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. Readers of ephemera will be familiar with Gregg’s prior work, in particular her book Work’s intimacy (Gregg, 2011), and her work on affect theory, such as The affect theory reader (Gregg, 2010), which she co-edited with Gregg Seigworth.
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.
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.
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.
Maurizio Atzeni is Lecturer in Labour and Industrial Relations at Loughborough University School of Business and Economics, United Kingdom, and a Research Fellow at Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones Laborales (CEIL/CONICET), Buenos Aires. Born in Italy, the author completed part of his education in Europe before moving to Argentina, where he currently lives and works. Thenceforth, his work has been deeply influenced by European Marxist tradition, especially by Richard Hyman’s developments and criticisms of labour process theory (Hyman, 2006).
The title of Cox’s new book may call the attention of both new readers and those long acquainted to one of the most relevant references in contemporary social movement theory (SMT). In an unpretentious way, he presents social movements (SMs) as the materialized agency that transforms the social order. Along the text, he employs many anecdotes about how some people get involved, even if incidentally, with a social movement and how this experience changes one’s life and her or his more immediate surroundings.
In Waves of knowing: A seascape epistemology, Karin Ingersoll (2016) deploys a historical and ethnographic account of surfing as a practice both emerging along and against colonialism in Hawaii. Surfing, here, is not only a topic, it is a method and a analytic trope to apprehend colonialism from the perspective of the sea. By so doing, Ingersoll develops an ‘oceanic’ onto/epistemology that challenges land-centric concept of space and colonial perspectives on island life. Surfing and life by the sea are in fact apprehended by the author as aquatic modes of existence.
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.