change it. He is not arguing for the sake of argument; he is arguing to spark, to rally, to mobilize. We are best prepared to struggle for change when we can recognize that this world is structured to benefit one group at the expense of another and that another world is possible. This perspective is perhaps the greater lesson of this book, and Harvey provides strong, global systemic analysis to support your local, specific resistance.

OK, you probably won't read this book. It's dense and difficult, and many political philosophers have moved beyond class analysis in the aftermath of George W. Bush and the War on Terror. But I promise you, this text is worth the effort you'll put into it. And just having it on your bookshelf may make you feel smarter and stronger — and may remind you that fair change is possible.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

If I had my own call number

So there's this thing called a Dewey Decimal Quiz that will categorize you with just a few keystrokes. I like my theoretical call number — it seems rather apt! Now, what would I be in the LOC system, I wonder?



                La's Dewey Decimal Section:

                175 Ethics of recreation & leisure

                L—— V—— = 2592952583558 = 259+295+258+355+8 = 1175

100 Philosophy & Psychology

Books on metaphysics, logic, ethics and philosophy.

                What it says about you:
You're a careful thinker, but your life can be complicated and hard for others to understand at times.  You try to explain things and strive to express yourself.

            Find your Dewey Decimal Section at


Want to find out your own Dewey Decimal call number? Click here   and follow the steps.