I've always been attracted to the freedom and responsibility of the individual inherent in anarchism as a political philosophy. It was my readings of Noam Chomsky and interviews he'd given on anarchism that first made me identify as an anarchist. Still, as someone who considers themself as a democrat might never have heard of the demos in Athens, I wasn't really aware of the history of anarchism and the thinkers who had contributed to it over time.
When I sit on the train watching people reading crime and fantasy novels, I despair at how stupid most non fiction is, and then I remember George Orwell's 1984. This is a towering work of fiction, whilst I love the Lord of the Rings which won a number of polls of best fiction book of the 20th century, 1984 would be my choice. I remember talking to a female friend who saw it as a love story, whereas I hardly noticed that aspect of the book, this is part of Orwell's genius, to write on so many levels that different readers will take away different aspects.
Joseph Stiglitz went from academia on to some of the most powerful positions in the world possible for an economist, from advisor to the Clinton government to chief economist at the World Bank, he also picked up the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics along the way. Stellar credentials indeed, yet I have heard reports that at meetings of the major world economic instituions, he is forced to stand behind the barriers along with the protestors, barriers which make sure the economic tyranny is not threatened by an outbreak of social democracy.
This book looked really interesting from the first time I heard about it, and with Noam Chomsky recommending it on the cover (Along with Rev Tim Costello and Natasha Stott Despoja) I kept trawling the library for it until it finally came in. I must say the first few pages really rocked my world, particularly about the disjunct between the union and social justice facets of the left. From then on it got into what the book is about, that we have given economics far too central a position in the political and social life of our culture.
This book was released with enough hype that I had heard about it for a while before I had any idea what it was about, therefore I assumed it was a stupid novel or something. I'm not sure how I came about to know what it was really about and read it, but I was very glad I did. This book talks about what is behind the facade of trends and brands in our modern world, how they are created and sustained both in the factories of impoverished countries, and the soulless designer offices of the PR world.
"..and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!". The Awful Truth, which was a television show hosted by Mike Moore, is one of my favourite shows of all time. Therefore I was a sucker to buy this book, along with the gazillion other people who did. It had it's moments, sometimes it was even funny, it even told me a couple of things I didn't know, but it left me wanting something more, a more comprehensive look at power, glimmers of an alternative social vision.
After Stupid White Men, I didn't expect too much from this book, and perhaps as a result of that I enjoyed it infinitely moore. From 'Corporate Aid' where they solicit donations for our poor corporations who can't get the government off their backs, to 'Love Night for the Klu Klux Klan' where they send a Mariachi Band and all black cheerleading group to send some love to ignorant racists, to trying to buy a Nuclear missle off the disintegrated Soviet Union, this book never lets up.
"The True Martin Luther King Jr.". Martin Luther King Jr. was perhaps the greatest citizen of the US in the twentieth century and the US has a national holiday reflecting this status on his birthday. I knew little about him apart from his inspiring "I had a dream" speeches and a few sample's on PE records, and it was wanting to learn more about this great man that prompted me to buy this book. The main focus of the book is rescuing MLK's legacy from those who have shamelessly used his name to support their own, often right wing political agendas.
Albert Einstein said of Gandhi: "Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.". Gandhi was an extraordinarily complex man. Along with his better known qualities he was a believer in the central truth of all religions, he was a passionate vegetarian, wrote many books, was a qualified lawyer and had a fascination with his urine. Reading this book won't leave you with the impression that he was flawless, indeed he can be downright annoying and stubborn in sections of the book.
Modern psychology evaluates an individuals sanity by their relationship to our society, are they successful socially, materially? With suicide and depression rates rising fastest in the very societies with the greatest access to modern psychological medicine, is reconciling an individual to our society really the path of sanity? The question Fromm is asking, is whether our society on the whole is sane, and whether asking an individual to judge themselves by their relationship to it is in fact leading them away from sanity.