Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Paradox of Democratic Capitalism: An Interview with Rebecca Fisher

It is impossible to separate political power from economic and social power. [The] false division [of both forms of power] has lead to the current distortion of democracy to mean only limited political freedoms existing within a deeply and inherently unequal society.” - Rebecca Fisher

In this interview, Rebecca Fisher discusses some of the main ideas in her wonderful essay 'The Paradox of Democratic Capitalism: An Historical View'.

The essay was printed in the must-read Corporate Watch book 'Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent: Capitalism, Democracy and the Organisation of Consent' (2013, edited by Rebecca Fisher), which can be downloaded for free from here, or bought for the bargain price of £10 here

A free PDF of this interview is available to download from here

(1) What kind of a democracy exists in most advanced capitalist countries today? Is this kind of democracy genuinely democratic?

The kind of democracy that exists in the most advanced capitalist countries doesn't really constitute a democracy, in the original sense of the word. It certainly doesn't allow for public participation in decision-making, since this might threaten corporate, capitalist interests. Instead, it allows a very limited degree of public participation, since most people are permitted to vote. Various structures and processes are in place to ensure that this is extremely ineffectual in terms of influencing what actually happens.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Curiosity of School: An Interview with Zander Sherman

The point of institutionalized education has never been to benefit the student for his or her own sake.” - Zander Sherman

Here's my interview with Zander Sherman about his book The Curiosity of School: Education and the Dark Side of Enlightenment (Viking, 2012).

The book tells the story of institutionalised education, from the early-mid 19th century all the way up to the present. It covers topics such as standardized testing, the role of corporations in higher education, and the growing student debt crisis. Throughout, Sherman recounts the ways in which school has been used to manufacture outcomes—to turn students into soldiers, citizens, and human capital. The Canadian writer and novelist Will Ferguson described the book as “provocative in the purest sense of the word – meaning, it makes you think; provokes discussion – while never overstepping the bounds of reason”.

Sherman was homeschooled until the age of 13, has worked as a freelance writer, and currently lives north of Toronto.

A PDF of the interview can be downloaded from here for free.

(1) What motivated you to write a book about the story of school? And why did you decide to call it 'The Curiosity of School'?

At the high school I attended there was a student population of about a thousand, but the cafeteria could only hold five hundred. At lunchtime, half the school would take its meal sitting in the halls. If the administration caught us sitting they would tell us to stand, saying it was against "fire-code regulation." That made no sense to me. In the event of a fire, who was going to stay sitting? Looking at that policy began a long process of investigation and research. School is strange because we spend so much time there, and accept its value as a thoroughfare to work, while having little awareness of what it actually is, where it came from, and why we use it the way we do. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Dreams: An Interview with Derrick Jensen

I’ve been saying for a long time that science is an even better method of social control than religion because if I don’t believe in Christianity, then I’m just going to be consigned to a hell I don’t believe in anyway. But if I don’t believe in science, then I must be either crazy or just plain stupid.” – Derrick Jensen

Here's my interview with philosopher, teacher, and radical activist Derrick Jensen about his book Dreams (Seven Stories Press, 2011)

The interview was recorded on the 13th December 2011.

An MP3 of the interview can be downloaded from here.

A transcript of the interview can be downloaded from here.

The address of Derrick Jensen's website is:

A video interview with Derrick Jensen on 'Democracy Now!' can be viewed here.

"Derrick Jensen is a rare and original voice of sanity in a chaotic world. He has wisdom and wit, grace and style, and is a wonderful guide to a good life beautifully lived." - Howard Zinn

Non-Stop Inertia: An Interview with Ivor Southwood

"There is a sense of overwhelming precariousness, in work, in matters of money, and in culture generally; a feeling of being kept in suspense which appears like a law of nature, rather than something human-made." - Ivor Southwood

Here’s my interview with Ivor Southwood about his book Non-Stop Inertia (Zero Books, 2011).

A PDF document of this interview can be downloaded from here for free.

Non-Stop Inertia argues that the appearance of restless activity in our society conceals and maintains a deep paralysis of thought and action.

Ivor Southwood has worked as a mental health nurse and studied literature and media. He has also done various temporary jobs and is interested in the culture of precarious work.

The address of Ivor Southwood’s blog, 'Screened Out', is:

A good review of Non-Stop Inertia can be read here.

(1) What does the title of your book, ‘Non-Stop Inertia’, refer to?

It represents a perpetual sort of crisis that people seem to be in, in everyday life. There’s this sense of always having to look for the next thing, having to sort everything out – this sort of endless circulating, networking, competing, and always passing through somewhere on the way to somewhere else. It’s sort of a vicious circle. But this is presented as ‘how it is’ or a self-imposed situation – that’s quite important, I think.

The title draws attention to the contradiction in that – in that we’re in a loop of anxiety and we’re not really getting anywhere. There’s a sort of frenetic activity and we’re not really achieving

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Anarchy Alive!: An Interview with Uri Gordon

“People don’t know what anarchism stands for, don’t know its history, because nobody ever mentions it in the information channels that most people have access to.” – Uri Gordon

Here's my interview with Israeli anarchist theorist and activist Uri Gordon about his book ‘Anarchy Alive! Anti-Authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory’.

The interview was recorded on the 7th November 2011.

An MP3 of the interview can be downloaded from here.

A transcript of the interview can be downloaded from here.

Uri Gordon's wonderful essay 'Anarchism - The A Word' can be read here.

Uri Gordon's website address is:

‘Anarchy Alive! Anti-Authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory’ is published by Pluto Press.

Capitalist Realism: An Interview with Mark Fisher

“Since there are so many people who are depressed – and I maintain that the cause for much of this depression is social and political – then converting that depression into a political anger is an urgent political project....Anti-depressants and therapy are the opium of the masses now.” – Mark Fisher
Here's my interview with writer, theorist, and teacher Mark Fisher about his book 'Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?'

The interview was recorded on the 14th October 2011.

An MP3 of the interview can be downloaded from here.

A transcript of the interview can be downloaded from here.

'Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?' is published by Zero Books.

The address of Mark Fisher's website is:

Free to be Human: An Interview with David Edwards

“Thought control in modern society doesn’t rely on conspiratorial control; it depends on ensuring that the culture is swamped by certain types of facts, ideas and sources.” – David Edwards

Here is my interview with David Edwards about his book Free to be Human: Intellectual Self-Defence in an Age of Illusions (Green Books Ltd, 1995). 

A PDF document of this interview can be downloaded from here for free.

Free to be Human demonstrates how powerful state and business interests distort our understanding of many political, ethical and spiritual issues, ensuring that we remain passive, conformist and uninformed. Activist and historian Howard Zinn (A People's History of the United States) described it as a “wise and acute analysis of the way our minds are controlled”.

David Edwards is co-editor of Media Lens (, a media watch site. He is also the author of The Compassionate Revolution (Green Books Ltd, 1998), and co-author with David Cromwell of Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media (Pluto Press, 2006) and Newspeak in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 2009).

(1) The central topic of the book is freedom. Don’t the majority of people living in the world today more or less have this?

It depends, of course, on how we define ‘freedom’. There are the obvious restrictions on freedom. Enormous numbers of people wake up every day wondering how to feed themselves and their families. They’re slaves to their need to find food and to the society that makes that so difficult. Then there are wage slaves who are forced to sell their labour to pay for food, rent, mortgages, heating, and so on. Earlier dissidents understood that wage slavery really is a form of slavery. If you have no option but to sell your labour to survive, you can’t be considered free. To work for a corporation is to be part of a system in which power flows strictly from the top down – it’s a totalitarian power structure. That’s the lot of enormous numbers of people in the world. If you try to opt out in the
UK, you are ordered to ‘look for work’, mostly different kinds of corporate bondage. If you refuse, you will be denied the means to live and can end up on the street, and then in jail. We all have this threat hanging over us all the time.