We have a variety of interviews recommending books on social and political reform, some looking at ideologies of reform, others at historical movements and others looking at contemporary movements in particular countries.
On the ideological side, Professor Ruth Kinna looks at anarchist thought, as it developed from the 19th century and into the 20th century. Ellen Wayland-Smith, a descendant of John Humphrey Noyes, the founder of the utopian Oneida community, and the economist John Quiggin both select their best books on Utopia. Journalist Maria Sveland covers at feminism and US Congressman Keith Ellison progressivism.
Turning to individual countries, former US union boss Andy Stern chooses books about bringing change to America. Economist Austin Frakt covers US healthcare reform and activist Van Jones, in an interview conducted prior to the election of President Trump, looks at change in America and the legacy of President Obama. It still makes for interesting reading.
British politician David Owen looks at constitutional reform in the UK and the constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor considers electoral reform. Richard Baum looks at obstacles to political reform in China. On broader economic themes, the journalist and writer, Anatole Kaletsky thinks about a new capitalism and Robert Reich ponders saving capitalism and democracy.
'Anarchism', in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
by Peter Kropotkin
Gates of Freedom: Voltairine de Cleyre and the Revolution of the Mind
by Eugenia C. DeLamotte
The Slavery of Our Times
by Leo Tolstoy
Autonomy, Solidarity, Possibility: The Colin Ward Reader
by Chris Wilbert, Colin Ward & Damian F. White
Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1870-1940
by Lucien van der Walt & Steven Hirsch
Sometimes vilified, often misunderstood, rarely taught in universities, anarchism is a political philosophy and social movement that’s far removed from today’s mainstream politics. But it was and remains a powerful motivator. Political theorist Ruth Kinna talks us through the best books to read to get a better understanding of anarchism.
“Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same,” wrote Michel Foucault; a brilliant transdisciplinarian whose work spanned philosophy, history, social theory and literary criticism. He mined past ways of thinking so as to see present-day assumptions and practices afresh, explains the philosopher Gary Gutting.
Utopia is out of fashion because efforts to set one up normally end disastrously, says author Ellen Wayland-Smith. And yet, they offer a critique of society that, even today, can’t be ignored. She picks the best books on utopia.
The futurist says work in futures is about patterns, not predictions. He recommends five books about the future that look backwards as well as forwards.
The feminist author chooses liberating literature for women, from Virginia Woolf to Erica Jong. She says that men still don’t share equal responsibility in the home, and that life after divorce can be easier.
Andy Beckett’s choices point to a welcome reassessment of the 1970s, that much-maligned ‘gothic’ decade, and sweep from London to Los Angeles by way of Malcolm Bradbury and John le Carré
The late China specialist and UCLA professor said sometimes he felt genuine admiration for China’s technocratic leaders. Other days he shook his head at their obsessive intransigence and China’s endemic political insecurity
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story
by Martin Luther King Jr
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
by Malcolm X and assisted by Alex Haley, Laurence Fishburne (narrator)
The Two-Income Trap
by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Tyagi
by Jacob S Hacker and Paul Pierson
by Jim Wallis
As American congressman Keith Ellison—the first Muslim elected to Congress—enters the race to chair the Democratic National Committee, reread this interview on the cause he stands for: progressivism — and the best books to read to fully understand it.
Paul Kingsnorth, co-founder of the Dark Mountain project, urges the need for uncivilisation: the process of getting beyond our human assumptions, such as the myth of unfailing linear progress. It is about looking at humanity in the wider context of the whole planet, and the imminent ecological crisis.
For thousands of years, human societies have tried to regulate sexual activity. The author of Sex and Punishment tells us why this should be so, and how what’s permissible has varied according to time and place.
The Australian economist and author of Zombie Economics says we need to inspire people with a view of a better society. In short, we need a new utopia.
The roots of our (generally) open attitude to sex lie not in the sixties but the 1760s, says the historian and author of The Origins of Sex, who explores this earlier sexual revolution through its literature.
It’s not the first period in history that American society has suffered from a crisis of inequality. Former labour secretary, Robert Reich, recommends books to help us understand the response of previous generations to the same kinds of challenges we now face.
Until the 1970s, Britain was predominantly a working class society, says the historian David Kynaston. He tells us about books that explore how this changed, giving rise to the turbulent Thatcher years.
If you were starting from scratch, no one would design a healthcare system like America’s. The health economist tells us how it evolved and what needs to change. He picks the best books on US healthcare reform.
Cecile Richards, American pro-choice activist and former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, discusses the stories of struggle and resilience that have inspired her and can give encouragement to others seeking change
The former union boss shares his reading list for American progressives, and tells us what makes a good leader and how it takes only a few committed people to bring change
In the latest instalment of our series on American progressivism, the environmental advocate and human rights activist tells us why the age of Obama will really only begin after the president has left office
The academic and former government official suggests which book to read if you want to grasp the dynamics of extremism, but says there’s a lot more to his country’s problems than terrorism
Britain votes on Thursday in a referendum on changing the electoral system. The political consequences could be great, says one of the country’s top constitutional experts.
Jane Eyre, 1984 and Anne Frank’s diary all make it onto novelist Amanda Craig’s list. On Black Beauty‘s underrated importance: ‘People forget that William Wilberforce, who abolished the slave trade, also founded the RSPCA.’
We need to build an entirely new market system, not just patch up the old one, says economics commentator Anatole Kaletsky. He picks the best books to help us think about what form a new capitalism might take.
The founder of the British Social Democratic Party (SDP) says that the House of Lords should be a fully elected body, and that Tony Blair’s careerism is a disgrace. David Owen selects five books on constitutional reform.