Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today! Paperback – May 1, 2008
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
About the Author
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Author Chris Carlsson looks at how computer programmers, community gardeners, Burning Man attendees, bike riders and others are shaping their world and what their actions mean in a capitalist society that seems more work-oriented than ever before. The definitions of "work" and "class" and "identity" are examined in a very compelling way, and Carlsson doesn't shy away from inherent contradictions in what people are doing.
If the idea of being free from the chains of 9-5 sounds appealing to you, this book won't so much tell you how to do it for yourself, but will tell you how are others are trying to make it work for themselves.
Another great AK Press read.
Urban gardeners reclaim otherwise decaying urban cities, where drugs and crime plague neighborhoods, and try to get food from the land. The gardens take back private property, long abandoned by slum lords, and turn it into public land or a commons for the neighbors and by the neighbors, growing and sharing food. More often than not, women lead in rebuilding a sense of community by everyone with an interest in the gardens putting caring for them. Green Philadelphia, a network promoting urban gardens in Philadelphia areas taken over by drugs, empowered residents to be in charge of their neighborhoods. In the 1990s, MayorGiuliani saw t he NYC vacant lot gardeners as a threat to private enterprise, even calling them communists, and basically declared war on the gardeners, forcing them to engage in active fights to preserve gardens and to prevent the land on which they sat from being sold to development schemes.
Carlsson also explores bike culture, like the Critical Mass protests that occur in cities throughout the world typically taking place the last Friday of the month. Bicyclists show that there is a viable, healthy, environmentally friendly and affordable alternative to car culture. Particularly in cities walking, biking or taking public transit provide valuable alternates to cars, lessening air, noise soil and water pollution. He interviews people who've opened up bike repair spaces to anyone who wants learn. In San Francisco, he focuses on programs that teach bike repair to children in low income neighborhoods. He also interviews people who rebel against mainstream bike culture, with its glossy magazines and spandex. The bike messenger culture, a highly individualistic, very punk subculture, has organized into messenger unions, but one in San Francisco fizzled out because the sponsoring union eventually pulled out and suffered backlash from the courier companies.
Carlsson looks into other revolts against mainstream consumer culture, like the veggie-fuel movement, telling the story of one group of people, who drove across the country, procuring used oil at fast food restaurants along the way in order to fuel their journey.They gave talks on their trip, telling others about biodiesel and about how to convert a car to run on veggie-oil. This group reduced their reliance on the oil economy and met their fuel needs by re-using oil that was otherwise destined for the dump. Their project was based on DIY ethics, on environmentally friendly motives, and on a reuse ethic, which in the current days where gas prices are through the roof might seem like a good alternative and a cheap way of fueling vehicles. (Though I worry about Carlsson promoting biodiesel in this day and age, since it will probably end up like ethanol and drive up corn prices, if it became widely popular.) Biodiesel is not sustainable on a mass scale. So consumers need to consider reducing their use of fuels though that's not always possible in places that are built around the automobile.
He looks at using open source software against corporate giants like microsoft. And he discusses the Burning Man festival. Although described by its organizers as an experiment in community, radical self-expression, and self-reliance, and promoting an idea of attenders who are all participants with its "no spectators" concept, not allowing monetary exchange so that attendees allegedly learn to think outside of the capitalist structure and re-evaluate "value" by bartering skills and things, Carlsson acknowledges that the festival has become another for-profit enterprise.
Throughout the book, Carlsson asks various people what they think their class background is. They usually respond that they aren't sure but thought they were some kind of middle class. He takes that to mean that the US working class is not something around which to organize. I think he might be forgetting that the US education system does not explicitly teach people about class. Even in the UK, where people often say they are working class even when they are not, interestingly similar to and yet different from the US where everyone thinks they're middle class from sanitation workers to US Senators. He berates unions over and over because they look at class from an outdated point of view. I agree: unions don't organize people anymore (I think that is the fault of US unions not of unionism). Though unions and the labor movement have been slow to adapt to the changing economy, I don't think that throws out a worker-driven movement.
A part I did like about this book is that it explained the concept of "Multitudes", developed and used by people like Negri, in language that was more on my level, so I finally figured out what it means (there are multiple classes of people instead of one working class).
All in all, the book is an interesting read, though it is a bit choppy and maybe the author jumps to conclusions too quickly. Still, it's cool to see what other people are doing to organize and agitate or self-organize as far as interests outside of my own. I've never been someone who's thought that you can only do one thing ("either, or"), and all else is damned. For any movement to thrive, there has to be a whole lot of stuff doing all kinds to resist and reject to the dominant cultures, as well as organizing within it and for a better future beyond it.
Carlsson begins his book on a discussion of how we define work. Is it just the paid work we do? Or is it the ways in which people come together to make their goals happen? Carlsson understands that the ordinary worker (and if we draw a paycheck, we are, after all workers) cannot completely separate themselves from the logic of the capitalist economic system. We need to be able to pay the rent and provide for the other necessities/niceties of life. During the time we work, we are at the mercy of the system. It is how workers organize the free time that becomes meaningful in his analysis.
The late capitalist system in which we live has become quite adept at colonizing the free time of the workers in the system, especially those workers who identify themselves as the middle/professional class. The extra hours, the working vacations, the work done at home are all part of a system that expects more from people while giving them less of what workers have traditionally worked for- security, money, and free time.
Nowtopia focuses on how some segments of our society are trying to reclaim their "free time" and rebuild communities. The gardeners, bikers, and programmers that Carlsson features in the book have these two things in common. The creation of a community that is not profit based becomes a type of work, but a work that is not defined by the capitalist system.
Carlsson's analysis is excellent and he understands completely that pervasiveness of the capitalist system and its ability to colonize even the activities of these emerging communities. The rent, after all, needs to be paid in cash, not garden grown tomatoes.