Book Bits | 6 June 2020

The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers and Agile Corporations
Jeff Wald
Summary via publisher (Post Hill Press)
The world has witnessed three step functions in technological change: mechanization, electrification, and computerization. These industrial revolutions led to massive increases in productivity and thus the need for fewer workers. With each of these technological breakthroughs, the power balance between companies and workers shifted heavily to companies. The abuses of that power by companies instigated employee unrest and sometimes even armed uprisings. Counterbalancing forces rose to constrain companies’ power, eventually prompting unions, regulation, and the social safety net to bring stability to the relationship.

United States of Socialism: Who’s Behind It. Why It’s Evil. How to Stop It.
Dinesh D’Souza
Summary via publisher (All Points Books/Macmillan)
For those who witnessed the global collapse of socialism, its resurrection in the twenty-first century comes as a surprise, even a shock. How can socialism work now when it has never worked before? In this pathbreaking book, bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza argues that the socialism advanced today by the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and Elizabeth Warren is very different from the socialism of Lenin, Mao and Castro. It is “identity socialism,” a marriage between classic socialism and identity politics. America’s typical socialist is not a working-class union man but a Black Lives Matter activist, a transgender militant or a prophet of environmental apocalypse. Today’s socialists claim to model themselves not on Mao’s Great Leap Forward or even Venezuelan socialism but rather on the “socialism that works” in Scandinavian countries like Norway and Sweden.

How Everything Can Collapse: A Manual for our Times
Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens
Summary via publisher (Polity)
What if our civilization were to collapse? Not many centuries into the future, but in our own lifetimes? Most people recognize that we face huge challenges today, from climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences to a plethora of socio-political problems, but we find it hard to face up to the very real possibility that these crises could produce a collapse of our entire civilization. Yet we now have a great deal of evidence to suggest that we are up against growing systemic instabilities that pose a serious threat to the capacity of human populations to maintain themselves in a sustainable environment.

The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions
Jeffrey D. Sachs
Review via Kirkus Reviews
In this history of the stages of globalization since the first foraging bands of humans, Sachs shows how the “rising scale of global interactions” has led to the crises of the 21st century—and what can be done.
“Humanity has always been globalized,” writes the author, as a result of the interplay of physical geography (climate, etc.), technology (systems of production), and institutions (from politics to cultural ideas). At each stage, humans have become more aware of and dependent on the wider world. By examining how interactions occur and how changes in one region affect another, we can learn lessons for today. The author’s scholarly overview, based on lectures given at Oxford University in 2017, identifies seven ages of globalization and explains how each prompted “scale-enlarging transformations.”

Enrichment: A Critique of Commodities
Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre
Summary via publisher (Polity)
This book offers a major new account of modern capitalism and of the ways in which value and wealth are created today. Boltanski and Esquerre argue that capitalism in the West has recently undergone a fundamental transformation characterized by de-industrialization, on the one hand, and, on the other, by the increased exploitation of certain resources that, while not entirely new, have taken on unprecedented importance. It is this new form of exploitation that has given rise to what they call the ‘enrichment economy’.

Prophetic City: Houston on the Cusp of a Changing America
Stephen L. Klineberg
Review via Houston Public Media
“Houston turns out to be one of the most interesting, consequential cities in all of America,” Klineberg told Houston Matters with Craig Cohen. “This is where — for better or worse — the American future is going to be worked out.”

Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World
Andrew Phillips and J C Sharman
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
How chartered company-states spearheaded European expansion and helped create the world’s first genuinely global order. From Spanish conquistadors to British colonialists, the prevailing story of European empire-building has focused on the rival ambitions of competing states. But as Outsourcing Empire shows, from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, company-states—not sovereign states—drove European expansion, building the world’s first genuinely international system.

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