Books I'm reading

Some notes about books I have, am currently, or was at one point reading, in no particular order—including politics, fiction, and technical books.

  • the asset economy

    Property inflation in large urban centres is the linchpin of a new logic of inequality.

    Adkins, Konings, and Cooper, “The Asset Economy”

    Note: To be finished.

    A short and bold text that mostly tries to define a theory of economy and class based around asset ownership, or as we might commonly think of it, “home ownership”—as opposed to a theory based directly on employment status per se. This new economy has, for instance, given explosive rise to new classes of worker and laborer, a lumpenproletariat: the homeless. The modern American homeless are a class who are precisely defined by a lack of asset ownership or immediate access to other forms of “liquidity” in order to alleviate debt or financial obligations—and the growth of the homeless class itself has now become a major piece of political red meat and an expedient “out” for actors such as local police departments, politicians, presidential candidates, et cetera. This is a taste of the new class order.Note that while we don’t typically consider the homeless “workers”, consider that homelessness in America is overwhelmingly transient in terms of participants: most homeless are only so for short periods of time in-between other quasi-stable housing arrangements, and most arrange and live around this. For instance, the 2019 San Francisco Homeless Count & Report concluded that of the national homeless population, only 24% were considered “chronically homeless [for 12 months or more]”, and 38% in San Francisco itself. source

    I have so far found this to be a very salient book for younger millenials and other common workers to understand class relationships in the modern world and how this “asset economy” defines their relationship to labor by their ability to exercise assets and liquidity. Everyone knows someone who is paycheck to paycheck. Class relationship is not defined by job but by ownership of assets that are ever-rising in appreciation, in an economy moving ever-upwards. Critically, even people with “money” do not necessarily come out on top in this system, as (and as recently as post 2008) the trend of assets being funneled upwards has accelerated; Blackrock is now one of the largest home owners in America. It isn’t simply sufficient to just have money or a high paying job, anymore; you must be intelligent enough to move and manage assets; in short, you must have wealth management in order to exist in the upper echelons of the new class divide.

  • the agony of power

    Power itself must be abolished—and not solely because of a refusal to be dominated, which is at the heart of all traditional struggles—but also, just as violently, in the refusal to dominate.

    Jean Baudrillard, “The Agony of Power”

    This is essentially a very powerful argument that the line drawn in the 20th century, in a shift of global power from domination to hegemony, is what has shaped the psyche and design of much life from then on. Power, rather than being determined solely by war, famine, or soverign intraseigence as it was in the past—is now determined by what we might think of as “globalization.” The difference between these two, after thousands of years of “domination”, drives a significant amount political and social alienation.

    There are many modern issues that walk in parallel to the points in this book. One is the current ones being (as of this writing) war in Europe between Ukraine and Russia; in some ways the fervor of it all, the deep bloodlust amongst the West for revenge against “autocrats”, the desire for war, might indicate one thesis of the book is true: that we desire a return to the ways of domination, not only because it seems like a true return to form, a true return to the ways of human power—but, because Hegemony might have been a far worse outcome after all.

  • this vast southern empire

    In the foreign, as in the domestic,
    policy of the United States,
    the interest of slaveholders
    served as the guiding star.

    Karl Marx, “This Vast Southern Empire” (Epigraph)

    A compelling and insightful portrait of southern slaveowners at the height of their power in the early 19th century, the very zenith of southern antebellum politics as we know it. Unlike contemporary portrayals—which prefer to paint the slaveowner class as ignorant baffoons—this instead treats them as the powerful autuers, politicians, and social scions they really were. The slaveowner class was cunning and ruthless in their attempt to reshape global politics in their name: slavery wasn’t just a means of domination, but a future, an entire vision for the future of world politics and economics.

    But if we recognize the slaveowner class as the serious agents of power they were, we also have to recognize something else, too: that despite seemingly unlimited power spanning the upper hemisphere, even they were routed and defeated too.

  • Capitalist Realism: is there no alternative?

    What must be discovered is a way out of the motivation/demotivation binary, so that disidentification from the control program registers as something other than dejected apathy.

    Mark Fisher, “Capitalist Realism: is there no Alternative?”

    One of the classic modern works. A very powerful tale of the power of capitalist society and its influence on the psychology of people. Fisher wasn’t the very first person to link the alienating power of capitalism with the profound struggle of individual mental illness, but this book does it well enough (even if I find the writing is a bit thick overall.)

    Mark “kpunk” Fisher committed suicide on January 13th, 2017.

  • The Other Side of the Digital

    The digital landscape presently exerts its power through a form of endless accountability whereby users are mobilized to participate and contribute to the accruement of the digital, a process that I call a sacrificial economy—that is, a continuous offering to clear a debt that cannot be honored.

    Andrea Righi, “The Other Side of the Digital: The Sacrifical Economy of the New Media”

    To be finished.

  • The Techological Society

    Technique integrates the machine into society. It constructs the kind of world the machine needs and introduces order where the incoherent banging of machinery heaped up ruins … It is efficient and brings efficiency to everything.

    Jacques Ellul, “The Technological Society”

    To be finished.

  • The Dialectical Biologist

    Is the average behavior of chemicals and organisms an adequate basis for decision making or must we be concerned with the unevenness of the world? Shall we “be realists” and stick to measurable costs and benefits, or shall we concern ourselves with all kinds of consequences of what we do? Gradually we see a confrontation of the world views of mechanistic reductionism and of dialectical materialism.

    Richard Levins, “The Dialectical Biologist”

    To be finished.