In Praise of Barbarians
Those of us who thought the last international socialist died on the battlefields of the First World War can take heart in this collection of essays by Mike Davis, a social critic with a strong sense of that bygone tradition. As with most timely commentary, hindsight reveals a mix of the prescient (a 2005 essay on “Riotous Real Estate” suggests that the American economy has been “surfing a tsunami and a towering cliff looms ahead”) and the blinkered (Hillary Clinton is given the nod as the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, with Barack Obama said to be unlikely to survive the primaries). In general the longer pieces are the best, especially the detailed rebuttal of some of the points raised by Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? Less valuable are the analogies between the American and Roman empires, and the brief appreciations of important figures in the American labour movement.