Some books on the humanism of the future
A background reading list to Clear Bright Future
If you’re reading Clear Bright Future (or thinking about buying it) here’s some of the other books you might want to take to the beach this summer…
I started my research by taking down three books that had been sitting on my shelves since the early 1980s.
The first is Marxism and Freedom by Raya Dunayevskaya. Dunayevskaya had been Trotsky’s secretary when he lived in Frida Kahlo’s house in Mexico. During the Second World War she rediscovered the “radical humanist” roots of the early Marx. This combative and utterly brilliant work is the result.
The second book is Fear of Freedom by Erich Fromm. Fromm had been a leftwing social-psychologist in Weimar Germany and was the first person to identify the “authoritarian rebel” character that allowed some communists to flip over to Hitler’s Nazis once they held power. In Fear of Freedom, Fromm analysed a social dynamic that has become all too familiar to us: the exploitation of tiredness and disorientation among progressive people to impose fascist regimes.
The third is Hannah Arendt’s collection entitled the Promise of Politics, which contains her most sustained critique and dialogue with Marx, placing his thought at the turning point of western intellectual history.
A fourth, more recent book that I returned to many times was a collection entitled Alasdair Macintyre’s Engagement with Marxism – writings from the 1950s and 60s by a British philosopher now famous for neo-Aristotelianism but who, at the time, was trying to evolve Marxism into the source of a moral philosophy.
Fifth there is Edward Thompson’s The Poverty of Theory – a neglected but masterful attack on postmodernism written just before the whole doctrine of irrationalism overwhelmed the academic left.
Finally, no list of source books would be complete without mention of Marx’s humanist writings. These include not only the famous 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts but key parts of Capital and its forerunner The Grundrisse. They’re all free at Marxists.org
As I write, Corbyn is being vilified as a Marxist; so are the leftwing democratic representatives in the US congress. Meanwhile the achievements of the most powerful Marxist in the world – Xi Jin Ping –are lauded by investment banks and repressive states everywhere.
I came to the conclusion that, instead of a dead but interesting doctrine- as Arendt thought – Marxism is going to be the intellectiual obsession of the right in the 21stcentury – so someone should unearth and defend both its humanist origins and their implications for freedom.
That’s what Clear Bright Future is trying to do.