Top 5 P2P Books of the Week

Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, by J.M. Balkin
(From the Cultural Software website)

Cultural Software offers a new theory about how ideologies and beliefs grow, spread, and develop– a theory of cultural evolution, which explains both shared understandings and disagreement and diversity within cultures.

  Cultural evolution occurs through transmission and spread of cultural information and know-how– or “cultural software “– in human minds. Individuals embody cultural software: they are literally information made flesh. They spread it to others through communication and social learning. Human minds and institutions provide the ecology in which cultural software grows, thrives, and develops. Human cultural software is created out of the diverse elements of cultural transmission, also known as “memes.”

  Cultural Software draws upon many different areas of study, including anthropology, evolutionary theory, linguistics, sociology, political theory, philosophy, social psychology and law. The book’s explanation of how shared understandings arise, how cultures grow and spread, and how people of different cultures can understand and critique each other’s views should be relevant to work in many different areas of the human sciences.

Endgame, by Derrick Jensen
[From Endgame‘s website]

Having long laid waste our own sanity, and having long forgotten what it feels like to be free, most of us too have no idea what it’s like to live in the real world. Seeing four salmon spawn causes me to burst into tears. I have never seen a river full of fish. I have never seen a sky darkened for days by a single flock of birds. (I have, however, seen skies perpetually darkened by smog.) As with freedom, so too the extraordinary beauty and fecundity of the world itself: It’s hard to love something you’ve never known. It’s hard to convince yourself to fight for something you may not believe has ever existed.” –from Endgame, Volume I

Hailed as the philosopher poet of the ecological movement, best-selling author Derrick Jensen returns with a passionate forecast of how industrial civilization, and the persistent and widespread violence it requires, is unsustainable. Jensen’s intricate weaving together of history, philosophy, environmentalism, economics, literature and psychology has produced a powerful argument that demands attention in the tradition of such important books as Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization and Brigid Brophy’s Black Ship to Hell

Ed.: Check out the excellent Google videos linked to from this site.

The Logic of Sufficiency, by Thomas Princen
[From Dave Pollard’s excellent blog.]

Thomas Princen’s The Logic of Sufficiency builds on the sustainable economics theory of Herman Daly, which I’ve written about before on these pages. In this book, sufficiency is suggested as the underlying organizing and decision-making principle for economic activities, replacing efficiency. After laying out the theory in Part One of the book he illustrates its application (and how it came to him) through a series of real-life case studies taken from very different economic situations around the world.

This book is an important advance in thinking about complexity and sustainability, and I recommend it for anyone planning to create, or even thinking about creating, models of a better way to live or make a living. We need to work together to develop a theory of sufficiency and sustainability, so that, in the face of the deniers and technophiles and efficiency luddites, we can not only say that our models are intuitively superior, but also show compellingly that they are more rational. We have a lot of work to do.

[The following excerpts are from 2 book reviews from Mute magazine – Culture and politics after the net:]  Happy to describe media cultures in ecological terms, net users may be unaware of the heavy ecological cost of communications networks. But can environmental justice and labour movements learn a trick or two from net culture? Soenke Zehle reviews two recent books:

High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, by Elizabeth Grossmann

[High Tech Trash] is the most recent attempt to turn the dreadful stories of high-tech pollution, not unheard of but perhaps too scattered across research reports and academic anthologies to reach a general audience, into a captivating narrative. Grossmann includes chapters on raw materials, the environmental and human health impacts of electronics manufacturing, e-waste exports and recycling, and a conclusion that calls for a new land ethic.

[…] Trying to bring all of this together is not easy, so Grossmann concludes by calling for a new ‘land ethic for the digital age’ to convince her readers to rethink their collective commitment to seeking out convenience, speed, and the next new thing.

Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry, by Ted Smith, David A. Sonnenfeld, and David Naguib Pellow, eds.

Grossman wrote her book because she couldn’t find a non-academic title dealing with the environmental implications of globalised electronics manufacturing and disposal. But there is a brand of activist research texts that are neither general audience nor conventionally academic, and this is one of them. Challenging the Chip introduces the transformation processes already taking place across this industry, not only in greater detail than Grossmann, but also from the perspectives of the activists and researchers involved, with a corresponding emphasis on a sharing of experiences and strategies. In 25 chapters organised into sections on the state of the global electronics industry, on labour rights and environmental justice, and on e-waste and extended producer responsibility, the authors want to ‘provide a vision of what a sustainable electronics industry can look like’, linking environmental justice, the precautionary principle, and extended producer responsibility in a ‘triad of sustainability’. And improvements notwithstanding, it becomes apparent that the electronics industry has yet to live up to the ‘electronics sustainability commitment’, a pledge demanding that ‘[e]ach new generation of technical improvements in electronic products should include parallel and proportional improvements in environmental, health and safety, as well as social justice attributes’ – as our electronic gadgets become faster, their eco-social footprints should also become smaller.

These two titles are not simply about the electronics industries, but about the widening scope of economic and environmental justice and creative grassroots responses to the global spread of the Silicon Valley experience. Supported by visions of technological transcendence, the electronics industry has effectively distracted public attention from the environmental and health implications of its products. Yet driven by grassroots organisations like SCCOSH the SVTC, it was Silicon Valley where the mythology of electronics manufacturing as a clean industry was first unmade. Sharing these histories, and they way they have resonated in centers of electronics manufacturing across the globe, can contribute to the a transformation of the way the electronics industry operates.

Buy these and related books in the P2P Bookstore.

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