Jacobin reading group in London

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In January 2018, I started an informal Jacobin reading group, mostly consisting of fellow masters students at LSE. Since then, the group has expanded to include others, and I now co-host the group with Hettie O’Brien. We meet every 1-2 weeks (Thursday or Friday, usually) at one of several venues in central London from 6:30-8pm, and we usually have a guest speaker whose readings we’ll have posted ahead of time.

If you’re interested in joining us

The goal of this whole thing is radical political education within a small network, while also building a bit of a community at the same time. Some of us go to the pub after the sessions, but that’s obviously not a requirement. I started the group with people I knew who were in the same boat as me (in terms of being new to the left and wanting to catch up), but we’ve since expanded to include people within a variety of different political traditions within the left.

We’re reaching the upper limits of capacity right now, but I’m always keen to get new contributors who would fit in well with the group. Send me a message via FB/Twitter/email and I’ll get back to you when I can!

If you’ve been asked to speak

The environment is meant to be casual and more like a pub discussion than a lecture. We try not to get too academic/theoretical, though at least some grounding in theory is always good. No need to prepare a talk in advance - the facilitator (either myself, or whoever is leading that week’s discussion) will ask questions and moderate.

If you’ve written articles that you’d like participants to read in order to frame the discussion, please send them over. We’d prefer 2-3 shorter articles (under 2000 words) written for contemporary left publications like Jacobin, New Socialist, Novara, Red Pepper, etc, but can be flexible. Podcasts are good too!


Past speakers and readings

Probably unnecessary disclaimer: someone being listed here does not imply that I endorse all of their views, or that they endorse all of my views, or that they endorse the views of past speakers, or anything similarly ridiculous.

December 7: Richard Seymour

Richard Seymour is one of my favourite contemporary Marxist writers. I’m actually kind of obsessed with his writing (his article on the politics of style in the latest issue of Salvage absolutely floored me).

Topic: a fairly wide-ranging discussion on the current political moment in Britain (and elsewhere). The disarray of the ruling classes (esp over Brexit); general precarity and malaise for everybody else; and coming ecological collapse. How did we get here? And where do we go next - is there an opening for the left amidst the rubble?

Readings from Richard’s Patreon:

November 30: Sahil Dutta

On management culture, the RAND think tank, and the institutionalisation of neoliberalism. Sahil is a lecturer in political economy at Goldsmiths University, and an affiliate of the Political Economy Research Centre. Chaired by Hettie O’Brien.

November 15: Will Davies

On his recently-released book, Nervous States. Chaired by Hettie O’Brien.

Recommended podcast: Will Davies discussing the book with James Butler on NovaraFM.

November 1: Mathew Lawrence

On reinventing ownership. Chaired by Hettie O’Brien.

Other background reading:

October 25: Lydia Hughes

On grassroots resistance and what it means for precarious workers to organise.

October 12: Ben Tippet

On People’s Private Equity.

Other background reading:

September 27: Owen Hatherley

Readings selected from Owen’s recent book, Trans-Europe Express. Main readings: the essays on Bologna & Bergen. Extra readings: introduction + the essays on Skopje & Stockholm. Chaired by Hettie O’Brien.

September 14: Stephen Armstrong

We read a chapter from Stephen Armstrong’s 2017 book, The New Poverty (Chapter 3 - Health: The Rise of DIY Dentistry). You can get the book from Verso (no excerpt freely available online, sadly). Chaired by Hettie O’Brien.

September 7: Jo Littler

On meritocracy.

August 30: Brett Scott

On currency and fintech.

August 23: Amelia Horgan

On work and alienation. The main reading was a chapter from Amelia’s dissertation which is unfortunately not yet public.

Recommended background reading by others:

August 16: Hettie O’Brien

On municipal socialism. Chaired by Kulsoom Jafri.

Recommended background reading by others:

August 9: Maya Goodfellow

On migration, the concept of “open borders”, and what progressive migration policy would look like under a Labour government. Chaired by Benny Hunter.

August 3: David Adler

On centrism and why it’s a threat to democracy.

July 27: Alyssa Battistoni

On climate change and how politics must adapt. Held, coincidentally, on an excruciatingly hot day. (The speaker couldn’t make it in the end, but it was a good discussion nonetheless.)

July 20: Clive James Nwonka

On race & class in British film, as well as the concept of “diversity” and how it got hijacked by corporate/neoliberal agendas. Chaired by Kulsoom Jafri.

July 12: Tech Workers Coalition

Featuring someone from Tech Workers Coalition as a guest speaker. On worker power in the tech industry and what it would mean to abolish Silicon Valley.

July 6: Oonagh Ryder

On prison abolition. Oonagh hosts a podcast on the criminal justice system for Novara called The Lockdown (first episode: Britain’s Prison Industrial Complex).

June 29: Marijam Didžgalvytė

On gaming and politics.

June 21: Ashok Kumar and Annie Olaloku-Teriba

On the identity politics special issue of Historical Materialism, which Ashok edited. All pieces are from that issue. This one was a lot more theoretically heavy/dense than previous sessions. I took copious notes, which I will probably post at some point.

(If you’re wondering why there was such a huge gap between sessions: I was out of the country for 2 weeks.)

May 31: Me

Didn’t have time to get a speaker so I just pontificated about how awful Silicon Valley is (by this point, I hadn’t yet stumbled upon the idea of “abolition”). I mostly read excerpts from Corey Pein’s book Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey Into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley and talked about my own experience in tech (which I’ve written about for Notes From Below: Silicon Inquiry).

If you’re curious about the book, here’s some recommended reading/audio:

May 23: Jeremy Gilbert

On radical political education and a theory of solidarity.

May 18: Nick Srnicek

On accelerationism, platform capitalism, and what to do about the tech giants.

May 10: Tom Mills

On political bias in the media. Special guest appearance from Ronan Burtenshaw, who talked a bit about Jacobin’s history and why a project like that was needed. (This Vox article covers some of the same points.)

May 4: Michael Walker

On building a mass movement + the results of the local elections from the day before. No readings ahead of time, but this episode of TyskySour, featuring Aydin Dikerdem, covered some of the same topics a few days afterward.

April 18: Riley of TrashFuture

On alternative media (like podcasts) and politics. Riley hosts TrashFuture, a podcast about “late stage capitalism fucking our lives up”. No readings, just suggestions to listen to the podcast (especially the book club episodes).

April 11: Callum Cant

On organised worker resistance, especially in the context of gig economy platforms like Deliveroo.

April 6: Will Stronge

(Will is cofounder of the think tank Autonomy Institute, which explores how we can get to a post-work future while situated in the fields of political economy and critical theory.) Topic: work, and how we can move beyond it.

March 22: David Madden

This week’s session was hosted by Joe Bambridge, who took David Madden’s Urban Inequalities module at LSE the previous semester. On housing.

March 16: Artin Giles

No readings. On the story behind Corbyn’s leadership campaigns + the movement behind Corbyn more broadly.

March 6: Peter Frase

Was too lazy to organise an actual session this week, so I just piggy-backed onto an existing event held by Basic Income UK and featuring Peter Frase, editor at Jacobin.

March 2: Jamie Woodcock

On organised worker resistance, particularly in light of the UCU strike.

Feb 21: Grace Blakeley

On financialisation and what a socialist economic policy could look like.

(after this, a bunch of us went over to TrashFuture’s “accidental live show” and ended up making a cameo appearance on the podcast episode from that night)

Feb 14: Marcus Barnett

On the history of the UK labour movement + the Corbyn moment.