Timeless books on timely issues.
These topical reading lists are by no means exhaustive. Rather, they are a concise curation of some of our favorites.
We are always working to update Z’s reading lists. Please consider sending your suggestions to: Connect @ ZNetwork.org
Noam Chomsky & Robert Pollin
Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet
– Chomsky and Pollin map out the catastrophic consequences of unchecked climate change—and present a realistic blueprint for change: the Green New Deal. They debunk the bogus claim that a transition to a green economy will bring about economic disaster and widespread unemployment and demonstrate that, with the Green New Deal, we can successfully stop burning fossil fuels within the next thirty years and do so in a way that improves living standards and opportunities for working people.
Less Is More
– Capitalism demands perpetual expansion, which is devastating the living world. There is only one solution that will lead to meaningful and immediate change: degrowth. We need to evolve beyond the dogmas of capitalism to a new system that’s fit for the twenty-first century. But what about jobs? What about health? What about progress? This book tackles these questions and offers an inspiring vision for what a post-capitalist economy could look like. An economy that’s more just, more caring, and more fun. An economy that will not only lift us out of our current crisis, but also restore our sense of connection to a world that’s brimming with life. By taking less, we can become more.
The Case for a Green New Deal
– The book presents a roadmap for radically transforming the economy from one that is based on burning fossil fuels and wealth inequalities to one that is decarbonized, fair and just.
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
– Braiding Sweetgrass is a 2013 nonfiction book by Potawatomi professor Robin Wall Kimmerer, about the role of Indigenous knowledge as an alternative or complementary approach to Western mainstream methodologies and ontologies. The scope of this book ranges from botany to colonialism, from climate change to kinship, and finally from history to strategy for winning a better world.
A “Green New Deal?”
– Capitalist dynamics are at the very heart of the current crisis that humanity faces over global warming and if global capitalism continues with “business as usual”, the warming will have major irreparable impacts. The Green New Deal, as proposed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, is offered here as the global programme of change that can halt the ecological collapse facing us.
The Care Collective
The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence
– This book sets out a vision for a caring world that considers childcare, healthcare, elder care and care for the natural world. The Care Manifesto demands that we put care at the heart of the state and the economy and it reimagines the role of care in our everyday lives, making it the organising principle in every dimension and at every scale of life.
Women, Race and Class
– Angela Davis gives us a ground-breaking history of race, gender and class inequality from the age of slavery up to the modern era. She examines the racism and class prejudice inherent in so much of white feminism, and in doing so brings to light new pioneering heroines, from field slaves to mill workers, who fought back and refused to accept the lives into which they were born.
Jo Freeman, Cathy Levine
Untying the Knot: Feminism, Anarchism and Organisation
– This book contains two seminal essays, Jo Freeman’s ‘The Tyranny of Structurelessness‘ and Cathy Levine’s ‘The Tyranny of Tyranny‘, that marked the debates over small/unstructured or non-hierarchical group organisations that have been raging from the 1970s till today.
Anarchism and Other Essays
– This collection of essays outline Goldman’s anarchist views on a wide range of subjects. These include her views on the oppression of women and what she observed as the shortcomings of “first wave feminism”; on prisons, political violence, sexuality, religion, nationalism and art theory.
Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center
– In this book, bell hooks maintains that mainstream feminism’s reliance on white, middle-class, and professional spokeswomen obscures the involvement, leadership, and centrality of women of colour and poor women in the movement for women’s liberation.
Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger
Reproductive Justice: An Introduction
– A primer that provides a comprehensive yet succinct description of the field. Written by two legendary scholar-activists, Reproductive Justice introduces students to an intersectional analysis of race, class, and gender politics. Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger put the lives and lived experience of women of color at the center of the book and use a human rights analysis to show how the discussion around reproductive justice differs significantly from the pro-choice/anti-abortion debates that have long dominated the headlines and mainstream political conflict. Reproductive justice is a political movement of reproductive rights and social justice. In a period in which women’s reproductive lives are imperiled, Reproductive Justice provides an essential guide to understanding and mobilizing around women’s human rights in the twenty-first century.
Woman’s Consciousness, Men’s World
– Rowbotham contributes to debates on women’s oppression and consciousness, and the connections between socialism and feminism. Examining feminist consciousness from various vantage points – social, sexual, cultural and economic – Sheila Rowbotham identifies the conditions under which it developed, and how the formation of a new “way of seeing” for women can lead to collective solidarity.
Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desirable Society
– Practical Utopia is a succinct and thoughtful discussion of ambitious goals and practical principles for creating a desirable society. It presents concepts and their connections to current society; visions of what can be in a preferred, participatory future; and an examination of the ends and means required for developing a just society.
Mutual Aid: A factor of Evolution
– A long and interesting analysis of mutual aid as a factor in the evolution of animal species and humans. Kropotkin starts with mutual aid among animals, and then traces mutual aid in human history from the first humans, to the Barbarians, to the Middle Ages and right up to the modern day. The book argues that for the Law of Mutual Struggle – i.e. success of the struggle for life, and especially for the progressive evolution of the species – nature’s Law of Mutual Aid is more important than the Law of Mutual Contest.
Arthur Manuel, Grand Chief Ronald Derrickson
Unsettling Canada and Reconciliation Manifesto
– This book documents how governments are attempting to reconcile with Indigenous peoples without touching the basic colonial structures that dominate and distort the relationship. The author reviews the current state of land claims, tackles the persistence of racism among non-Indigenous people and institutions, decries the role of government-funded organizations like the Assembly of First Nations, and highlights the federal government’s disregard for the substance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples while claiming to implement it.
Culture and Imperialism
– Said makes an extensive examination of western culture, from Jane Austen to Salman Rushdie to Yeats to media coverage of the Gulf War. His book analyses the roots of imperialism in European culture.
As We Have Always Done
– Leanne Betasamosake Simpson locates Indigenous political resurgence as a practice rooted in uniquely Indigenous theorizing, writing, organizing, and thinking. She makes clear that the goal of Indigenous resistance can no longer be cultural resurgence as a mechanism for inclusion in a multicultural mosaic, calling for unapologetic, place-based Indigenous alternatives to the destructive logics of the settler colonial state.
Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century
– This collection of articles from a variety of authors, including Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert, imagines what an egalitarian, bottom-up, participatory world would look like by exploring topics such as participatory economics, political vision, education, architecture, artists in a free society, environmentalism, work after capitalism, and poly-culturalism.
RPS / 2044: An Oral History of the next American Revolution
– RPS/2044 is an oral history of the next American Revolution written as a series of interviews conducted in 2040-2041 by Miguel Guevara. Eighteen interviewees describe their participation in Revolutionary Participatory Society – RPS – from its initial conception in 2020 to 2044. Their interviews flashback to events, campaigns, vision, strategy, feelings, thoughts, debates, and resolutions.
Lonnie Ray Atkinson
Don’t Think of a Republican: How I Won A Republican Primary As A Lefty Progressive And You Can Too
– A curation of the scandalous rhetoric and the unprecedented electoral truth-telling employed throughout H.F. Valentine’s ground-breaking campaign, Don’t Think of a Republican proves, as badass as his candidacy may have been, the idea of running a lefty progressive in a Republican primary was not really all that bonkers.
Taking the Risk Out of Democracy
– This book is based on previously unpublished work from Alex Carey and provides the history of the corporate propaganda practiced by US businesses, how that propaganda was adopted by Western democracies like the UK and Australia.
Government in the Future
– Government in the Future is based on Chomsky’s talk delivered at the Poetry Center, New York, on February 16, 1970, where he articulates a clear vision of social change. He compares and contrasts classical liberal, libertarian socialist, state socialist, and state capitalist world views and goes on to defend a libertarian socialist vision as the proper progression from classical liberalism to an advanced industrial society.
Secrets, Lies and Democracy
– Another illusion-shattering, fact-filled masterpiece from the man the New York Times called “arguably the most important intellectual alive.” Here are a few, brief excerpts:
- In 1970, about 90% of international capital was used for trade and long-term investment — more or less productive things — and 10% for speculation. By 1990, those figures had reversed.
- Haiti, a starving island, is exporting food to the US — about 35 times as much under Clinton as under Bush.
- What the public wants is called “politically unrealistic.” Translated into English, that means power and privilege are opposed to it.
Open Veins of Latin America
– Published in 1971, when most of Latin American countries had brutal, right-wing dictatorships, Galeano’s book provides an analysis of the impact that European settlement, imperialism, and slavery have had in Latin America. The book goes through the history of the Americas as a whole, from the time period of the European settlement of the New World to contemporary Latin America, describing the effects of European and later United States economic exploitation and political dominance over the region.
Roads to Freedom: Socialism, Anarchism and Syndicalism
– This work of political and social analysis examines the main roads to freedom that we have constructed for ourselves since the nineteenth century and discusses the great Utopian and egalitarian movements, ranging from the most moderate and democratic guise of Socialism to the most fanatical embodiment of Anarchism.
– Russell wrote this book during World War One and although he expressed the ideas in this book in other writings, here they are organized into a primer of revolutionary idealism. The book is a statement of Russell’s beliefs, a declaration of the ideas that influenced his thinking on the major events of the 20th century.
A People’s History of the United States
– A landmark book, that begins with Christopher Columbus’s arrival through to Bill Clinton’s first term as President, A People’s History tells US history from the point of view of, and in the words of, the ordinary American people who don’t write the conventional history books: America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. In telling history in this way, Zinn shows how many of the US’s greatest battles for equality for workers, women, people of colour were carried out at the grassroots level against bloody resistance.
Thinking Forward: Learning to Conceptualize Economic Vision
– The first of the “Forward” trilogy of books, Thinking Forward is a highly accessible and unorthodox approach to thinking about economics. It subverts the elitist and codified world of academic economics by empowering the reader with the tools needed to conceptualize an economy based on progressive and humane values. It challenges the idea — so prevalent in Western capitalism — that the best we can hope for is capitalism with a happy face. And it challenges us to imagine what could be: a society based on justice, solidarity, and vision.
Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel
Looking Forward: Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century
– Looking Forward is the second book in the “Forward” trilogy of books, and discussed how work can be organized efficiently and productively without hierarchy; how consumption could be fulfilling and also equitable; and how participatory is planning could promote solidarity and foster self-management.
Moving Forward: Program for a Participatory Economy
– Here Albert asks, if not capitalism, then what? Something’s not working, but there’s a dearth of material on what could be right – and more important how to change things. Laying out strategy and vision for his “participatory economics,” Albert argues that we must change the way we view work & wages and restructure our workplaces so that everyone can become involved in controlling their working lives. This is third book in the “Forward” trilogy of books.
No Bosses: A New Economy for a Better World
– No Bosses offers a vision for an alternative to the capitalism called participatory economics. Parecon elevates self management, equity, solidarity, diversity, and sustainability. It eliminates elitist, arrogant, dismissive, authoritarian, exploitation, competition, and homogenization. Read more about No Bosses.
Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism
– Realizing Hope offers a speculative vision of a future beyond capitalism – an alternative to the exploitation of human labour, the unchecked destruction of the earth, and the oppression of all for the benefit of the few. Participatory economics – parecon for short – is Albert’s concrete proposal for a classless economy. He takes the insights and hopes of parecon and enlarges them to address all key aspects of social life and society – gender, culture, politics, science, technology, journalism, ecology, and others.
ParEcon: Life After Capitalism
– PerEcon: Life After Capitalism offers an answer to the poverty, alienation and degradation caused by capitalism and globalisation. ParEcon is an alternative to capitalism that is built on the values of solidarity, equity, diversity and people democratically controlling their own lives, but utilizing original institutions fully described and defended in the book.
For Workers’ Power: The Selected Writings of Maurice Brinton
– This collection of essays from Maurice Brinton who didn’t believe that “actually existing socialism” in fact, existed but had to be created. His work champions worker self-activity and self-management and decries those who reinforced passivity, apathy, cynicism, pecking orders, and alienation among workers. To Brinton, this oppressive behavior was as prevalent among state socialists and communist parties as it was among capitalists, because it enabled rulers and would-be rulers of every political stripe to deceive and manipulate those in whose name they claimed to act.
Workers’ Councils: And The Economics of Self-Managed Society
– Castoriadis provides a detailed article on “the development of modern society and what has happened to the working-class movement over the last 100 years” and how they “have compelled us to make a radical revision of the ideas on which that movement has been based.”
Of the People, By the People,: The Case for a Participatory Economy
– Hahnel argues that unless the economy is of the people and by the people it will never be for the people. This book is for people who want to know what a desirable alternative to capitalism might look like, who want more than rosy rhetoric and who want to dig into what economic justice and economic democracy mean. It is a book for optimists—who believe the human species must be capable of something better than succumbing to competition and greed or authoritarianism, and would like to know how we can do it. It is also a book for skeptics—who demand to be shown, explicitly and concretely, how a modern economy can dispense with markets and authoritarian planning, and how hundreds of millions of people can manage their own division of labor efficiently and equitably.
Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation
– Progressives need to go back to the drawing board and rethink how they conceive of economic justice and economic democracy. For the long-term view, Hahnel presents a coherent set of economic institutions and procedures that can deliver economic justice and democracy through a “participatory economy.” And for the shorter-term, he also explores how to promote the economics of equitable cooperation in the here and now.
A Participatory Economy
– This book presents Parecon as an alternative to capitalism. It proposes and defends concrete answers to how all society’s economic decisions can be made without resorting to unaccountable and inhumane markets (capitalism) or central planning authorities (state communism). It considers the viability of early socialism’s vision of an economy in which the workers come together to decide among themselves what to produce and consume, and proposes additional features such how to plan investment and long-term development to maximize popular participation and efficiency; and to engage in international trade and investment without violating its fundamental principles in a world where economic development among nations has been historically unfair and unequal.
– We have been told that development is working: that the global South is catching up to the North, that poverty has been cut in half over the past thirty years, and will be eradicated by 2030. It’s a comforting tale, and one that is endorsed by the world’s most powerful governments and corporations. But is it true? Since 1960, the income gap between the North and South has roughly tripled in size. The richest eight people now control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world combined. We are told that poverty is a natural phenomenon that can be fixed with aid. But in reality it is a political problem: poverty doesn’t just exist, it has been created. The Divide tracks the evolution of this system and offers a range of revelatory answers, but also explains that something much more radical is needed – a revolution in our way of thinking.
The Conquest of Bread
– Originally written in French, this book first appeared as a series of articles in the anarchist journal Le Révolté. The author points out the defects, as he sees them, of feudalism and capitalism and why he believes they thrive and necessitate poverty and scarcity. He proposes that a better alternative is an economic system based on mutual aid and co-operation and argues that organisation of this kind already exists in evolution and human society.
Capitalism VS. Freedom: The Toll Road to Serfdom
– This book puts big business under a microscope and debunks the conservative classics while demonstrating that the marketplace has its own great centers of power, which the libertarian tradition itself claims is a limit to freedom. Larson illustrates how capitalism fails both this and other concepts of human liberty, not just failing to establish a right to a share of society’s production, but also leaving us subject to the great power plays of the one percent’s corporate property.
– This book was written by Pannekoek while living under Nazi occupation in Holland. In it, he gives a summary of his experiences observing and participating in workers’ councils from China to Germany over the first half of the twentieth century.
– Rocker introduces the ideals fueling the Spanish social revolution and resistance to capitalism the world over, and writes about anarchist ideas, a history of the international workers movement, and an outline of the strategies and tactics embraced at the time (internationalism, federalism, anti-militarism, direct action, sabotage, and the General Strike).
– Sandstrom’s book delves into accounting in an alternative libertarian socialist economic system, exploring the information and transactions needed to enable democratic and effective financial decisions by those affected by the decisions. Based on the economic model, participatory economics, the author proposes a set of accounting principles for an economy comprised of common ownership of productive resources, worker and consumer councils, and democratic planning, promoting the model’s core values.
Sean Michael Wilson and Carl Thomas
PARECOMIC: The Story of Michael Albert and Participatory Economics
– Parecomic is a graphic novel about what’s wrong with the capitalist system we live in and about Parecon, an alterative to that system. The book traces the journey of Michael Albert—one of the the visionaries behind Parecon—“and his life’s struggle as a left-wing activist in the US, beginning with the heady days of 1960s student demos and lifestyle rebellions; following the developments of the antiwar, civil rights, woman’s, and Black Panthers movements; to the establishment of alternative media like South End Press and ZNet; and the development of the participatory economics model.”
A selection of free reading from ZNetwork…