Forthcoming Featured Books
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What is to be Thought? The Dialectics of Emancipation and Africa: political theory and political practice
Beginning from the understanding that it is imperative today to develop new concepts for the thinking of an emancipatory politics on the African continent (Fanon), this book proposes to focus on dialectical thought as the core subjective feature of all emancipatory political experiments on the African continent in particular. It traces a dialectical thinking to its origins in Ancient Egypt that arguably influenced Plato, and notes its opposition to the idea of representation in state politics during various historical sequences right up to the present. Starting from the fundamental conception that all people are capable of universal thought, and that an idea of universal humanity is central to popular thought during experiences of collective emancipatory struggle, the argument traces and analyses a number of emancipatory historical political sequences and their attendant contemporary narratives. Currently it is proposed to include
1) the Ancient World: Ancient Egypt (The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant – 4000 BCE) and Plato (as read by Alain Badiou);
2) Pre-colonial Africa and resistance to slavery: the Donsolu Kalikan (in the Manden/Mali, 1222), the Antonian Movement (in Kongo, 1684-1706) and its continuation in the Lemba Movement, and the Haitian Revolution (undertaken by slaves from Africa),
3) The National Liberation Struggles of the 1960s as thought by Fanon and Cabral, and
4) The mass popular struggles in South Africa during the 1980s.
The core of the political dialectic in each case differs and creates, during a limited sequence, what can be called a subjective political singularity that always combines dialectically a particular thought of resistance emanating from its specific social location with one of universal humanity during what is a process exceptional to hegemonic social relations.
It is further argued that whereas the political dialectic is not a given feature of African cultures as such, the latency of universalistic conceptions of humanity is identifiable within many African cultures. This means that rather than having to be invented ex nihilo, conceptions of the human universal in Africa have the potential to be (re-)activated in practice. Ato Sekyi-Otu and Ernest Wamba-dia-Wamba are discussed as major contemporary African dialectical thinkers.
Coming to the present period, the book elaborates a theory of neo-colonial state politics through unpacking the core idea of representation and the absence of popular sovereignty. It is argued that the neo-colonial character of the state must be understood beyond binaries but rather, following Gramsci, as structured by objective dialectical relations characterising fundamentally distinct modes of rule. This objective dialectic is assessed, in addition to Gramsci, through a discussion of a number of well-known contemporary thinkers of the dialectic (Lenin, Mao, Dunayevskaya, CLR James, Carchedi, Anderson, etc).
These modes of rule enable the neo-colonial state to reproduce itself and social relations in conjunction with popular responses to such rule. Differing modes of state rule are identified and the formation of distinct domains of politics corresponding to them and founded on different forms of representation are elucidated. These domains amount to three types:
1) civil society (where the state rules through a relation of citizenship and the right to rights),
2) uncivil society (where the right to rights is inexistent and thus state violence is dominant), and
3) traditional society (where the state rules through custom and tradition itself the object of struggle).Using various cases from Africa, contradictions and struggles within each of these domains are analysed and the potential to draw on latent cultural conceptions of universality (when in existence) is discussed.In this manner both the dialectic of emancipation and the character of state power are thought conjointly and dialectical thinking is opposed to the idea of representation in politics as well as in social science. The concepts and categories used are explained in a simple manner understandable by all.
Finally and as a kind of concluding argument, it is proposed to rethink the idea of representation through a critical engagement with the political practices of what could be called the “heroic figures of liberation”. This will be undertaken via an assessment of the politics of Toussaint Louverture and Nelson Mandela in particular regarding the “colonial question” as identified by Aimé Césaire.
People Resisting Xenophobic Violence: Understanding popular political responses to the South African identitarian crisis
The book is concerned with popular responses to the crisis of xenophobic violence in South Africa. It argues, that xenophobia itself is not primarily a reaction to poverty, inequality, or any other set of social conditions. Rather, xenophobia must be considered to be a collective political discourse which has arisen in post-apartheid South Africa from an exclusionary conception of state nationalism. Where this work may be distinguished from the majority of research on xenophobia in South Africa is in the fact that its particular focus is on instances where ‘ordinary’ South Africans have challenged and resisted xenophobic violence in their communities through collective political mobilisation. I suggest that these sites of resistance deserve careful consideration in their own right. I argue that they may demonstrate a subjective break with the oppressive politics of state nationalism through the affirmation of alternative political conceptions. Drawing on the political theory of Sylvain Lazarus, and his principal thesis that people are capable of thinking politics in ways which can subjectively think beyond the social and the extant (underscored by his political and methodological axiom, people think), the book will argue that these sites of resistance show that people – and especially those who are considered to be marginalised from the domain of legitimate politics – can and do think politically, and it is in the thought of people that new and potentially emancipatory visions of politics may emerge.
The first chapter of the book sets out empirically the rise of xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa, with a focus on the ways in which state politics and practices have produced a hegemonic xenophobic discourse in the country. Chapter Two situates this discussion within a review of the academic literature, arguing that sociological explanations are by themselves unable to account for the phenomenon.
Chapter Three discusses three sites in which xenophobia has been effectively contested through collective political mobilisation: by Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Merafong Demarcation Forum (MDF) in Guateng in 2008, and in the Unemployed people’s Movement (UPM) in Grahamstown (now Makhanda) in 2015 (where I conducted fieldwork over a year). It is argued that the presence of collective political organisation before the outbreak of xenophobic violence provided the conditions for an effective challenge to xenophobic politics to occur.
Chapter Four is largely theoretical, drawing primarily on the work of Sylvain Lazarus, as well as Alain Badiou and Jacques Rancière. The chapter argues that it is essential to insist on politics as subjective, as it is only in the thought of people that emancipatory modes of politics which exceed socially located interests may emerge and be constituted through collective mobilisation into political praxis.
Chapter Five sets out the methodological approach to my own research with members of the Unemployed People’s Movement in Grahamstown. The aim of the approach is to aid in the investigation of what Sylvain Lazarus has called ‘subjective singularities’, or specific forms of thinking which characterize a political sequence. Put simply, the approach endeavours to try to understand people’s thinking on its own terms, through the categories and idioms which are specific to that subjective singularity, and which cannot be sociologically reduced to external explanatory referents such as class, race, power, or identity. The aim is to be able to identify and elucidate the specific prescriptive thought which may emerge as people think and articulate their own struggles.
Chapter Six sets out my discussions with 18 UPM activists. Based on the methodological approach indicated above, the purpose of this empirical chapter was not to provide any form of ethnography or sociology of the movement, but to try and elucidate, through the activists’ own categories, the subjective singularity which underpinned the movement’s anti-xenophobic politics during a particular sequence. The aim is not to extrapolate from the activists’ statements concepts, cases or types which might have broader application for the study of xenophobia generally, but only to try to understand and elucidate the forms of thinking which characterised this particular sequence in its subjective singularity. These forms of thinking, I argue, are notable and important in their own right.
[Note: Additional material from the interviews with the UPM members, which I was not able to include in the MA thesis, will be incorporated into the book manuscript to extend and develop the investigation into the political thinking of UPM members and to delineate the character of the political sequence].
This was Tariq Mehmood’s first novel, published by Penguin Books in 1983, charting the experience of the second generation migrants to the UK. Set in the declining textile industry of the North of England, it is a raw story of pain and anger at the relentlessness of British racism, from the street to the state – a story of an unquenchable desire for justice, and reclaiming human dignity. A dignity that is wrapped around new questions of Identity, a crossroad between religion, language, history and resistance. It is a little big story, that talks to the extremities of social, political and literary issues today? Can stories of a generation be appropriated? How important is religion in identity? If all you have is a story to tell, who should you tell it? Are the issues of today, just the issues of today or can we learn something from the past? In these stories, friendship is not defined by religion or colour, but by humanity. And racism is much more than skin deep.
An exhilarating read that bears witness to the urgent 80’s battles against state and popular racism. As important now as then.— Peter Kalu, novelist
The new edition has an introductory essay by Tariq Mehmood.
Limits of the Black Radical Tradition and the Value-form develops an immanent critique of the Black Radical Tradition to show the boundaries of its own categories, history, and epistemologies. Limits argues that the Black Radical Tradition developed in the national context of completing Reconstruction and the international context of colonialism-decolonization resulting in a particular form and content of the tradition. This process constituted the tradition, and subsequently the tradition is still working with the older set of tools that struggle to grapple with Afro-Pessimism, Indigeneity, racial capitalism, and even the George Floyd Uprising. Limits carefully reformulates the tradition so it can once again play a leading role in revolutionary struggles.
Limits offers a critique of value-form theory, while still arguing that value-form theory is the direction that Black Marxism must head if it is to stay relevant to revolutionary struggles, decolonization, and the fight against anti-Blackness. The Black Radical Tradition demonstrates that value-form theory has a narrow understanding of class politics, reduces history to the struggle of factory workers, and is ultimately Euro-centric. The Black Radical Tradition can re-orient value-form theory to account for race, geo-politics, and other forms of oppression which are not reducible to an economic accounting.
Concurrently value-form theory addresses shortcomings in Black Marxism’s analysis of Capital, value theory, and more concrete analysis of capitalism. Value-form theory removes the priority of labor, progress, and stages of development from Marxism. Paradoxically, this move on the part of value-form theory recovers a hidden history of Black revolutionaries dealing with the value-form. This recovery shows that the Black Radical Tradition was working towards its own analysis of the value-form as well.
This double maneuver of recovery and critique of the Black Radical Tradition and value-form theory follows Cedric Robinson’s last words in Black Marxism, the traditions of Marxism and Black Radicalism must come together if they are going to overthrow racial capitalism. Limits follows in Robinson’s footsteps.
“Think global, act local!” “Be the change you want to see in the world!” “Every little bit counts!” We can all get on board with such sentiments, right? That, of course, is exactly what corporate spin-masters across the world are banking on. By weaponizing such seemingly innocuous yet powerful narratives, change becomes a matter of personal choice, something each of us must slave away at day by day: switching off lightbulbs to save the environment or exercising to shed the weight we’ve gained from consuming junk food. All the while, the corporate welfare tap continues to flow, with over $6 trillion worth of annual subsidies dished out to industries that directly contribute to the deaths of over 5.5 million people each year through diabetes, road deaths, global warming, and other crises. But such framing is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the corporate disinformation playbook. This playbook is the dark matter of activist work: the unseeable element shaping harmful spin across all issues. It has never been reverse engineered – until now.
In Dark PR, Grant Ennis – drawing on his decades of experience working in the environmental, philanthropy, and public health sectors – reveals exactly how multinationals go about hoodwinking and manipulating us. In doing so, he lifts the lid on the nine devious frames contained within the cross-industry corporate disinformation playbook: through denialism, normalization, victim-blaming, multifactorialism, and a variety of other tried-and-tested tactics, corporations divert citizens’ attention away from the real causes of global problems, leading them into counter-productive blind-alley “solutions” like ethical consumerism and divestment. Sadly, though, buying Fair Trade chocolate has not and never will save the world. Only by collectively organizing to lobby our governments can we break this destructive cycle of lies and deadly incentives, and reclaim control of our lives.
Praise for Dark PR
The struggle for health is a struggle against powerful vested interests – the corporations that produce harmful commodities, that damage our environment, and that trample over human rights. Yet, in so much of what we do they remain invisible, even though they have often succeeded in framing the narrative that defines and constrains our responses. Grant Ennis has shone a light on these shadowy forces and challenged us to take them on by organising and demanding change. – Martin McKee CBE, Past President, European Public Health Association
This book is a masterpiece of demystification. Ennis examines every given wisdom in public health and related fields as he reveals how capitalist corporations frame the problems that we perceive and the solutions that we advocate. Any efforts to change these conditions must recognize the importance of corporate framing. Now that this book illuminates our situation so clearly, the next steps focus on the revolutionary transformation of capitalism itself, and moving beyond the capitalist state that protects the corporative framing of what is and what must be done. – Dr. Howard Waitzkin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico
People who care about health and sustainability already know that consumerism defeats both. But the corporations that sell us consumerism also sell us all the most conspicuous “solutions” to it – responses that just keep the consumerist treadmill turning. As Grant Ennis reveals, they win both ways. Through diverse examples, Ennis shows us how the treadmill turns and how the usual responses are part of its mechanism. Ennis shows us how to spot ineffective responses so that effective, independent opposition can escape the treadmill, organize and act. Conscientious consumption, the search for corporate enemies, and atomized advocacy cannot avail, but Ennis also shows us what actually has worked. The stakes could not be higher. Dark PR is a refreshing and revealing departure from appeals to conscience, demonization of villains, misplaced optimism, and expressions of hopelessness. It is therefore a necessary and important book. – Dr. Peter Norton, Associate Professor, University of Virginia
Ever wondered how big oil has subverted efforts to cut global warming? Or how the tobacco industry thwarted attempts to ban smoking? Grant Ennis reveals how Dark PR enables big business to rig the political debate. A thought-provoking book. – Mick Hamer, author of Wheels Within Wheels: A Study of the Road Lobby
An eye-opening read. A disturbing revelation. An urgent call for action. – Dr. James Muecke, Public Health Advocate and 2020 Australian of the Year.
Dark PR is a compelling and engaging book in which Ennis presents nine dubious frames that sway political debate and help to widen the scope of corporate welfare. A keen insight for challenging corporate power is the need to move away from telling personal stories. These spotlight heroes and victims while obscuring damaging political structures and undermining political will. Ennis outlines seven elements of past organised and successful movements that have led to political changes. He presents models for global organising towards ending the six trillion dollars of perverse corporate subsidies and for saving five million lives annually. He argues “We have the problems that we have today because our political structures incentivize them to exist. If we want to be healthy and live on a healthy planet, we need to organize and demand political action. There is no time to wait.” – Dr. Julia Anaf, Research Fellow, Dr. Fran Baum AO, Professor, Dr Matthew Fisher, Senior Research Fellow, Stretton Health Equity, University of Adelaide
Dark PR’s arguments are compelling. The writing style is engaging. This is a very important contribution to how we should collectively be viewing the challenges before us. Ennis clearly distinguishes who are the real fiends in our public policies and the processes by which they came to be. There are so many deep and important lessons from Dark PR. This book will likely fall mostly into the hands of sympathetic readers—those who already agree that we need changes in our public policies to support equitable outcomes for citizens… For this particular audience, the most important lesson is “Aggregate action is not collective action.” We need this paradigmatic shift in our response to a myriad of challenges to local and global public health, safety, and general well-being. Dark PR makes a convincing argument and begins to show us the way. – Dr. Jennifer Brinkerhoff, Professor, George Washington University
A wake-up call to understand the dangers we’ve set up for ourselves as a society. – Abel Falcon, Congressman in 2012 Session of the Baja California (Mexico) Legislative Assembly
Sharp, smart, and concise. A brilliant job. – Leïla Cellerier, Socioeconomist
[Dark PR outlines] the industry and government tactics which misdirect citizen efforts. … Controversially, Ennis argues, it’s not just that these actions [like divestment] don’t achieve the desired effect – but that … they distract from what does. – Mike Muntisov, author of Court of the Grandchildren
We, humans, are better at focusing on isolated events, behaviors, and other symptoms of persistent problems. But we are generally not very good at grasping underlying deeply seated patterns, structures, and mindsets that give rise to those problems. When we want to address wicked problems – such as widespread obesity or climate change – we tend to get distracted with surface-level manifestations of those problems. Many large global corporations skillfully use this tendency to distract public attention from underlying problems they are aggravating, by throwing myriad bones of distraction. Public busily chews on them while such corporations are steadily eroding health of people and the planet. To add insult to the injury, these actors manage to get taxpayer-funded subsidies. In Dark PR Grant Ennis deftly exposes a wide range of well-crafted and honed tricks that many global corporations have been using to distract the public from addressing the roots of the problems for decades. Grant’s compelling examples will jolt the reader awake. They will start seeing with more clarity the scale of such problems, as well as the structures underlying those problems. Moreover, Grant provides pragmatic strategies for fighting back with more impact, sidestepping the distractions that corporations will throw along the way. This is a must-read book for students of systems thinking, and to anyone who wants to tackle the types of problems mentioned above. – Mahabat Baimyrzaeva, Associate Professor, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
A powerful, sometimes painful, exposure of how our attempts to do good, do harm. – Will Dayble, CEO of Citizen Climate Lobby Australia
An eye-opener on the consumer and corporate-driven world we live in. – Loic Nigay, CEO of CollectiveME
Completely perspective-altering. After almost every paragraph I found myself turning to those around me, or even picking up my phone, and saying “listen to this…”. Even six months after reading this book, it still seems to find its way into nearly every conversation I have. – James Harry, Citizen Climate Lobby Australia
At this moment of unprecedented global peril, when ecological, medical and urban crises threaten to derail the human project entirely, we are enmeshed as never before in the web of lies spun by polluters, junk food corporations, city planners, sponsored politicians, and their highly resourced disinformation networks. It takes a highly sophisticated intelligence to see through all this, and present the startling truth in terms that are both uncompromising and accessible. Fortunately, we have Grant Ennis, whose forensic analysis of the current malaise, and what we can do about it, offers the kind of hope that the weary of the groaning world thought had gone out of fashion. – Stuart Walton, author of An Excursion through Chaos: Disorder under the Heavens
A timely, relevant work packed with quotes you’ll want to share, Dark PR is one of those books you’ll remember long after you have read the final page. Ennis crafts a confident story revealing the seven key ways corporate industries stay greedy, while making us unknowingly bend to their whims. With research that packs a punch, Dark PR will get your brain rattling, and your heart pumping, inspiring you to ready action for change. – Autumn O’Connor, Xenos Publishing
Devastatingly effective and unsparingly forthright in its scrutiny, Dark PR examines the issues surrounding corporate disinformation with laser-like focus. Backed by impeccable research and utilizing well-organized framing, Ennis presents a convincing picture of the damaging impact these issues and policies are having on society, while presenting potent arguments for how individuals can both inform themselves and take worthwhile action. An absolute must-read for anyone wishing to gird themselves against insidious and often invisible corporate disinformation campaigns, and those who are longing for a blueprint on how to organize, mobilize, and demand change toward a better tomorrow. – Luke Marty, Editor and Creative Consultant
Courageous. – Daniela Alejandra Marzocco Ponce
During my many years as Editorial Director at Zed Books, I commissioned dozens of important books critiquing power and advocating social change. Dark PR is up there with the best, pulling back the curtain on a crucial issue of pressing importance – particularly in the context of our current climate emergency. It’s opened my eyes and made me look at the world in a whole different way. – Ken Barlow, Pluto Press
We know a lot (and are learning more all the time) about how the tobacco and fossil fuel industries engage in deception, and manipulate policymakers and the public. Dark PR takes us down many different and new byways to explore the “Devious Frames” used by many harmful industries. It makes good use of less well-known examples too, while maintaining a firm grip on the evidence. Dark PR is a highly readable, compelling, and often alarming account of the complex corporate systems which drive disinformation and their associated harms. – Dr. Mark Petticrew, Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Director of the Public Health Research Consortium, author of Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide
An eye-opening book on corporate disinformation and its costs. Our health and humanity is at stake – we need change, and this book shows how it’s possible. – Dr. Linsey McGoey, Professor, University of Essex, author of The Unknowers: How Strategic Ignorance Rules the World
In public health, we were hoping for a better world after the covid-19 pandemic. Corporations and their invisible hands – public relations agencies – nevertheless took the opportunity to double their efforts to sell us unhealthy commodities. So much so that disinformation and misinformation are now more than ever part of our daily lives. In his book, Grant Ennis leads us through these practices that shape our modern world. A book to put in all hands! – Dr. Mélissa Mialon, Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin, author of Big Food & Company: How the pursuit of profit at all costs undermines our health
It would be an understatement to say that this is a hugely important book. It is. It shines a very bright light into some very dark corners and exposes the culpability of corporations, governments and economic systems in promoting products that damage our health and do so to make huge profits at the expense of a global health crisis, a crisis defined by 153 million deaths every 25 years. It must be read and must be followed by citizen action and political transformation. – Dr. John Whitelegg, Professor, Centre for Mobility Culture, Kassel, Germany, author of Critical Mass: Transport, Environment and Society in the Twenty-first Century
Dark PR is an enjoyable read. Importantly, it brings together a strong analytical view on many of the mechanisms critical to understanding transport and road injury. – Dr. Marco te Brömmelstroet, Professor, University of Amsterdam, author of Movement: How to take back our streets and transform our lives
Grant Ennis shines a strong light on “dark PR”. In the process, some truly exploitative tactics of the PR industry are exposed, which have huge implications for people’s health and wellbeing – and not before time. – Dr. Deborah Lupton, Professor, University of New South Wales Centre for Social Research in Health
The health of our communities is in no small part determined by the economic interests of multinational corporations that have a duty to their shareholders to maximise profit from sales. Governments across the world and of all shades have pursued public health policies rested on the notion of personal responsibility, this has delayed any product reform or industry regulation. The methods used have been well documented but in Dark PR Grant Ennis demonstrates how the whole narrative into which health policy is set is a construction of those very industries that harm us, and wilfuly designed to delay, denude or avoid regulation. This happens across multiple industries, we know it was invented by the tobacco industry but perfected by many others. Ennis highlights how this process works in wonderful detail setting out the strategies used, pointing us to counter strategies and an organising framework. For anyone interested in the commercial determinants of health, at any level, this is an essential read. – Greg Fell, Director of Public Health in Sheffield, Vice President, Association of Directors of Public Health
Our interlacing health, environmental, and climate crises often seem overwhelming, even insurmountable. The gift Grant Ennis provides each of us is an unveiling of the corporate capitalist hegemony over our health and our biosphere. Ennis fixes his analytic powers on the insidious ways government-backed corporations shape how our culture normalizes and problematizes the pressing social and environmental challenges of our day. From his deep investigation of corporate deflection and blame tactics, to his sharp treatise on citizen activism and social movements, Ennis has written both an indictment of the corporate-strangled status quo and an invocation for everyone to transcend the vote by organizing to co-create a better society. A phenomenal and motivating book. – Seth LaJeunesse, Assistant Director, National Center for Safe Routes to School, UNC Highway Safety Research Center, author of Factors and Frames That Shape Public Discourse Around Road User Safety
This book encourages readers to critically re-examine the information they have been given about key issues affecting the wellbeing of communities and their environment. Ennis provides frameworks that would be helpful in doing this in a methodical and analytical way. Whether you agree with his insights or not, they will get you thinking and reexamining your assumptions, which is always stimulating. – Dr. Sharon Beder, Professor, University of Wollongong, Author of Global Spin and This Little Kiddy Went to Market
Painstakingly researched and full of real-world evidence, Dark PR shines light on how seemingly innocuous and well-established messages (like “save energy” or “drive safe” or “eat healthy”) have long been systematically co-opted and weaponised by private corporations – to further their agenda, establish ‘alternative facts,’ and diffuse democratic citizen action towards a better world. By chronicling these tactics as Devious Frames, Ennis’s investigation serves as a powerful reminder to always be on guard and critically look at who exactly benefits from our governments’ subsidies, our public policies, and the taxes we pay. – Nikhil Chaudhary, Cities Advisor, European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s Climate Knowledge Innovation Community (EIT Climate-KIC), Co-Founder and Board Trustee, Equal Streets
Postcolonial critique deconstructs global inequality in its epistemic and material dimensions. This collective comic project illuminates everyday life’s coloniality as well as the decolonising potential of everyday struggles in the spaces, discourses and practices of so-called ‘global development’.
Religion, Eugenics, Science and Mathematics examines the dynamic relationship between religion, on the one hand, and science and mathematics, on the other, on historic and conceptual grounds. It focuses on Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam together with various shades of secularism, including Marxism. Where relevant, other faiths are integrated into the analysis. The doctrine of eugenics, which culminated in the Nazi era extermination pogroms, reveals the complexity of the relationship between religion and science.
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