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Front Page » Table of Contents » Archive: Books & Book Reviews: June 2009

By Larry James on June 17, 2009

E. P. Thompson published Making of the English Working Class in 1963. I picked up my well-worn copy the other day for the first time in about thirty years. So, it's been a while since I worked my way through the story rise of labor in England. Once you get into Thompson's rhythm and style, the book flows. And that is good, the book is a tome - over 800 pages - not exactly a quick, weekend read, but well worth the effort.

The history of democracy and the growing insistence on democratic reform in England in the days just before, during and following the French and American revolutions makes for fascinating reading. The London and provincial corresponding societies provided regular meeting opportunities for revolutionary minded, anti-monarchical thinkers, most of whom were common, laboring people - artisans, tradesmen, dissenting clergy and the like.

The interests of these groups - often persecuted, spied upon and, at times, suspected of plotting insurrection - remained largely unchanged across the reach of English labor history, at least in principle. Much of the conflict and debate stirred by these groups pitted a vision of traditional "moral economies" against emerging "free markets" - one product of modernity and a system served by expanding trade options.

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By Darrell Hamlin on June 16, 2009

There is only one truly satisfying aspect of Richard Wolffe’s new book on the Obama campaign, Renegade: The Making of a President (Crown, 2009). It wipes the smirk about community organizing off the GOP’s face. The 2008 Republican Convention in St. Paul presented variations on a sneer: “I guess a small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer – only with actual responsibilities,” Alaska Governor and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin said in her acceptance speech. Rudolph Giuliani – a former big city mayor who surely knew better – also feigned snide uncertainty as to what it is that community organizers actually do. It turns out that community organizers learn how to successfully mount a campaign for President. They are particularly effective against snarky opponents who underestimate the experiential value of political organizing early in one’s career.

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By Megan Hill on June 3, 2009

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto is more than just insightful; it’s truly revolutionary. But then, would we expect anything less?

Pollan’s book sets out to defend food in a world where food products are increasingly pushing whole food out of our diet. And it’s a deadly diet at that. Scientists have attributed some of our society’s most prevalent (and deadly) chronic diseases to what Pollan calls the “Western diet,” including stroke, coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Pollan blames “nutritionism,” defined as the process of “adjusting various nutrients (lowering the fat, boosting the protein) and fortifying processed foods rather than questioning their value in the first place.” Further, he points to a medical community that helps people to live with these diseases instead of solving the root of the problem: the Western diet.

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The previous archive is Books & Book Reviews: March 2009.

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