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Political societies on campus repeatedly blocked
Weekly, independent and free. 8 November 2006
The student union has been blocking attempts to set up a politics society, saying it would be “hijacked by terrorists” and “open a back door for alQaeda on campus”.
Early last term, third year engineering student Khaled Jamoos attempted to set up what he called a Current Affairs Society: prominent speakers would come to City and talk to students on topical events. He presented the idea to the SU’s student activities administrator, Rowan Lord. “He was being very polite and sympathetic, but said he ‘strongly advised’ not to put the proposition forward because it ‘wouldn’t be authorised anyway’”, said Khaled. “When I asked him as to why, he said that ‘it was too general’, and that pretty soon, maybe when I graduate, ‘other people might take over’.” Mr Lord further clariﬁed his concern by musing that “terrorism is current affairs” and that “whoever takes over the society might invite, say, the second in command in al-Qaeda”. He then said that the Student Union wouldn’t want to open a back door for al-Qaeda on campus. “I asked him whether the student union would single out ‘the second in command in al-Qaeda’, even if I wanted to invite him”, said Mr Jamoos. “He answered that yes, of course,
the Student Union monitors and checks on every speaker invited to speak on University premises, but he wouldn’t want to take the risk.” Following the conversation, Mr Jamoos postponed the establishment of the society indeﬁnitely. This term, however, another student took up the task. Second year international politics student Holly Ryan attempted to set up a politics
“They might invite the second-in-command of al-Qaeda”
society late last year. Her proposition was rejected by the student union, following a similar argument. She tried again this October, but the decision is being continually postponed. “I went to see Rowan Lord eventually, to ﬁnd out why it’s taking them so long”, says Ms Ryan. “He explained to me at that as a new council had just been voted in, the proposition hasn’t put to a vote yet.” “But then he said that he doesn’t think it will get authorised, as it’s likely to open a door for extremist elements on campus. He gave terror-
ist recruiters as an example.” When asked whether he didn’t think, following the Union’s own logic, that the Muslim society was posing the same risk, Mr Lord said “well yeah, but we’ve had a Jewish Society here for generations and we wouldn’t want to seem discriminative.” On another occasion he said that the Muslim society is “not allowed” to hold events on any topic that is not directly connected to religion. It should be noted that a City chapter of the RESPECT coalition functioned on campus throughout last year. When challenged on that, Mr Lord said: “Well, obviously, if you have a political party behind you, we can’t say no. But without that there isn’t much of a chance we’ll authorise such a project.” The students then asked him whether he didn’t think that this was impinging on students freedoms. Mr Lord said that he’s afraid he wouldn’t be able to give his opinion on that topic. When approached directly by the Inquirer for comment, Mr Lord simply said “I am not allowed to speak to you.” The debate society was also disbanded by the student union last year following a contentious discussion about religion, and has not been reinstated since. DR
99% shun elections
The student union has elected nine ofﬁcers, after elections were held in mid-October. It has also elected 18 delegates to the union council.
Less than 300 votes were cast, representing a turnout of less than 1% of the student population, and like the last elections in March, some candidates were running unopposed. The most votes were cast for the post of racial equality ofﬁcer, which went to Shahram Shayesteh. The Inquirer will bring you statements from the new ofﬁcers at the earliest opportunity. The executive committee manages SU business, including services and resources. The committee provides three sabbatical posts at a yearly salary of around £17,500. The executive ofﬁcers are: Tom Abbott, the SU president, Shereen Sally, welfare and education ofﬁcer, and Simon Katchay, the communications ofﬁcer. Katchay is editor-in-chief of SU publication Massive. The union council, to which 18 candidates were elected, is responsible for holding the executive ofﬁcers to account. So far, the SU has had a tricky time making democracy work, but has managed to implement two policies, one concerning health and safety, during the last year. EC More information on the inner workings of the SU is available to view online at www. cusuonline.org, along with details of clubs and societies.
NUS protest over top-up fees
The National Union of Students staged a national protest against top-up fees on Sunday 29 October, saying that the fees are discouraging poor students from coming to university.
The demonstration, titled ‘Admission: Impossible’, aimed to highlight the fact that university applications are down 15,000 this year – a decrease of 4%. The drop-off is especially stark coming after years of growth in the numbers. NUS president Gemma Tumelty said: “The decision to go to university is becoming an increasingly hard one to make for many people in society - particularly those from families where there is no history of going into higher education, and where ﬁnances are tight.” 390,000 students started on full-time UK higher education courses this year, compared with 405,000 in 2005 and 375,000 in 2004. The NUS also fears that the £3,000 cap on top-up fees could soon be lifted, allowing some universities to charge far higher fees than others and so creating poor-quality, ‘cheap’ education for those who cannot afford the best. Education minister Alan Johnson has been quoted as saying that students will “learn to love” top-up fees. TW
Stop climate chaos
Waterstone’s set to close?
Waterstone’s recent woes put City’s bookshop at risk of shutting down any day now.
Proﬁts at the HMV group, which owns Waterstone’s, are down 20% from last year, with sales down 15% over a particularly bad summer. While the company has not conﬁrmed any cuts yet, it is widely thought that campus stores will be the ﬁrst to go, and six out of the 28 campus Waterstone’s have closed already this year. Those that remain have lost their specialist managers, with the managers of nearby high street branches running them by proxy instead. Two Cass students, Chris Benyayer and Moritz Knickrehm, are trying to ﬁll the potential gap in the market by launching Booknerd, a second-hand book service, in the main university corridor and online. Chris Benyayer said: “Buying a book from Waterstone’s is an expensive investment. Students will do a lot to save money, especially when it comes to books, and people are more in the know about saving online now.” However, a Waterstone’s spokesperson insisted: “We have no plans to close this store so the rumours are just that – rumours”. TW
Twenty-ﬁve thousand protestors gathered in Trafalgar Square on Saturday in a demonstration calling for action on climate change.
The rally was organised by Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of groups that counts Oxfam, WWF and Unison among its supporters. SCC is urging the Government to reduce greenhouse gases by 3 per cent each year, and ensure that global greenhouse gases are in an “irreversible decline” by 2015. The march follows the publication of the Stern report, a hefty inquiry into the economic repercussions of inaction on climate change. Commissioned by Gordon Brown, it
warns that global warming could reduce the global economy by as much as 20 per cent. Anshok Sinha, director of Stop Climate Chaos said: “If we all come together we can stop climate chaos.” It would certainly seem so. Celebrities turned out to decorate the demonstration, with appearances from KT Tunstall and Razorlight. In an explicit response to President Bush’s continued downplaying of the effects of climate change, the march began at the US Embassy. No arrests were made at the demonstration, and in a rare moment of agreement, police and campaigners estimated the attendance at 22,500 and 25,000 respectively. CA
TheInquirer Got a story? Want to advertise? firstname.lastname@example.org
Editors Dimi Reider, Emily Clarke, Stephane Reissfelder, Tom Walker
Contributors Cecilia Anesi, Fatima Rahim, Gilad Halpern, Rene Butler, Jesper Lofgren
Library ﬁnes: punishment or proﬁt?
City students paid £4 each in ﬁnes last year, with some racking up over £300. Fatima Rahim gets your views
s if tuition fees and accommodation costs weren’t enough to contend with, students face an additional ﬁnancial demon – library ﬁnes.
When you’re busy worrying about deadlines and the like, the last thing on your mind is whether your books are overdue. And then comes the trip back to the library when, shock-horror, you discover you have a book out that was due weeks ago and are left with a lofty ﬁne. Cue the apologetic librarian. “Sorry, you can’t borrow any more books until you pay back your ﬁne.” Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just buy the books in the ﬁrst place? At our university, it often would be. City University’s library ﬁnes are expensive: while most universities charge 20 to 30p a day for overdue seven day loans, City charges a whopping 75p a day. A lot of students feel this is too pricey. According to ofﬁcial ﬁgures, the average amount paid in ﬁnes last year was £4.00 per
student. Those we interviewed had ﬁnes ranging from £2.20 to over £300. “It’s not fair,” says a third year student who does not wish to be named. “I’m forgetful and tend to take out at least two or three books at a time. When I remember it’s usually on the day and there’s no way I can go back home to collect them because I live too far from uni, so I end up getting ﬁned.” Ashka, 21, agrees. “It’s even more difﬁcult with short-loan books. Sometimes it’s impossible to return them on time if it clashes with lectures, and you can’t renew by phone or over the net if there are other people with requests on the books.” Mas, a third year politics student at London Met, says her university charges 30p a day in ﬁnes on seven day loans and 50p per hour for short loans, and she still ﬁnds that a lot. She says: “I have every sympathy for City students. I understand the need for these charges so students won’t just keep the books forever when other students need them – we all know how annoying that is. But at the same time
maybe they should think about reducing the ﬁnes.” Not all students are sympathetic towards those who have to pay library ﬁnes, however. Chris Williams, a postgrad law student, feels that it is unjustiﬁed to claim that the system is unfair. “It’s easy to renew a book. You can renew by phone. And at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to make sure your books are returned on time so that others can also have access to them.” Vojtech Mares, a second year computer science student, recalls how stressed he was last year while trying to get hold of a book before his exams. “I was waiting for a software engineering book for two days before it was returned. I couldn’t study because someone had selﬁshly kept the book.” It is a sentiment echoed by sociology and media student Risha: “It is frustrating when you can’t get hold of a book you need.” However, she concedes that perhaps the ﬁnes could be reduced, and an upper limit for ﬁnes brought in.
‘Anyone with £50 in ﬁnes is not showing respect’
The library’s director Brendan Casey responds to our story
The students we interviewed proposed a number of solutions to the library’s problems. We put a few to Brendan Casey, City’s library director, to get his response.
The library should set up an email/mobile reminder system to warn you before your books are due back, rather than after. Response: “When we issue a book a receipt with book details and date due is printed. In addition it is possible to renew 24/7 from anywhere in the world. The cost of doing this by email or text is prohibitive and money can be better spent on front line staff, user training and so on.” The library encourages students to make a note in their phone diaries reminding them when their books are due. Fines should be reduced to a reasonable amount which students are able to afford and is more in line with other universities. Response: “We charge 75p per day on only a portion of the collection – this is based on levels of demand and the need to encourage students to act responsibly towards their peers and give everyone a decent shot at getting the books they want.” “Ideally no student should ever have to pay
ﬁnes, but there is a responsibility on the user here in terms of fair dealing with their peers. The more in demand the collection and the worse the rate of returning on time, the higher the fee. As a library we’re not looking to make money out of you but we must ensure that the service beneﬁts all students. The system is designed to regulate use and behaviour patterns… it is designed to be fair. It only penalises those who don’t keep their end of the bargain.” Students who have returned their books late for a good reason should be granted a reprieve, and total ﬁnes should be capped at £50. Response: “Anyone who generates £50 in ﬁnes (bearing in mind the ability to renew 24/7) is not showing respect for either collections or their fellow students. If your ﬁnes are £10 or more, you may set up an agreement whereby you pay a minimum of £5 per week until the entire ﬁne is cleared. Last year we spent £13k replacing stolen or defaced books alone! A large number of our students complete their studies without ever racking up a ﬁne and where there are mitigating circumstances we have a comprehensive appeals system.” Problems with the library? Email us at email@example.com
Picture of the week
Man about town
Jesper Lofgren Friday began in a typhoon of airkissing and long-overdue hugs and ended in a dense fog of tequila shots, confessions of love and cab ride oblivion.
TheInquirer comment The ongoing refusal of the student union to allow its members to engage in any political activity on campus is not just the cowardice of bureaucrats anxious to avoid controversy.
A protester takes a break from Saturday’s Climate Chaos march. Send us your pics! CA
Rene Butler Who is it that sticks all those calling cards in London phone boxes?
We all know what they offer, but who actually goes by the title of phone-box-callingcarder, or, for the upwardly mobile, ‘telecommunication booth marketing executive’? Whatever you call it, there’s probably more than one of these distributors, perhaps even rival posses. But, if you were to meet Sabrina - little more than thin bones in an old oversized sports jacket- on one of her mini marathons around zone one, you’d think the cards were all her own doing. If Sabrina worked for Royal Mail there would be none of this “delivery by midday” crap. Your post would be delivered before toothpaste meets the brush. The problem with this girl is that it’s impossible to get near her. As soon as you think she’s going to enlighten you over the calling card biz, an empty phone box is spotted and she’s off again. Even if you ask nicely, the most you get is a mumbled sentence. Being slightly aggressive yields a more considered response. This approach Sabrina is more used to. Not that she said as much, but the subservience written on her face when she meets with her ﬁst-clenching boss speaks volumes. This pillock’s job title is no mystery: ‘Scummy Bully of the Weak’ ﬁts him nicely. And what does our law do to protect Sabrina and her ilk from such tyrants? Nothing. They’ll give her six months for call-carding, while mateyboy gets a ticket for parking his Merc on Dean Street.
Only the fact that I awoke the next morning fully clothed and alone assured me that I’d actually made it home. This need to scrape my mind off the bedroom ﬂoor occurs every time I get together with Sean – an archetypal Sloane who happens to be single, erudite and stunning, with an exuberant taste in scarves. On Saturday, Sean and I decided to go gay. Not literally. We just realised that we’ve done Islington, we’ve done South and we’ve been to all the top-class bars in the West End. So why not go gay and sniff out all the single girls in Soho? Fag hags are horny girls. They hang out with gay guys all day long who endlessly talk about cock and how to get it. Together they go clubbing in Soho’s Old Compton Street, inspired by Sex and the City. They down shot after shot with their new “best friend” in GA-Y or Freedom. These girls claim that they love gay bars because they can get away from sleazy guys out on a hunt. Naturally, that’s where we come in. After a couple of hours the girls will be overly excited after watching good-looking guys fearlessly snogging each other. Time for Sean and I to go in for the kill. The basement bar of Freedom was our venue. After a couple of minutes spent inﬁltrating the groups, we ﬂirted a bit with the boys and then began the isolation of our main targets. I went for the Spanish looking brunette and Sean picked the blonde. They loved us. And we gave them love. Next week we’ll be doing the lesbian community.
The views expressed in this newspaper in no way represent the views of City University or the student union. The Inquirer is an independent publication run by City students.
It’s far more ominous; it is a sign of our times. Gone are the days when student unions offered the clear and critical voice of a younger generation. Enter days of dull disenfranchisement and apathy – enforced apathy, on this occasion. Student unions long ago surrendered their independence. In almost every university in the UK, a bizarre twist of the “closed shop” policy resulted in students automatically becoming members of their university’s union; the catch is that, consequently, membership fees – the core of student union ﬁnance – are channelled through university, which is free to withhold services and resources at its (entirely undemocratic) discretion. Students of City University have been rebuffed on several occasions when trying to establish a forum for political debate. In a democratic society, for students to be refused the opportunity to discuss ideas outside their classrooms is deplorable. A university that prides itself on its dedication to multiculturalism, and one which houses well respected journalism, social science and politics departments, should not be so reluctant to allow its students to debate politics and current affairs. The claims apparently made by Rowan Lord are nonsensical; but they are sincere. The student union really does believe that unseen Al Qaeda recruiters hover around the university, waiting to tear at our gentle souls the minute the union lets down its watchful guard. They readily equate “debate” with “terrorism”; and there is nothing more dangerous in human experience than making this equation. Far from being a site of freethinking and free exchange of ideas, the university seems to have become a laboratory for new forms of censorship and conformism. It helps to alter the way some students and teachers think, tending to make them closed-minded and fearful of challenging arguments. Students have the right, if not the obligation, to actively participate in every aspect of the society they are part of. They have a right to learn of human rights and the ways they are commonly violated, be it by guerrillas or by governments – even if it happens to be our own government. Political involvement doesn’t make us worse students; on the contrary, it educates and enlightens us, and it contributes immensely to our society, of which we are, after all, members and citizens. You would think that the Student Union would want to encourage such engagement. And most importantly – this should be our personal decision. Not the university’s, the student unions, or any body of authority – an authority, we should reiterate, that is given on our permission. The Editors
the arts and culture bit
The Devil Wears Prada
Scenes of a Sexual Nature
If you go into this ﬁlm expecting to see what the title promises, you’ll be disappointed.
The only ‘sexual nature’ in this ﬁlm is Hampstead Heath, and the scenes are of conversations about love, marriage, breakups, divorce, and more besides. The setting is, of course, beautiful, and when the ﬁlm opens with a kite ﬂying over the heath you feel like you’re in for something special. What a shame, then, that what you get is some kind of amateur drama workshop. Well, actually, that’s a little unfair, as the unknown actors all put in quite good performances – it’s the likes of Ewan McGregor and Catherine Tate who let the side down. You get the feeling that they could practice acting for the rest of their lives and still be indistinguishable from the trees that surround them. Worse, unfortunately, is the quality of the writing. There are ﬂashes of brilliance, especially when the melodrama lets up and the ﬁlm switches brieﬂy to comedy, but most of the time you ﬁnd yourself sighing at the
If you’re a TV director with some extra millions, no masterpiece at hand, and a far-from-brilliant cast, the prescription for glory is easy to memorise: Meryl Streep.
Because if it hadn’t been for her mesmerising presence or immeasurably accurate acting skills, this ﬁlm would have stayed the predictably formulated fable it essentially is. Andy (Anne Hathaway), a scruffy country girl, comes to New York on a quest for professional fame after graduating with distinction from journalism school at a provincial university. In a fantastical sequence of events, she lands in the Prada-stricken ofﬁces of Runway, a leading fashion magazine, as the personal assistant of its terrorising editor, Miranda Priestley (Streep). The character is unofﬁcially based on the legendary Anna Wintour, the domineering editor of Vogue, who has been calling the shots in the fashion world for decades. The ﬁlm soon revisits every possible cliché: Andy lets her not-so-gratifying job come between her and her friends, affect her hitherto fairytale love life, and ultimately sway her to sell her soul to the devil, by undergoing a total makeover, in a submissive attempt to understand the fashion world from within and integrate in it. Frankel directed a few Sex and the City episodes, and it is clear that he loves New York and is well familiar with its captivating spirit. The camera vivaciously escorts Andy’s dashes around Manhattan, as she is constantly follows Miranda’s capricious orders on her mobile phone. At times you wonder how
shallowness of the ideas. A woman in her 40s who’s desperate to have children? A gay man who’s addicted to casual sex? Clichés abound, and insulting ones at that. The most mystifying episode concerns a couple who have just got divorced and brought their decree absolutes with them to the heath, despite apparently being madly in love and really getting along very well. We are never given a reason for this – I guess divorce is just fashionable nowadays. It’s a sad ﬁlm to watch, because at its core is a good idea. You ﬁnd yourself cheering for the writers more than the characters, especially when they’ve managed to go a few minutes without messing up. With a bit more thought, this could have been great. TW the self-indulgent and righteous American society. One of his most important ﬁlms in Germany was M (1931). This trailblazing thriller is of tremendous value because, arguably for the ﬁrst time on the silver screen, a murderer is portrayed with human characteristics. M (Peter Lorre), a lonely and emotionally shaky weirdo, seduces and murders little girls. Lang was innovative and courageous enough to depict M as a miserable and deplorable soul, and not as a monstrous maniac whose incorrigible conduct merits nothing but painful death. In one of the closing scenes, after being caught by the police, M is being brought to justice and pathetically pleads for his life. Only decades later will such a ploy to blur the boundaries between right and wrong, and allow the viewer to identify with the criminal, have become (nearly) a convention. GH Streep, one venomously nonchalant “that’s all” or one majestically standofﬁsh facial expression will be easily worth your time and money. Here she comes to save the day. GH
know your classics
Maybe the ﬁrst “globalised” ﬁlmmaker was Fritz Lang, an Austrian Jew who ﬂed from Germany to Hollywood when the Nazis came to power.
Although many were not allowed to leave, some outstanding intellectuals, like Albert Einstein or Sigmund Freud, were given carte blanche to resettle in the West. Fritz Lang is a less famous example. Lang’s ﬁlms were cornerstones of early German cinema, especially Metropolis, a futuristic fantasy and a cinematic triumph of 1920s modernist thinking. Upon arrival in America, Lang directed a series of ﬁlms that did the unthinkable: they ﬁercely critiqued she’s not experiencing a nervous breakdown, and at others you wonder how much more enjoyable this ﬁlm could be if she did. However, just one freezing glance by
The 100 Club is glowing in red light, he and nostalgic posters of jazz festivals gone by litter the walls like a schoolgirl’s collage.
The support act, Rollo Markee and the Tailshakers, do nothing to diffuse the unadulterated cool. Rollo has a face that looks like he would rather be stealing your car, but the band performs all kinds of numbers in a jumping rock and roll disguise. The stand out track here was Work Song, a traditional chain gang arrangement that got a new working here – for the crowd less in chains. As quickly as they had started, Rollo and the band disappeared, taking their double bass and quaffs with them and left the stage ready for the Yardbirds. With two founding members still intact, this reporter was worried that the gig would have to be watched with eyes shut. Not so. With the help of long-time-fan-turned-frontman John Idan, guitarist Ben King and harmonica and maracas extraordinaire Billy-Boy (great
playing, shame about the name), the Yardbirds are still hanging on to a raucous sound. Original band members Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja are no nostalgic limelight huggers though, with Dreja sticking on rhythm to allow the young ‘un King to peddle serious rock guitar through the evening. Near the end of the evening, the ‘Birds launch into a bit of self promotion: “We could have written
You could say Empire has qualities of original art which reach beyond anything that has been before.
It has Tom Meighan’s vocals inspiring the lyrics of Serge Pizzorno to a deliberately deep, yet vague meaning. The lyrics are left open to interpretation: Shoot the Runner? What’s that about? It sounds almost militaristic, but it doesn’t matter, as the barbed rifts which play around the swaying bass could carry any words. In part, the album harks back to ‘70s glam, but Shoot the Runner doesn’t pause for a tribute to that era or any other. The Kasabian sound is an exacting marriage of pasty psychedelia and legitimate rock: just listen to the power-electric effects on Stuntman and the title track, Empire. Me Plus One is way out in the sticks as far as love songs go; none of that, thanks. You can still get your meaning across with skilled harmonies and guitar zeal, you know. British Legion is like a delicate-cut stone. It is on this track that Pizzorno removes the veil of the harmonies to announce himself as the band’s second striking lead vocalist. It is a slow, acoustic wonder-romance – although Kasabian deﬁnitely aren’t soppy, there’s a craggy earnestness to all this. And Kasabian believe in earnestness – why else would they still buy their veg and socks at Leicester market, despite this number one album? Pet Sounds status is a long way off for everyone save the sycophants… but let’s not rule it out. RB
this really...” they claim as the dirty slides of Dazed and Confused scream around the club. Well, maybe – but look at the personnel you’ve had in the last 40 years. Still, the Yardbirds have retained a certain cool, and to see them stomping around in Soho was a glance back to a different time. Man. EC
The Rebel Sell
Do you hate consumerism? Annoyed by all those advertisements? Tired of your Gap sweatshirt and your Adidas sneakers?
To ﬁght capitalism, there’s only one way: don’t conform, resist assimilation and ‘think different’! Yet funnily enough, this subversive statement could easily be confused with a tagline from one of the latest ads. In The Rebel Sell, two young Canadian academics – Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter – point out this irony, and argue that anti-conformist discourse, held in turn by beatniks, hippies, then punks, has always spoken in marketing parlance. They claim that anti-consumerism has become one of the major cultural forces in post-millennial Western life. Seem doubtful? A close look at the non-ﬁction bestseller lists conﬁrms that, for years, they’ve been dominated by books that are deeply critical of consumerism: No Logo, Culture Jam, Fast Food Nation, and many more. Two of the most popular and critically acclaimed ﬁlms in recent memory were Fight Club and American Beauty, which offer almost identical takes on the homogenizing and emasculating effects of modern consumer society.
Heath and Potter deliver sharp reviews of these two blockbusters and debunk their subversive anti-consumerist claims as a mere restatement of the “critique of mass society” that has been around since the 1950s. The authors then proceed to unravel the obsession to conceive of culture as an ideological system. They explore Freud, Marx, Marcuse and Debord among many others with a wealth of interesting examples at hand. In short, they say, counterculture thinking – from anti-globalisation to feminism – holds that individual expression and non-conformity is the way to subvert the stiﬂing and alienating system in place and solve political problems. However, such rebellion is irrelevant to capitalism, which simply responds with ‘seditious’ consumer goods – be they biker jackets, nipple piercings, organic produce, or Naomi Klein’s latest attack on the evils of corporatism. The Rebel Sell exposes the cardinal sin of countercultural rhetoric: the belief that improvements in social policy are meaningless if they do not lead to the dismantling of the whole system and a radical change in consciousness. In fact, most problems in society are really caused by collective action problems, the book argues – not by the infamous ‘System’. The Rebel Sell is an invigorating read,
presenting a brave and original argument: anti-capitalism is just the latest mundane subculture, seemingly iconoclastic but actually distinction-seeking and pretentious. The fact this subculture has replaced socialism as the basis of progressive political thought contributes to explaining the left’s decline – today’s progressives prefer to fantasize about total radicalism rather than work towards social equality. In places, however, the book is unfair, polemical and too dismissive of lefty activism as either the product of youthful folly or crazed sectarianism. Indeed, the authors can sound nostalgic and their treatise a blind conservative defense of the establishment – when they aren’t in attack mode, the authors preach conformism and concrete political engagement. They don’t seem to acknowledge that there could be reasons beyond escapism or statusseeking to travel to exotic places, purchase fair-trade and organic produce, or convert to another religion. In the end, the book avoids admitting that an increasing number of people truly are growing weary of mass-marketed images being offered as a seductive substitute for meaningful social change. SR The Rebel Sell is by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, and is available in City’s library!
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