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Showing posts from September, 2017

THE RENT TRAP

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THE RENT TRAP BY ROSIE WALKER AND SAMIR JERAJ. PLUTO PRESS. 2016
Samir is a friend and Pluto Press regularly publish my books, so I must admit a conflict of interest, nonetheless with this warning I hope my brief review will be useful. It is generally acknowledged that the UK housing market is broken.  More and more, especially young people are either homeless or suffering from high rents, on the other side of the equation landlords are growing richer. Own property and your income and in turn your wealth in property tends to grow.  Fail to own property and you pay more and more in rent.  Rent controls are seen as anti-market, rent controls that limit rent increases are thought to discourage landlords from renting, restrict the quantity of rent accommodation and make shortages worse.
Walker and Jeraj challenge this view.  Landlords can make enormous amounts of money by renting, so tend to buy up housing, this crowds out potential homeowners and, in turn, pushes up rents.  The Rent Tra…

How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog

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My wife, noting my interest in but poor understanding of mathematics, borrowed How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, for me from Bracknell Library.  It is in the genre of light physics and mathematics, I have also recent enjoyed Simon Singh's The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (which incidentally is very good).
The conceit of the quantum physics book of explaining to the dog is stupid but fun too.

Much of this I don't understand but I guess if I keep reading something  will rub off.

More seriously it fits with my more lengthy posts recently on epistemology, the question of how do we know what we know, here and here.

Clearly while I am committed to both rationality and materialism, what we mean by matter is up for debate and any one with any kind of mathematics knows that things get seriously weird quite quickly when rationality based upon mathematical formalism comes into play.  So while we should eschew anything goes relativism (if that is really a thing rather …

Statement condemning the international arms fair in London

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Image from Red Pepper http://www.redpepper.org.uk/arms-fair-protesters-put-weapons-industry-on-trial/
Peace in Kurdistan condemns the Defence and Security Equipment International arms fair being held at the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands from 11th to 14 September 2017. It is the world’s biggest arms fair and will host guests from among the world’s most oppressive regimes, including from Turkey. This exhibition, promoting the wares sold by the merchants of death, will be addressed by British government ministers. Britain is the world’s second largest, and Europe’s largest, arms exporter. Over half of the weapons that British companies sell go to the Middle East. British companies and politicians share responsibility for the murder and mayhem inflicted on the Middle East for decades. There are some 9,000 arms companies in the UK, including smaller businesses. These firms seek to profit from the war being waged by the Turkish state against the Kurdish people.  This must be stopped. Kur…

Gaston Bachelard

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Gaston Bachelard by Roch C. Smith, Twayne Publishers: Boston. 1982




One reason I keep my hand in with university teaching is library access, working at a University of London college, means I can borrow books from Senate House Library.  Its an impressive building rather brutalist and soviet but in a kind of good way!  While my academic experience is around political economy I have long had an interest in the methodology of science.  A key figure in this area is the great and provocative French thinker Gaston Bachelard. I don't read French and his texts on scientific method are often untranslated.  I have found Roch Smith's book entitled, quite simply, Gaston Bachelard useful and since borrowing it from Senate House have read it quickly.

It is not a recent title and is short but I feel I understand more about Bachelard than I did last week before reading it.  Bachelard, he of the splendid beard, combined a resolute rationalism in examining science methodology with an expansive and…

Farming, Fascism and Ecology

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Farming, Fascism and Ecology: A life of Jorian Jenks by Philip M. Coupland, Routledge 2016.




Philip Coupland was kind enough to send me a copy of his book on Jorian Jenks last year. What with one thing and another, including helping to organise the Global Greens Congress, finishing my own book on Elinor Ostrom and that episode with Mrs May, I have only just got around to reading it.

Jenks (1899-1963) was both a leading fascist and a founder member of the Soil Association.  His story is part of a picture of ecofascism.  While the current Green Party is on the left, picking up votes from those disillusioned with Blairism and now competing with Jeremy Corbyn, green politics has not always been on the left.

If we take the key pillars of green politics often described as 'ecology, social justice, non violence and grassroots democracy' this describes an ideology which is indeed left.  However the union of politics and ecology has in the past been on the right.

The Green Party, was or…

Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations

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I am a great visitor of charity shops in search of books, I picked up Communication Theory: Epistemological Foundations by James Anderson, for 75p in the Red Cross shop in Blandford Street, Sunderland.  Every penny was well spent!

The book is aimed at students taking communication studies of various kinds and looks at the various assumption behind research in this area.  However it would be useful for any student interested in the basis of knowledge claims in the social sciences and, has something to say to those working in the natural sciences too.

Epistemology is a big bad word but its meaning is straightforward, it is the study of how we know things, it is about truth claims,  How do we know that something to put it bluntly and simplistically is true or false.  From the moon landings to climate change to the theory of evolution to debates in politics about the effects of benefit cuts, truth can be highly contested.  So while this is a rather technical book dealing with research me…