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Books and Arts

Samir Sonti, Books and Arts Editor

Living on the Job, a review by Laura Adler 

Volume 30, Issue 3, Fall 2021

In a now notorious clip from 2004, George W. Bush sits on a stool onstage, next to a white woman around sixty years old with her hair anachronistically styled up. She is worried about changes to Social Security, and Bush notes that she, like many others with these concerns, is “near retirement.” “We are living longer and people are working longer,” Bush remarks, “but nevertheless there’s a certain comfort to know that the promises made will be kept by the government.” She responds, “That’s good because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.” Bush looks startled.  “You work three jobs?” She responds firmly, “Three jobs, yes.” He takes a pause and turns smiling to the audience. “Uniquely American innit? I mean that is fantastic that you’re uh, doing that,” he descends into mumbles over tentative applause.

Uniquely American that a woman in her sixties must work three jobs to get by—and uniquely American . . .

The Low Carbon Good Life, a review by Simon Torracinta

Volume 30, Issue 2, Spring 2021

The last four years have seen a tremendous surge in energy and unprecedented social movement mobilization around the threat of climate change. In the United States, its main thrust has been the call for a Green New Deal, but similar policy responses are emerging across the world, from the European Union’s Green Deal framework to China’s recent pledge of carbon neutrality before 2060. The bulk of attention in these initiatives is devoted to the decarbonization of the energy sector, and the rapid deployment of renewable technologies like wind and solar. Yet as the British philosopher Kate Soper argues in Post-Growth Living: For An Alternative Hedonism, they largely skirt the politically sensitive issue of consumption. . . 

A Chinese Dystopia: Designed in California, a review by Nelson Lichtenstein

Volume 30, Issue 1, Winter 2021

Amazon.com: Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and The Lives of China's Workers: 9781642591248: Chan, Jenny, Selden, Mark, Ngai, Pun: Books The title of this book is not metaphorical. Between January and November 2010, eighteen Foxconn workers attempted suicide, all but one by leaping from a high floor of their company dormitory. Four survived with injuries.

Five were women and thirteen men, all between the ages of 17 and 25 years. The suicides created an international sensation, both for Foxconn and for Apple, the iconic cell phone and laptop company that has contracted with a host of Chinese suppliers to manufacture a dazzling array of products. Foxconn was by far Apple’s biggest contract manufacturer, and both companies scrambled to stop these tragedies. Foxconn beefed up its mental health outreach, closed off balconies, and erected nets extending outward from lower dormitory floors. Apple called for more inspections and better working conditions, but like . . .

No Future Without Unions, a review by Charles Du

Volume 29, Issue 3, Fall 2020

For five years, Christian Smalls worked as a process assistant at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island. After at least two employees at the warehouse tested positive for Covid-19 this past March, he led his coworkers on a walkout to protest unsafe conditions. Amazon fired Smalls the next day for “violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk” and immediately strategized to impugn him—as Amazon’s general counsel put it in notes leaked to the press, he was “not smart or articulate”—and to make him the face of all union organizing efforts at Amazon.

It would not be the only example of astonishingly callous corporate behavior during the early months of the pandemic. Hospitals fired doctors and nurses for speaking out about dangerous shortages of personal protective equipment . . .

Paving the Road to a Socialist Future, a review by Emma Teitelman

Volume 29, Issue 2, Spring 2020
Just one day after Bernie Sanders confirmed his first presidential candidacy in spring 2015, Jacobin posted an essay by its founding editor, Bhaskar Sunkara, who imagined what the Sanders campaign could mean for socialist politics in the United States. Sunkara acknowledged that outsider electoral runs sometimes had the effect of weakening leftist political capacities. With cautious optimism, however, he proposed that if Sanders gained steam, it might present a “sign”: the constant squeeze of the post-recession economy and a steady stream of tepid centrist politicians had, perhaps, created possibilities for a new politics to emerge from the American masses. Electoral victory was unlikely, but Sanders’ run was an opportunity for socialists to “regroup” and articulate a political vision that spoke to the working-class majority. Just as important, Sunkara wrote, the campaign might “begin to legitimate the word ‘socialist’, and
spark a conversation around it, even if Sanders’ . . . 

Confronting Colonial Capitalism, a review Alex Standen

Volume 29, Issue 1, Winter 2020

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and in the midst of a power outage that left tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans without electricity for months, former Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló laid out a plan to rescue the island. It could be described in one word: privatization. The first target would be the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which—weakened by years of austerity and mismanagement—had been especially vulnerable to the wrath of Maria. Hundreds of public schools would be closed; hundreds more would be replaced by privately run charter schools. And privatization would not stop there: almost everything was on the table, from highways to national parks. As Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce told The Intercept, “We do expect that similar things will happen in other infrastructure sectors” . . . 

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