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Leftist Reading List

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Bert Posted: Fri, Feb 10 2012 2:00 AM

Seeing how we already have the Praxeology: Reading List, Marxism - A Materials List, and Libertarian Political Philosophy Reading List I would like to see a leftist/socialist/mutualist/poststructuralist/etc. reading list put together.  All the major works from these schools of thought from it's most prominent authors, unlike the other reading list this would be a list of leftist books and material.  Problem for me, I've only really read Hegel and Marx as far as differing political views go, with bits here and there picked up from mutualist interaction (I have Kropotkin's Mutual Aid, though).  Thus, my knowledge and range of major works on this for the past 100+ years is limited.  This is where, I hope, people can contribute such information (please, do not start listing off Keynesian material, or anything low brow for that matter).

Let the list begin (will be amended over time)...

Bakunin - The Basic Bakunin: Writings 1869-1871
Bakunin - God and the State
Chomsky - Chomsky on Anarchism
Harrington - Socialism: Past and Future
Kropotkin - Anarchism: A Collection of Revolutionary Writings
Marx/Engels - The Marx-Engels Reader
Marx - Early Writings
Marx - Capital: Volume 1
Newman - Socialism: A Very Short Introduction
Proudhon - Property Is Theft!: A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Reader

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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http://www.revleft.com/vb/reading-list-total-t81568/index.html

http://www.revleft.com/vb/reading-order-newbiei-t167572/index.html

My humble blog

It's easy to refute an argument if you first misrepresent it. William Keizer

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Bert replied on Fri, Feb 10 2012 11:12 AM

To be honest, those lists are a bit half-assed (I guess I shouldn't expect quality organization on RevLeft).  I'm trying to build up a list, but something like Communist Manifesto doesn't seem like hard critique of capitalism, etc.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Jargon replied on Fri, Feb 10 2012 12:21 PM

When I read the Communist Manifesto, all I could think was: "that's it?"

Land & Liberty

The Anarch is to the Anarchist what the Monarch is to the Monarchist. -Ernst Jünger

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Bert replied on Fri, Feb 10 2012 12:40 PM

Communist Manifesto wasn't meant to be a book on theory, it was more of an outline and goals of those people to whom which the reader would be unaware; essentially an introduction to what to expect.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Neodoxy replied on Fri, Feb 10 2012 3:20 PM

The Communist Manifesto does sum up Marxist philosophy insofar, as it translates into a plan of action, without going into much detail. The pure assertion of the work and the sense of "inevitability" that one gets from reading it really say a lot about Marxist Communism

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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Bert replied on Fri, Feb 10 2012 3:30 PM

Luckily a lot of socialists and anarchists didn't like Marx and you get mutualists like Proudhon and Kropotkin, etc.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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John Ess replied on Fri, Feb 10 2012 3:51 PM

I recommend Thomas Sowell's book on Marxism.  Marxism:  Philosophy and Economics.  This book is very clear in language and objective, leaving any criticism until the very end.

Maybe some Slavoj Zizek

Foucault - Discipline and Punish

Barthes - Mythologies

Kevin Carson has 'Studies in Mutualist Political economy'

Clarence Lee Swartz'  What is Mutualism?

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How about infoshop's Anarchist FAQ: http://www.infoshop.org/page/AnAnarchistFAQ

 

It's pretty damn comprehensive.

 

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Neodoxy replied on Fri, Feb 10 2012 10:54 PM

Lol, I like their slogan. With this being said, it's pretty religious all the same, at least in its criticism of the capitalistic system. 

At last those coming came and they never looked back With blinding stars in their eyes but all they saw was black...
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TANSTAAFL replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 10:25 AM

"When I read the Communist Manifesto, all I could think was: "that's it?" "

 

 

 

When I first read it, all I could think was at least 8 out these 10 central planks exist in America.

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at least 8 out these 10 central planks exist in America. 

I think it was Milton Friedman who made the point that the various Socialist Party presidential candidates from the first half of the 20th century, including most notably Eugene Debs, ran on platforms that had been all but fully adopted by the 1980s. 

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Bert replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 11:10 AM

Apparently I cannot edit the OP anymore, so here's more:

Foucault - The Foucault Reader
Foucault - The Government of Self and Others
Zizek - In Defense of Lost Causes

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Chyd3nius replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 12:25 PM

This might be offtopic, but I'll say it still... The amount of leftist literature and theories is just huge, because there is endless amount of combinations how to organize your government. Only minority of people are interested about leftist ideologies, and that minority is highly heterogeneous. So if you're not that much interested about commie-theories etc. it might be best if you just forget the whole thing and use your time to study mainstream vs. austrian arguments, because those are most useful when arguing for liberty.

-- --- English I not so well sorry I will. I'm not native speaker.
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Bert replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 12:49 PM

I figured someone might make this statement.  First, It's not all "commie" literature.  I'm trying to expand to leftist, mutualist, post-structuralist, and socialist literature.  Second, it's not all the same.  If you read stuff by Proudhon and Kropotkin you'll find differences than that of Marx, etc., and views can vary from political, economical, and cultural topics.  It's to expand what one knows about a particular subject.  How can one sufficiently argue against theories that one has not sufficiently submerged themselves into?  I think a balanced understanding is worthy and more beneficial than only reading the Austrians.  (A closed minded view resonates that of Rand, who'd barred her followers from reading non-Objectivist literature out of fear of their minds being tainted; and I'm sure there are many young and ignorant Marxists who share the same view.)

Also, I've read plenty of Austrian material, and I'm bored with it.  I already understand and grasp it, so when it comes to econ and political theory I want to expand what I know and move into other spheres.  The group of actual Austrians (who read and grasp the theory and material) is a minority compared to the mainstream just like the amount of actual mutualists and left-anarchists, etc.  When conversing with the mainstream, no big deal, but it's more intellectually stimulating to converse with an intellectually, but well knowledged, opposing ideology (I'm more likely to get into a real debate with someone of this variety, and it's good to know what you're debating for just as much as what you're "debating against").

With the Austrian material: been there, done that, "argued for liberty", big deal.  I want to expand what I know, I'm not going to stop just because the authors aren't rank and file with Mises and Hoppe.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Chyd3nius replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 12:57 PM

I figured someone might make this statement.  First, It's not all "commie" literature.  I'm trying to expand to leftist, mutualist, post-structuralist, and socialist literature.

Well what I basicly meant was there is huge amount of leftist literature, and all people don't have that much free time to study everything. If you're interested then it's fine to dive deep into all that, but if you don't have that much free time and you're interested more about other things then it might not pay the price to study all those billion leftist theories.

-- --- English I not so well sorry I will. I'm not native speaker.
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Bert replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 1:13 PM

In a way, nothing I've studied has "paid the price" beyond intellectual stimulation and expanding knowledge.  Realistically, it may not pay the price whether the layman dives into Hayekian theory about prices and production, or Hoppe's theories on anarchism.  Seeing how it's all theory from any position.  Thus the same logic can be applied, either you want to learn it, or you don't.  Maybe it doesn't fit your time preference or subjective tastes, so be it, but this forum is a tool in expanding knowledge, and that's what I'm doing.  If you don't have the time, don't read it, but if you can find the time to read an 800 page magnum opus on economics you might have the time to read a few more things as well.

If reading this stuff isn't for you and you don't have the time, then don't bother with the time of making an input.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Neodoxy replied on Sat, Feb 11 2012 1:23 PM

Well said Bert. I've gained a lot from reading things written by leftists, and even though I disagree with the vast majority of it, I've found that a lot of their writings can be incorporated or redesigned in such a way so as to give valuable insight and conclusions. For instance, as Joseph Schumpeter argued, class theory is often invaluable for understanding current events, and especially historical events, and economic class often plays a major role in this, but that doesn't mean that the static, mind altering unity of Marx's models is reality. Another good example is Bakunin's excellent equation of the state to god, which can be extended to most ideological beliefs, even the "left" anarchistic belief that communism, democracy, and egalitarianism are widely beneficial. 

Also, Chyd, you be amazed at how anarchistic many leftist works are.

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Several years back I went to a Mises Institute event and chatted with Jeff Tucker for a minute. He pointed out that the people who follow the Mises Institute around rarely come up with great work. The most impressive contributions have been from people who are willing to go out and find new ideas and let them clash with the Austro-libertarian framework. It is out of the clash of ideas that fresh, exciting ideas come, as opposed to as someone else pointed out the Randian model staying pure and untainted.

I shouldn't necessarily say "new" ideas. I mean "different", perhaps leftist.

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The bibliography for AFAQ alone is enough to make you pass out, but picking from that list would probably be a good start, or finish, depending on how far you'd like to take it.

Anything from Foucault is good. Archaeology of Knowledge outlines what would eventually become the main thesis of the rest of his theories, that social relationships are subject to discourses of power. All of it is obscure because it's translated and post-structuralist. Double the obscurity.

Specters of Marx, by Derrida, is supposed to be a good deconstruction of Marxist communism. Haven't read it myself, but it's been very strongly recommended to me by a number of folks.

Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord outlines what people mean by "commodity culture" in a way that is much more fun than dry Marxist talk and that does a pretty good job disassembling authoritarian Marxism.

Murray Bookchin has some good stuff. Read his essays. He was a proponent of directly democratic, city-sized institutions with minimally binding decision making power. He got a lot of flak for that. Then he tried a synthesis with the libertarian party. Then he gave up and renounced his anarchism before dying. The most fun stuff of his is that which opens up space for radical ecology, which was not taken seriously before his time, and then taken more seriously that he could have imagined (primitivism started sprining up). He ended up coining the term lifestylist to denote primitivists and post-structuralists that weren't interested in direct action.

Emma Goldman has some very firey literature that is very good. An associate of hers, Lola Ridge, has some good poetry.

Studying Zapatismo or other recent rebellions would probably be worth while, as it seems there's a turn to radical communitarianism by a lot of leftists, a type of prefigurative ethics that effects culture and social relationships rather than rely on static definitions of human nature or the ability for institutions to dictate day-to-day life. I can't think of a good way to describe what I'm talking about. These struggles build an ideology that fits their situation rather than fit their situation to ideology. There's no literature on this as far as I know, but to bring it all full circle, Foucault does a good job laying the groundwork for this train of thought in his work, as do a number of post-structuralists. All of the literature on that has more to do with fields like language, history, or gender than they do politics though. Mostly because post-structuralists were not concerned with very complicated public theater.

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Neodoxy replied on Sun, Feb 12 2012 10:03 AM

"Emma Goldman has some very firey literature that is very good."
 

I really liked "Anarchism: What it Really Stands for", although it didn't add anything to my actual understanding of anarchist theory, did she write anything else of interest?

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Chyd3nius replied on Sun, Feb 12 2012 1:07 PM

If reading this stuff isn't for you and you don't have the time, then don't bother with the time of making an input.

I clearly have to improve my writing, because that wasn't what I meant... Well, enjoy your books.

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I think I may have come to the conclusion that the de facto left is no longer relevant.  I think it is dying, and all we are dealing with is the large "priestly language" and some residual fashionable / socially polite causes it has left behind.

 

If you really look at the list, Marx (who is now absolutely discredited) is the only one who really tried to seriously say anything - and from what I can make of him Foucault may be the only other canidate to actually say something - but I've a hunch, there is not much that a classic liberal is going to disagree with on Foucault (there is probably good reason why Sartre called him something like the "last defender of the bourgoise") - the rest seem just too irrelevant to me and I would say the rest of the relevant world at large; when they spea it is more about arbitrary aesthetics or empty psychologisms, or geneologies/ histories that don't matter - in other words a dance around anything relevant.

I think what the "real" conflict may be is between us continental  / classic styled liberals vs left / progressive styled liberals - and that is nothing more than taking a bunch of econ and math classes in school.  Either way liberalism wins / has already won, we just have to figure out exactly what it is saying

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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Goldman's bibliography is the most interesting part about her. There's not much she said that hadn't been said before her, until she goes into criticisms of marriage and social hierarchies. Her feminism is her remarkable theory because it filled a void that had been ignored for quite some time in anarchist circles. Other than that, she was just a figure that couldn't be ignored. So when she rephrases Kropotkin, she not only does it in a much more eloquent way, but she says it with much more force than he ever could.

Now is this just a matter of aesthetics? Maybe. But seeing as how Goldman probably made more anarchists than any of her Russian counterparts (and probably every American combined) before her, there's probably something to it.

On Marriage is, I think, the name of the essay where she starts disassembling the nuclear family, before the nuclear family was the nuclear family.

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John Ess replied on Sun, Feb 26 2012 2:26 PM

"Specters of Marx, by Derrida, is supposed to be a good deconstruction of Marxist communism."

Not so much a deconstruction of Marx, but the idea that Marx still exists and may be ready to reassert itself.  The specter part is the idea that Marxism still exists even after the Cold War, even though it has none of the support that it had by governments for so long.  Marx said in the communist manifesto that there was a spectre haunting Europe.  Derrida thinks that Marx is more relevant than ever, because he thinks that we live in the worst time in human history.  And this is the fault of capitalism and liberal democracies.

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