Formative political books

There’s an interesting thing going round the Greens with people listing their formative political works.

JimJay on the Daily Maybe started it off with a list which he observes to be dry but whose Rees, ISJ, Cliff and Callinicos gave me unpleasant pavlovians – I first came to them in the context of their aggressive perspectives on Israel. Matt Sellwood’s list looks intriguing.

Mine? Thinking about it. With some concern I realise I haven’t read a single book of social or economic theory any of the more recent fix-it manuals or paradigmatic works of the left (or right or centre for that matter). This might explain and also justify my lack of political thrust.

Among others I am suddenly very curious about, I would very much like to know Bob’s, Sonti’s, Marko Attila Hoare’s, Yish’s, Barkingside 21’s, the AWL’s, David Hirsh’s, Norm’s, Eve Garrard’s, Snoopy The Goon’s, Peter Tatchell’s, Mod’s, Max Dunbar’s and Harry’s Place’s.

Update: see Matt Selwood, Scott Redding, Adrian Windisch, Peter Sanderson, and Weggis.

There is no political theory under my belt. My most politically formative works coincide with my most formative personal works:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harpur Lee (but that’s fiction)
  • Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (fiction)
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton (fiction).(This is where I’m going wrong.)
  • Arthur Koestler’s two volume autobiography (aha – fact, garnished with Koestlery spin)
  • The writings of Orwell.
  • Crossland’s (ed) The God That Failed (ex-communists fire the opening salvos of the cultural Cold War)
  • Triomf by Marlene Van Niekirk (fiction)
  • The poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (poetry)
  • The various writings of the Eusties – particularly David Hirsh, Eve Garrard, Norman Geras, Anthony Julius, David T, Marko Attila Hoare.
  • Nietzsche’s Will to Power (his bad reaction to cosmic upheaval of modernity)
  • Joyce Da Silva’s work on animal sentience.
  • And of course, Nick Cohen’s What’s Left.

I know, because I have heard plenty of recorded lectures, that I am influenced by Mill, Paine, Locke, and (particularly because he understood that being a good citizen is a consuming pursuit) Rousseau, but I have not yet thoroughly read a work of theirs. I am a poor political reader in general – I read a lot but my political reading is short and journalistic.

So, here we are. I sympathise with the people who turn decisively from the Stalinists. My domestic and international politics progressive, egalitarian and democratic. My economics are socialist – but baselessly so.


12 thoughts on “Formative political books

  1. I’m reading Capital (abridged though – by Ruhle) – there’s a Capital reading group in London and if I actually stick with it that will make me one of about 20 people in the world to have actually read it. 😉

  2. mmm… looks like a bunch of saddos trying to appear clever to other saddos

    the only person who cares what YOU’VE read or is interested in what YOU’VE read is you.

    believe me on that one, although let’s face it you know it already.

    The new No. 2

  3. Thing is, I was really interested to find out, at least in part, how the political views of the people whose stuff I read were formed. I mean, I asked didn’t I. What are yours?

  4. I read Orwell’s 1984 when I was fourteen and it absolutely blew me away. I used to wake up thinking about that book.

    More recent political books I’ve loved include Philip Roth’s history trilogy and Nick Cohen’s What’s Left.

    What I love about Cohen’s book is that it’s written like a novel, not like a text. It is structured really well. It goes deeper than politics and examines human nature.

  5. Must read that Roth.
    Griffin’s work on fascism and modernism also contains an exploration of human nature as it relates to responses to a primordial terror of death. I’m used to rejecting the idea of human nature as something fatalistic and undermining of the individuality of human beings. But I think I might have been too fundamentalist about that, and a growing body of work on genes seems to confirm this.

  6. Kant, Hume, Wittgenstein, Fukuyama, Baudrillard, Nietzche, Noam Chomsky in my pseudo-intellectual post-post-modern whiney phase that most of the leftist/spoilt middle class bloggers get stuck in. Then I realised it was mostly bollocks and went all George Orwell, Mark Twain, Brian Clough, Chumbawamba, Jello Biafra, Joe Strummer, The Clash, Bill Hicks, Cormac McCarthy, Half Man Half Biscuit and The Beatles etc. Growing up in a mining area in 1984 probably had much more influence than any of them.

    There. I expect our political leanings are actually formed by other, much more complex factors that we don’t even get near to understanding.

    Wow, now I sound more pretentious and sadder than the blogging community. Cool.

  7. Oh if we’re on to music. The Smiths and then Morrissey probably influenced me more than any other music. Certainly The Clash. King of the Slums had quite a big political impact I’d say, as did New Model Army’s Thunder and Consolation. They sing about poor people in run-down places. Later I found Momus, who is a headful. I’d have liked Chumbawumba if it hadn’t been for the awful tunes and lyrics. Heart in the right place, but absolutely allergic.

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