2016 Book Selection

If you are trying to figure out how the world got to where we are, and where the world is going, here are four books that I have read over the last few months that may help.

Understanding Europe, the European Union, and the Euro

And The Weak Suffer What They Must, by Yanis Varoufakis. This describes the history of the global financial system over the last 80 years, and provides a fascinating context to the current status of the Euro and the European Union. It should have been required reading in preparation for the Brexit vote and I guarantee it would have influenced the voting. At least the outcome would have been informed…

Understanding Islam

Destiny Disrupted. A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, by Tamsin Ansary. This describes the world from an Islamic perspective, providing an insight into how the Islamic world got to where it is today. Bits of the book are a bit too academically historical (in the year x, a killed b, was succeeded by c etc) for me, and I would have really liked to learn more about how the Islamic rule in southern Spain connected with Christian Europe, but I recognize that Spain was just one boundary of the Islamic world at that time (bits just one that I have seen…). The book does provide an insight that we should see Islam as not just a religion, but a social movement and a civilization. the western neo-liberal world view is not the only one out there.

Understanding rapid societal change and globalisation

Age of Discovery, by Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna. A fascinating book that compares the renaissance 500 years ago with today and provides some recommendations on how to navigate the future. The renaissance was the start of exploration, artistic and religious expression, trading and finance, the printing press and therefore mass knowledge and technological progress. The parallels with the changes in the last decade are uncanny, and for those of us at the back of the class it’s good to be reminded how the world has changed in the last 10-15 years. The western neo-liberal world view is not the only one out there.

Understanding where capitalism goes next

Postcapitalism. A Guide to Our Future, by Paul Mason. Paul Mason is an economist, journalist and (now) radical left activist (connected with Syriza, Podemos and Momentum). Some of the writing betrays this, but don’t let this put you off – the book demolishes much of the accepted economic theory, and has some very convincing arguments about how to build a better society in the face of the rise of factories run by robots and levels of debt that are out of hand. Mason highlights how technology and collaborative consumption/work can potentially free us up for a very different society in the future. The book is a little lite on how to get there, but it’s provides some great insights on where we are starting from.

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