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About the Book
"Mike Davis, recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, has written Old Gods, New Enigmas to tackle the remaining interest of Marx's oeuvre. Although everyone agrees that proletarian agency is at the very core of revolutionary doctrine, one searches in vain for any expanded definition, much less canonical treatment. For this reason, Chapter 1 adopts an indirect strategy: a parallel reading of Marx and other socialist thinkers of the classical frame. The goal has been to find accounts of how class capacities and consciousness arose on the principal terrains of social conflict; in the socialized factory and the battles within it for dignity and wages; through sometimes invisible struggles over the labor process; out of the battles of working-class families against landlordism and the high cost of living; from crusades for universal suffrage and against war. Chapter 2, "Marx's Lost Theory," influenced by Erica Benner's work on the politics of nationalism in Marx, argues that Marx's requiem for the failed revolution in France (The Eighteenth Brumaire and Class Struggles in France) stands second only to Capital as an intellectual achievement; moreover, one that is grounded completely in the urgency of revolutionary activism. Chapter 3 focuses on Marx's critic, Kropotkin, who in his scientific persona instigated a great international debate on climate change. Chapter 4, "Who Will Build the Ark?," centers on the debate about the "Anthropocene," a proposed geological epoch, without previous analogue, defined by the biogeochemical impacts of industrial capitalism, was still largely confined to earth science circles"--]cProvided by publisher.
Book Synopsis Is revolution possible in the age of the Anthropocene?
Marx has returned, but which Marx? Recent biographies have proclaimed him to be an emphatically nineteenth-century figure, but in this book, Mike Davis's first directly about Marx and Marxism, a thinker comes to light who speaks to the present as much as the past. In a series of searching, propulsive essays, Davis, the bestselling author of City of Quartz and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, explores Marx's inquiries into two key questions of our time: Who can lead a revolutionary transformation of society? And what is the cause--and solution--of the planetary environmental crisis?
Davis consults a vast archive of labor history to illuminate new aspects of Marx's theoretical texts and political journalism. He offers a "lost Marx," whose analyses of historical agency, nationalism, and the "middle landscape" of class struggle are crucial to the renewal of revolutionary thought in our darkening age. Davis presents a critique of the current fetishism of the "anthropocene," which suppresses the links between the global employment crisis and capitalism's failure to ensure human survival in a more extreme climate. In a finale, Old Gods, New Enigmas looks backward to the great forgotten debates on alternative socialist urbanism (1880-1934) to find the conceptual keys to a universal high quality of life in a sustainable environment.
"Old God, New Enigmas
is a project that no one but Mike Davis could have conceived and successfully executed: a systematic account of working-class politics on a global scale that can serve as a worthy accompaniment to Marx's Capital
itself. Historical sociology, cultural analysis, strategic handbook, and brilliant entrée to Marxist debates, Davis's book constitutes a weapon for action that is outrageously pleasurable to utilize." --Robert Brenner, author of The Economics of Global Turbulence
"In this collection of essays, Davis searches Karl Marx's oeuvre for a revolutionary paradigm capable of addressing present-day economic inequality and climate change ... While the esoteric case studies and historical summaries will appeal primarily to readers already familiar with Marx, the book also offers the simple pleasure of watching Davis's nimble mind at work." --New Yorker
"An exact and exacting account of the forces and tendencies that compose the present, written in the grand tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, not as the application of a theory but as a guide to action. It is the indispensable starting point for any strategy that seeks to end the catastrophe of capitalism's continued existence." --Warren Montag, author of Bodies, Masses, Power
"There is no one better at building on Marx's legacy of profound and engaged political analysis--the Marx of the Manifesto
and The 18th Brumaire--
than Mike Davis. This new book puts the class formation, deformation and reformation of precarious proletariats, the social meanings and staying powers of national identities, the capitalist nature of ecological crises in brilliantly well-informed historical, comparative and revolutionary perspective." --Leo Panitch, Professor Emeritus, York University
"Whether his theme is Marxian views of proletarian agency or of nationalism, Kropotkin's climatological-historical materialism or the prospects for an ecosocialist reinvention of city life, Mike Davis's guiding vision is clear and bold: a reinvigorated and politically charged Marxism, brimming with original insights and suffused with historical depth." --Nancy Fraser, author of Fortunes of Feminism
"Davis resuscitates myriad overlooked works of political and environmental history and theory in this insightful collection." --Publishers Weekly
"The heterogeneity of Davis's latest book reflects his decades of accumulated interests ... [Davis is] a formidable intellectual, and this collection contains many gems." --Troy Vettese, Boston Review
"An excellent, pocket-ready primer for historicized militant organizing."--Carl Grey Martin, Socialism and Democracy
"Davis offers the possibility of hope ... His clear writing style ... successfully combining a select history of labour movements, a careful rereading of Marx, and a frank consideration of the calamitous ecological consequences of capitalism on climate change, so as to present a vision of how coming forms of capitalism can best be opposed and transformed into socialist movements that can sustain life instead of destroying it." --Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
"Brimming with insights, Old Gods, New Enigmas
is a collection in which [Davis] attempts to make sense of how, in the face of crisis and potential disaster, workers can realize their latent power to build a world that respects the implacable demands of ecology and averts climate apocalypse."--Micah Uetricht, The Nation
About the Author Mike Davis
is the author of several books including City of Quartz
, The Monster at Our Door
, Buda's Wagon
, and Planet of Slums
. He is the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award. He lives in San Diego.