review

A most wonderful mess

Introduction

Like so many other households, mine is doing its best to maintain some sort of order under the current conditions, organizing around the new abnormal of the COVID-19 pandemic as best we can. However, as we enter yet another month of semi-lockdown (this was written in a Copenhagen flat at the end of January 2021) entropy looms large. Routines that used to go unquestioned can now become the main task – and sometimes the highlight – of the day: do I need to shower? Should we prepare a home-cooked dinner? 

The 15-M laboratory of democratic transformation: How a contemporary Spanish movement contested neoliberal hegemony in an impoverished democracy

Only nine years ago, in 2011-2012, history appeared to be ‘born again’ (Badiou, 2012) in the Mediterranean basin and across the world, through the Arab Spring, the ‘15 M’ (or ‘Indignados’ movement) in Spain, the ‘squares movement’ in Greece, and the global Occupy movement. Today, the boisterous scenes of democratic uprisings, the contestation of neoliberalism and austerity policies, the glimpses of egalitarian ‘real’ democracy and popular aspirations to progressive change in countries such as Spain and Greece seem consigned to a remote past.

Against transparency: Surveillant assemblages, partition and the limits of digital democracy

In this short book, just 64 pages, Clare Birchall addresses the shifting relationships between data and citizens to unpack what big data, transparency and openness, mean for democracy and the government of subjects. It stands as an interesting read alongside Zuboff’s (2019) voluminous The age of surveillance capitalism, not only for the contrast in page count, but also for the distinct theoretical take and the greater focus on the role of the State.

Digital powers: Surveillance and economic logics in a datafied world

Some scholars churn out paper after paper with small arguments and thinly sliced contributions, and may compile them into books that connect the dots and offer broader perspectives. Others leave fewer, but much bigger footprints. Shoshana Zuboff, professor emerita at Harvard Business School, certainly falls in the second category. Her first book, In the age of the smart machine: The future of work and power (Zuboff, 1985), remains a pillar in fields of research focusing on digital technologies, information systems, organization and management, and knowledge production.

Collective chronopolitics

It is always a pleasure to read what Melissa Gregg writes. Her blog Home cooked theory, where she often posted her still raw ideas, including many for this book, was a wonderful treat to read for insight on current cultural studies of work until Gregg closed it down a couple of years ago.

Dis/Organizing fascism

In December 2019 the internet giant Amazon got into a spot of bother when it was found to be selling T-shirts depicting a body plummeting from a helicopter beneath the caption, Wanna take a ride? (Goñi, 2019). The reference here was to the ‘death flights’ of Pinochet’s military dictatorship, which involved throwing left wing opponents of the regime from helicopters in lakes or the sea in an attempt to hide their murders.

Moving and mapping (with) Actor-Network Theory

Reading the introduction to the recent Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory reminded me of the famous phrase ‘The king is dead, long live the king’. The editors, Anders Blok, Ignacio Farías and Celia Roberts, begin by declaring that, after its heyday in the 1990s, ANT is now in danger of becoming irrelevant because it has been taken up by an increasing number of scholars with backgrounds in a wide range of disciplines. Its popularization, then, is depicted as compromising its analytical force.

Class struggle is like a box of chocolates…

There are a number of debates that if one has the good fortune of living long enough you will find yourself getting periodically sucked back into regardless of whether you want to or not: is this particular form of social practice really art? Who’s the best footballer, Messi or Ronaldo? These debates likely will never be resolved. Therein lies much frustration for those who think the purpose of a debate is to come to a resolution.

Oracles, ignorance and expertise: The struggle over what not to know

The unknowers certainly addresses a heated contemporary discussion around the rise of populist politics and the state of democratic capitalism. The review of such a book presents a certain challenge; The unknowers attempts a comprehensive interpretation of contemporary social relations all the while oscillating between historical analysis and political intervention. It is this balancing act that makes the book both captivating and provoking.

A genealogy of command

Introduction

Pages

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