Book Reviews

I've been hitting the 📚 , by virtue of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased alone time I have. For quite some time I have been wanting to create a site like this, though I never really got the chance to (nor did I ever plan out how I would create it). As the year comes to an end, I found it the best time to finally make it — book reviews on the books I have read!

As you may be able to tell by looking at the books, I really like philosophy. But, I'm not that weird! I promise. 🤪

1: The Second Coming — Franco Berardi [2019]

Short: Franco Berardi is a brilliant author who manages to engage a reader with every chapter. The Second Coming introduces an "apocalyptic" world that was once defined by two governing powers: chaos and order. Through an analysis of the current epoch, one approaching the sixth mass extinction, Berardi theorizes that the order has ditched the world and only chaos exists. However, he finds light in the darkness in a unique way: a world full of chaos can recreate the space for a new one to be created, through a re-imagined communist praxis. A great, easy to understand, and critical book that aides one in finding a new perspective to "a world of chaos."

Long: The Second Coming is a brilliant book by a wonderful author, Franco Berardi. Berardi, commonly known for coining the term "semio-capitalism," is a unique author. At the age of 13, he was a member of the Italian Communist Youth Federation (though was expelled due to 'factionalism'). After graduating from the University of Bologna (this city amazes me) with a degree in Aesthetics, he joined the Autonomia Operaia movement and met different philosphers who inspired his work (namely: Antonio Negri and Félix Guattari). He is literally the most anti-Boomer 71 one year olds out there. Truly one of the greatest authors in philosophy. ❤️

The Second Coming is about humanity reaching the gateway of the "apocalypse" (which is how he describes our current world/epoch). In this book, Berardi makes a structural claim about how the world was (key word "was") created: in constant fluctuation with chaos and order. The chaos that Berardi is referring to encapsulates basically everything (political drama, economical collapes, ecological catastrophes, and automation). We have entered the gateway to the apocalypse. This theological concept is the best metaphor to describe the world in which we are already living. The reason I say that the key word is "was," is because Berardi believes that this used to be the way functioned, but not anymore. He claims that the world has lost its hold on order and chaos reigns over the world. However, through this "pessimistic" view of the world, he forwards the idea that although change may not be a possibility, a dead world can recreate the space for a new one to be created. And, because he is a Communist, he identifies a modified version of Communism as a methodology to explore the possible potentials of the mind.

I definitely liked this book. Although Berardi is making huge claims (quite philosophical and theoretical too), I think he does a fantastic job of bringing everything back to the now and how it would relate to the normal reader/worker. I give this book a 9/10 because it was enjoyable to read and was short too!

Cover of The Second Coming

Final rating: 9/10

2: Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility — Franco Berardi [2017]

Short: Franco Berardi is a brilliant author who manages to engage a reader with every chapter. Futurability is a dense theoretical analyse of 'semio-capitalism' and its exploitative methods of accumulation. He forwards a new understanding of capitalism: through digital labor, capitalism is no longer just accumulating labor or time, but our minds and souls. The precariat (a social class suffering precarity) or the cognitariat (a social class undertaking cognitive labor) are being exploited and expropriated not just at their jobs, but at home too. Our phones are the biggest example. Rather than going home and relaxing, most are subjected to complete some sort of tasks over their weekends, thus, taking over our minds. In order to reclaim our human psyche and our collective interactions as a human population, we must embrace a a platform based cultural revolution aimed at restoring the neurological prerequisites for collective empathy and solidarity. A well-thought out, eye-opening, relatable, easy to understand book that emphasizes the power of the common.

Long: My my my, what do we have here? You know what they say: "old is gold." This book is the epitome of this proverb. Here we have the original. Well to be completely honest, this isn’t the “original” original (that would be Bifo’s 2011 book: After the Future) but it’s very similar to this “original” original. This is my favorite book of Berardi and for good reason.

Franco Berardi describes our current epoch or genome or world, as one of impotence. By impotence, he means that we are helpless. Through a historical analysis, he describes a world approaching the “end”, stuck between identity and capital. He identifies this age with only two characters: neoliberalism’s forces and the forces of Trump and Putin (to which he says that both are terrible 😳). It is in this book where Berardi properly defines the forces of semio-capitalism and how it truly affects the “precarious” class. To provide a very brief introduction to semio-capitalism: semio-capitalism is a critique of the capitalist world through a connection of signs and signifiers. Berardi claims that signs are no longer able to properly signify the signified (The most common example: think of a chair. The chair that you imagined and the one I imagined are completely different. In this case, the sign is the word “chair” and the signified is the actual physical chair.). This is precisely how the world operates, according to Berardi. Through the lenses of semio-capitalism, he is able to classify two main impacts: loneliness and exhaustion. The impact of loneliness is simple to understand. In a world dominated by social media (Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, Snapchat, Twitter, etc) human interactions are lost – and this is strengthened with the global pandemic. When we lose our human interactions, psychologically, we are losing a part of us. Our brain is literally wired to interact with different people. The second impact is a little different. Berardi is talking about the “precarious” class – the class terrorized through a subjugation to work (for the Marxists out there, this is similar to the proletariat). He claims that capitalism has lost value for time – capitalism has evolved. It no longer looks at the time spent in the factory, but the output or the literal capital generated. It has re-wired our brains to simply believe that more work is the solution to all of our problems. Oh, I’ll become an entrepreneur, a CEO. Maybe then my life will be perfect.

I ultimately gave this book a solid 10/10. It was eye-opening for me a student because it’s relatable to some extent. I think that Berardi is very thorough in his explanation and is able to convince a general audience, as well as his fellow philosophers. He gives many examples and evidence to support his claims and does an amazing job explaining them. I really liked this book.

Cover of Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility

Final rating: 10/10

3: Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul — Eddie Glaude Jr. [2016]

Short: Democracy in Black, by the talented professor Eddie Glaude Jr., forwards radical thought on the current position of Blackness within America. He claims that Blackness, as a social structure, is devalued, which can be seen with recent police shootings. Though, Glaude explains that the root of anti-Blackness within America came not from the Middle Passage and slavery, but rather with the end of the Reconstruction Era in 1877. Since 1877, Blackness has not been integrated into the social order, and the effects have been very visible. He demonstrates the need for a reordering of value, or a revolution of value, to fix the apparent problems within the United States from the bottom-up. A critical, straight-forward, persuading, powerful, and very easy to understand book that truly highlights the need for movement-based politics and the issues with Blackness and Whiteness as social structures.

Long: Wow. Eddie Glaude Jr. is an amazing, dedicated writer, but an even better speaker. Prior to picking up this book and actually reading it, I watched a few of his interviews on TV. He was full of compassion and knowledge. As a Professor, Chair of the Center for African American Studies, and Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, I knew this book had to be good. Not to mention the accomplishments this book boasted: over 1300 reviews with an average of 4.5/5 and a nomination for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Nonfiction award.

Glaude did not miss. I repeat: Glaude did not miss. Homerun. In Democracy in Black, Eddie Glaude writes about the current state of the United States America. He uses a historical analysis of Black politics, rebellions, and movements to convey a narrative that highlights anti-Black racism/violence in America. He explains that Black bodies within America are facing the Great Black Depression: financial instability, housing bubbles popped, healthcare targeting, and the murdering of Black bodies. He also critiques the way in which Obama, the first Black president, put up a façade that he would help Black Americans, but simply made things worse (he cites statistical numbers, such as the number of police shootings or the rise in Black bodies in the Prison Indutrial Complex) The central message of Democracy in Black is the conceptualization of the "value gap." Glaude describes this value gap simply as the idea that white people are valued more than Black people. He continues that this value gap is reinforced by racial habits that are intrinsic to Americans. Though Glaude crystallizes an untenable position in Black America, he is quite optimistic about a future – a revolution. He advocates for a revolution of value that seeks to reconstruct Democracy from the bottom-up and instill Black people into the social order properly.

I rate this book a 9.5/10. I really enjoy Glaude's writing style. The author's voice is very powerful and delineates real issues within our society through historical, anecdotal, and contemporary perspectives. I think that Glaude uses a lot of emotion to make his point and I think it creates a lasting impact in the reader. He is also able to appeal to a large audience as his book is not written with a lot of theoretical jargon (a real shocker, right? 🤯 ) Aside from the writing style, I think the message that he is trying to narrate is robust and necessary. I'm also a big fan of his optimistic tone and describing his solutions for our society.

Cover of Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul

Final rating: 9.5/10

4: Afropessimism — Frank Wilderson III [2020]

Short: Frank Wilderson III is a revered, smart, and talented author that anecdotally provides a very dense and theoretical position. Through his time spent in South Africa during the Apartheid and his life as a Black philosopher, Wilderson describes a theory of "Afropessimsim." The central thesis of Afropessimism is that since the Middle Passage of slave trade, Black bodies are ontologically dead, that Blackness and slaveness are analogous. This is the reason for mass violence against Black bodies - because civil society is in constant opposition of Blackness. It needs Blackness to be alive, which is why actions like slavery happened, but must attach a constant apathy towards it. Wilderson takes a pessimistic route to describe the situation for Black bodies, not just in the United States, but the entire globe. He does find hope though: he forwards a tendency for places of care for Black bodies to help each other thrive. A great read to understand the history of Blackness in an anti-Black world!

Long: Frank Wilderson III, an absolute beast of a unit. I really enjoy reading Wilderson. He can be incredibly theoretical and dense at times, but he always brings it back to the "lay" level.

Afropessimism takes an anecdotal approach to describing the situation of the global order. Wilderson begins by explaining his history as a scholar, but most importantly, as a Black body. I'm careful to attach any words indicating "human" with Blackness, because Wilderson makes it very clear that he does not believe that Blackness and Humanness can co-exist. For example, Whiteness has the ability to co-exist with Humanness (we can call a white person, a person; but we can not call a Black body a person because they cannot constitute the space of Humanness). His thesis describes the "libidinal economy" (the economy of the sexualization or fetishization of Blackness/Black flesh) is backed up by three central warrants: 1] general dishonorment: this is an undestanding of how Black people are always treated as a disgrace before any action is taken. There is always a sense of criminality attached to Black people (think of why a white woman may clutch her purse when a Black man walks near them), 2] gratitious violence: violence to Black bodies just occurs and there really isn't any rationale behind why (Charles Kinley is a great example of this), 3] natal alientation: this relies on a question of kinship. The Middle Passage of slave trade shaped the way Black originality/kinship occurs; they are no longer traceable (i.e. if you ask a Black body where in Africa they are from, they may not be able to give you an answer, because they do not know.). Instead of being Africans, the slave trade transformed them into Black bodies. Through his claims of the libidinal economy (where he utilizes Frantz Fanon's understanding of psychoanalysis and how our minds are in constant opposition of Blackness), he establishes that Blackness, on a social level, is ontologically dead – that Blackness is analogous with slaveness.

I give this book a 10/10. It was 🔥 ! Wilderson does a great job explaining his background and carefully weaves that through his theoretical portions. He uses contemporary examples to persuade his audience and creates a masterpiece. I really enjoyed it!

Cover of Afropessimism

Final rating: 10/10

[In Progress] The Glass Hotel — Emily St. John Mandel [2020]

Cover of The Glass Hotel

[In Progress] The Hollow Places — Ursula Vernon [2020]

Cover of The Hollow Places

[In Progress] Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power — Byung-Chul Han [2017]

Cover of Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power