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In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire Paperback – September, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Haymarket Books (September 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931859426
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931859424
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #377,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Writer, historian, and activist Mike Davis is the author many books, including City of Quartz, The Ecology of Fear, The Monster at Our Door, and Planet of Slums. Davis teaches in the Department of History at the University of California at Irvine, and lives in San Diego.

Customer Reviews

Read it - and laugh and weep and be informed.
S Wood
There are about 44 articles/essays packed into 331 pages of this book.
Chris
On par with the best contemporary social criticism.
Radell Hutchen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By worddancer VINE VOICE on September 30, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of Mike Davis. He is smart, well-informed and politically astute, and he 'pays attention to that man behind the curtain.' He is also edgy, and sometimes his incisive, biting humor is brilliant.

This collection of essays confirms those judgments (at least by my lights). But there are a disappointingly large number of essays that are simply too old to be of any obvious relevance. Some of the essays published prior to 2004 still have bite and purchase: the essay about SUVs, the revival of nativism and the political utility of the most recent wave of anti-immigration sentiment to right-wing Republicans, and Davis's prognostications about the implications of the Democrats' failure to confront the tactics of the repellent Grover Norquist, for example. And I greatly enjoyed the reprise of the tales of the Sunset Strip riots in 1966-68 (Davis on LA social history is always a treat).

But the commentary about Bush, Inc. produced early in the Bush administration, observations about the self-defeating antics of the Democratic presidental nominee wanna-bes prior to the 2004 campaign, and assessments about the likely fate of Gray Davis in the recall election....well, those are more exercises in publication vanity than reader enlightenment. Sadly, the proportion of older essays of less-than-obvious relevance is quite high.

I'm not sorry I bought (or read) the book. But I was disappointed.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert Philbin on March 24, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mike Davis is an interesting thinker (and good writer) with a popularist point of view steeped in history and political awareness. This is a survey (or sampling) of his commentary in recent years, which covers a gamut of topics organized around the idea that a faltering American imperialism is undermining its culture(and legal system)to the point of near collapse. The current neocon administration seems to be proving Davis' point for him on a daily basis, which only makes "In Praise of Barbarians" that much more relevant. A good, quick read.

Bob Philbin
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
Historian and socialist activist Mike Davis presents In Praise of Barbarians: Essays Against Empire, a caustic collection of radical essays hurling blistering attacks on perceived yearnings for empire and other potentially fatal flaws within modern-day America. Chapters discuss social ills ranging from California's increasingly crowded prison system (due to the "Three Strikes" laws that add an ever-growing number lifetime convicts who committed nonviolent offenses), to a commemoration of "anarchist avengers" of the 1890s, to a stinging condemnation of the Pentagon as "Global Slumlord" and much more. Passionate, unapologetic, and relentless in calling out the ruthless side of industrial capitalism, In Praise of Barbarians deserves to be carefully considered as a compelling warning of worsening social ills, regardless of whether the reader agrees with the author's political ideology.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on October 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
"In Praise of Barbarians" compiles a large amount of essays and articles written by prominent left-wing author and activist Mike Davis, one of my favorite contemporary writers of nonfiction. Most of these are pieces written for the Socialist Review, the paper of the British SWP (no association with the American SWP), parent party of the International Socialists. Nonetheless these are just as readable and generally accessible as the articles written for The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, and similar periodicals.

Davis covers a wide spectrum of issues from a left-wing perspective here, from the Iraq War to American prisons and from New Orleans to Greenland. As is to be expected with him, the style is engaged and indignant, with a strong historicizing context - he is after all professionally a historian. This is what Davis does well, time and again, and this collection is as such no exception.

It must be noted though that as other reviewers have pointed out, some of the articles are somewhat dated, and the large amount of topics addressed and the imbalance between them gives the whole a scattered and uneven impression. All of the essays/articles are interesting to read, but they have little in common besides Davis having written them, which does not work as well as Davis' cogent and powerful accusatory books do. This collection is recommended but by no means essential.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Kumar on April 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
If you want to get a sense of what a wider discussion of history and current events would sound like in our mainstream discourse, this is the book to read. Davis covers everything from 9/11 to the Anarchist Avengers to the real reasons behind the Sunset Strip teenybopper "riots" of the 60s. I was curious to learn more about Spain's Durruti, who is described as a real life Robin Hood. Davis' interview on the history of the Anarchist movement is mesmerizing, if only for the sheer number of names and events I ended up looking up just to learn more about. There is a beautiful history in America, and not just of the Robber Barons, technology, and War... Davis chronicles the lives of people forgotten by history ... it's losers. But these are people we need to learn about simply because we're not supposed to know they even existed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Chris on May 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
There are about 44 articles/essays packed into 331 pages of this book. It is difficult to think of a better radical leftist essayist than Mike Davis. This book was published in 2007 and most of the essays appear to be from the 2003-2006 period. Davis has a very active and probing mind into all sorts of topics relating to current events and the result is great edification for the reader.

The first part of the book features substantial discussion about electoral matters. Most prominent is an essay in response to Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter with Kansas." Davis sees the electoral demographics of Democrat defeat highly colored by the unwillingness of Democrats to undertake substantial efforts to mobilize their working class base by fashioning their electoral message in ways that address the problems of that class. The Democrats, of course, have no desire to reverse the increasing economic inequality of recent decades. Davis writes that Democrat elites are primarily concerned about appealing, not to the working class, but to the avatars of the New Economy like Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as well as Hollywood moguls, the financial sector, etc. Under the DLC inspired rightward drift of the Party, it is assumed that union activists, minorities and other traditional Dem voters have no choice but to vote Democrat. Democratic elites assume such voters will keep coming back to the Democrats no matter how much the Party screws them with policies like NAFTA. The result of such a mindset was on display during the 2004 election. Gore lost the traditional Democratic bastion of West Virginia in 2000 and Kerry lost it by an even greater margin in 2004. Davis notes that in the southern part of the state, the impoverished coal counties voted solidly Democratic.
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More About the Author

Mike Davis is the author of several books including City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear, Late Victorian Holocausts, Planet of Slums, and Magical Urbanism. He was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. He lives in Papa'aloa, Hawaii.

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In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire
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