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In Praise of Barbarians: Essays against Empire Paperback – September, 2007
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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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Enjoyed this book, and while some are certainly merely personal essays (without the information to be truly informative), I'll be looking for more of his detailed work for the... Read morePublished 17 months ago by BronxRev
With the American imperial war machine in one's sights it's hard to go wrong, but much of this is tired, recycled agitprop. Read morePublished on August 12, 2014 by Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'
While I agree with author Mike Davis on most issues, a lot of the writing in this book comes off as more of a rant than profound thought.Published on January 3, 2014 by Neal Diamond
Theres few in the same league as Mike Davis - he has all the attributes of a good essayist, he can write well, with humour and wit, and can make the inexplicable comprehensible in... Read morePublished on July 3, 2013 by S Wood
I had Mike Davis as an instructor for an urban political theory course. At the time he had just written "City of Quartz. Read morePublished on June 29, 2013 by Radell Hutchen
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. Read morePublished on May 27, 2011 by Chris