Friday, July 29, 2011

Culture and Explosion is the English translation of the final book written by legendary semiotician Juri Lotman. The volume demonstrates, with copious examples, how culture influences the way that humans experience ""reality"". Lotman's renowned erudition is showcased in a host of well-chosen illustrations from history,
literature, art and right across the humanities. Now appearing in
English for the very first time, the volume is made accessible to
students and researchers in semiotics, cultural/literary studies and
Russian studies worldwide, as well as anyone with an interest in
understanding contemporary intellectual life.

Profit over people: neoliberalism and global order

Noam Chomsky

Seven Stories Press, 1999

In Profit Over People Noam Chomsky takes on neoliberalism, the pro-corporate system of economic and political policies presently waging a form of class war worldwide. By examining the contradictions between the democratic and market principles proclaimed by those in power and those actually practiced, Chomsky critiques the tyranny of the few that restricts the public arena and enacts policies that vastly increase private wealth, often with complete disregard for social and ecological consequences.

In clear, understandable language, Chomksy charts the dramatic shift away from a public-interest interpretation of democracy and toward a top-down model that serves the profit incentive of massive corporations. Profit Over People also presents Chomsky's thoughts on free market philosophy, corporate control of public opinion, and the unreported impact of nondemocratic forces and policies like the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment--and the widespread resistance movements that often emerge to oppose them.

Combining detailed historical examples and uncompromising criticism, Chomsky offers a profound sense of hope that social activism can reclaim people's rights as citizens rather than as consumers, redefining democracy as a global movement, not a global market.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Enemy of All
, Piracy and the Law of Nations

 - Daniel Heller-Roazen

This beautifully written book outlines how the state originally created a monopoly for the execution of violence. It does so by looking at the genesis of western civilisation around the Mediterranean and how legislation played a key role in this process. This book is key in making sense of times when governments claim to wage war on terrorism.

'The pirate is the original enemy of humankind. As Cicero famously remarked, there are certain enemies with whom one may negotiate and with whom, circumstances permitting, one may establish a truce. But there is also an enemy with whom treaties are in vain and war remains incessant. This is the pirate, considered by ancient jurists to be "the enemy of all."

In this book, Daniel Heller-Roazen reconstructs the shifting place of the pirate in legal and political thought from the ancient to the medieval, modern, and contemporary periods, presenting the philosophical genealogy of a remarkable antagonist.

Today, Heller-Roazen argues, the pirate furnishes the key to the contemporary paradigm of the universal foe. This is a legal and political person of exception, neither criminal nor enemy, who inhabits an extra-territorial region. Against such a foe, states may wage extraordinary battles, policing politics and justifying military measures in the name of welfare and security.

Heller-Roazen defines piracy by the conjunction of four conditions: a region beyond territorial jurisdiction; agents who may not be identified with an established state; the collapse of the distinction between criminal and political categories; and the transformation of the concept of war. The paradigm of piracy remains in force today. Whenever we hear of regions outside the rule of law in which acts of "indiscriminate aggression" have been committed "against humanity," we must begin to recognize that these are acts of piracy. Often considered part of the distant past, the enemy of all is closer to us today than we may think. Indeed, he may never have been closer.'

From the Zone Books web-page.