Understanding the system, but not changing it

The trouble with reading the review sections of the weekend papers is that I discover so many more books I’d like to read. Martin Sandbu has a review essay in the FT of several books about Occupy: David Graeber’s [amazon_link id=”1846146631″ target=”_blank” ]The Democracy Project[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1846146984″ target=”_blank” ]Meme Wars: The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics[/amazon_link] by Kalle Lasn and Adbusters, and [amazon_link id=”B00CC8C1E6″ target=”_blank” ]Occupy: Three Inquiries in Disobedience[/amazon_link] by WJT Mitchell, Bernard Harcourt and Michael Taussig.

The interesting point Sandbu makes is that there’s no point getting irritated with Occupy folks about their lack of a positive programme for change, because the point about them is procedural justice and participation; but on the other hand, they’ll never change anything about ‘the system’ if they don’t find a means of engaging with it enough to depart from it. They’re falling foul of Karl Marx’s famous aphorism that the point is to change rather than analyse things. Of these, the Adbusters volume appeals to me the most – although irritating, their work is always thought-provoking. I enjoyed reading Graeber’s [amazon_link id=”1612191819″ target=”_blank” ]Debt[/amazon_link] but suspect his Occupy fame might have gone to his head.

[amazon_image id=”1846146984″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Meme Wars: The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics[/amazon_image]

John Le Carre’s latest novel, [amazon_link id=”B00AWJYJVA” target=”_blank” ]A Delicate Truth[/amazon_link], also seems to be about ‘the system’, albeit its political and legal dimensions. It gets very positively reviewed in both The Guardian by Mark Lawson and The Observer by Robert McCrum. On another system, the glorious writer Andre Makine has a novel about Brezhnev’s USSR: Brief Loves That Live Forever.

Also in the FT, Emma Jacobs reviewed [amazon_link id=”1846685206″ target=”_blank” ]Made to Last: The History of Britain’s Best-Known Shoe Firm[/amazon_link] by Mark Palmer. She’s lukewarm about the book about Clarks, but I loved learning that Clarks shoes (which we all know and love for their sturdy school shoes for our kids and comfortable shoes for middle-aged feet) are beloved of Jamaican reggae stars and feature in song: “Everybody haffi ask weh mi get mi Clarks.”

[amazon_image id=”1846685206″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Clarks: Made to Last: The story of Britain’s best-known shoe firm[/amazon_image]

There’s a posthumous volume of W.G. Sebald’s essays, [amazon_link id=”0241144183″ target=”_blank” ]A Place in the Country[/amazon_link], out soon. The Guardian Review has a great feature on Sebald.

[amazon_image id=”0241144183″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]A Place in the Country[/amazon_image]

Finally, I spotted that Joe Stiglitz’s latest, [amazon_link id=”0718197380″ target=”_blank” ]The Price of Inequality[/amazon_link], is out in paperback – I’ve not yet read it so now have no excuse.