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Saint George's Day: 14 recommended books within the framework of the European Capital of Democracy

ca Sant Jordi 2024 en  es

April 19, 2024

We explore contemporary challenges with a selection of readings committed to participatory democracy, human rights, technology, and gender equality

In the framework of the celebration of Sant Jordi on April 23, 2024, and coinciding with the year of the European Capital of Democracy in Barcelona, ​​we present an eclectic selection of fourteen books addressing current and critically relevant topics. Through this collection, various perspectives on fundamental issues such as participatory democracy, human rights, technology, gender equality, and contemporary social challenges are addressed. Each work offers a unique window to explore the challenges and opportunities shaping our current world.

From deep analysis of participatory democracy to reflection on the changing meaning of freedom in a democratic society, these books cover a wide range of topics and perspectives. Through compelling narratives, rigorous research, and incisive critiques, the authors guide us on an intellectual journey to better understand the complex fabric of our contemporary society.

This collection is an invitation to reflection, dialogue, and participation in the debates that define our time. Through its pages, readers will find innovative ideas, provocative viewpoints, and proposals to tackle the challenges ahead. On this Sant Jordi, we celebrate the diversity and richness of contemporary thought with this selection of books promising to stimulate minds and inspire actions towards a fairer and more equitable future.

Fourteen books for Sant Jordi 2024

  1. Capitalismo libilinal. Amador Fernández-Savater. Ned ediciones nuevos emprendimientos editoriales.

Life has become a market. As if it were our second nature, we move around in Uber, travel with Airbnb, date on Tinder, shop on Glovo, entertain ourselves on Netflix, and speak of ourselves in the language of human capital.

This second nature, which Amador Fernández-Savater calls "libidinal capitalism," promises us happiness, but what it really produces is suffering and discomfort, in the form of precariousness, indebtedness, and psychological pain. Paradoxically, the right seems today more effective than anyone else in channeling this despair and its rejection force (Trump, Bolsonaro, Milei), while the communication strategies and containment policies of the left appear insufficient.

Is it possible to reclaim our discomfort as energy for social transformation? It will be necessary to learn to listen to and speak the language of the body, to imagine and activate policies of desire.

Capitalismo libilinal
  1. Cómo los movimientos sociales pueden salvar la democracia. Donatella dela Porta. Editorial Promoteo.

The widespread democratic malaise has called into question the identification of democracy's meaning with the currently existing institutions. However, times of crisis, in addition to posing challenges to institutions, also present opportunities for a deepening of democracy. This book seeks to bridge the gap between studies of social movements and democratic theory. Progressive social movements experiment with new ideas in their internal life, prefiguring alternative forms of democratic politics, and disseminate these ideas within institutions. They not only transform democratic states by advocating for policy change but also express a fundamental critique of conventional political action, thus addressing metapolitical issues and experimenting with participatory and deliberative ideas. The book addresses these innovations aimed at increasing participation and deliberation to salvage democracy.

Cómo los movimientos sociales pueden salvar la democracia.
  1. Decidim, a Technopolitical Network for Participatory Democracy, Xabier E. Barandiaran, Antonio Calleja-López, Arnau Monterde & Carol Romero. Editorial Sringer. Open access.

This open-access book explains the philosophy, design principles, and community organization of Decidim, providing essential insights into how the platform works. Decidim is a digital infrastructure for participatory democracy, built entirely and collaboratively as free software, and used by over 500 institutions with more than three million users worldwide.

The platform enables any organization (government, association, university, NGO, neighborhood, or cooperative) to support mass participatory democracy processes. In a context dominated by digital platforms owned by corporations, in the era of increasing social structuring through Artificial Intelligence, Decidim emerges as a platform for public or community ownership of collective human intelligence. However, the project is much more than its technological features. Decidim is itself a crossroads of the various dimensions of networked society, a detailed practical map of its complexities and conflicts. The authors distinguish three general dimensions of the project: (1) the political dimension, shedding light on the democratic model that Decidim promotes and its impact on public policies and organizations, (2) the technopolitical dimension, explaining how this technology is democratically designed and managed to produce and protect certain political effects, and (3) the technical dimension, presenting the production, operation, and success conditions of the project.

This book systematically covers these three levels in an academically sound, technologically coherent, and politically innovative manner. Serving as a useful resource and manual for using Decidim, it will not only appeal to students and academics interested in participatory and digital democracy but also to professionals, policymakers, and a broader audience interested in learning more about the Decidim platform.

  1. Democracia en presente, Isabell Lorey. Editorial Subtextos.

Amidst the crises and threats looming over liberal democracy, Isabell Lorey develops a democracy in the present tense that breaks with political certainties and linear concepts of progress and growth. Her queer-feminist political theory formulates a fundamental critique of masculinist concepts of the people, representation, institutions, and the multitude. In doing so, she unfolds an original concept of presentative democracy based on care and connection, on the irreducibility of responsibilities, which cannot be conceived without the past struggles and current practices of social movements.

  1. Después del trabajo. Helen Hester & Nick Srnicek. Caja Negra Editora.

Why do we feel like there's practically no such thing as free time? We come home after work, and instead of finding a moment of leisure or rest, we're faced with demanding household and caregiving tasks.

From the global crisis of capitalism and the acceleration of technological development, different streams of thought have emerged addressing the issue of post-work with projects aiming to minimize working hours. However, these projects are primarily focused on male wage labor and neglect the tasks associated with social reproduction, which mainly fall on women.

By examining the link between the history of the home and technology, from the advent of running water or the use of household appliances to the recent emergence of "smart homes" or task outsourcing through platforms, Helen Hester and Nick Srnicek demonstrate that far from diminishing, the burden of domestic work continues to occupy a substantial part of our lives. What lies behind this paradox is the fact that, as long as the social imaginary guiding the creation of these technologies and the set of social relationships in which they are embedded remains unchanged, technological changes will never have the capacity in themselves to liberate time.

This book provides a compelling diagnosis and, at the same time, a programmatic outline of how reproductive activities could be organized in a post-work transitional society inspired by feminist contributions, new eco-socialist projects, and the resurgence of the notion of economic planning. A post-work world should accompany the caregiving functions currently assigned to the private sphere through communal management organizations that reduce pressure on the nuclear family. The aim is to move away from the capitalist development of isolated domestic technologies towards a collective design that also establishes leisure as a right. The expansion of free time is vital for reclaiming collective deliberative spaces and critical imagination, allowing us to create the necessary institutions to consciously guide humanity's development.

Después del trabajo
  1. El deseo de cambiar. Bell Hooks. Bellaterra Edicions.

It's not true that men are unwilling to change. It's true that many men are afraid of change. It's true that countless men haven't even begun to observe how patriarchy prevents them from knowing themselves, being in touch with their feelings, and loving. To know love, men must be able to let go of the desire to dominate. They must be able to choose life over death. They must be willing to change.

Everyone needs to love and be loved, even men. But to know love, men must be able to see the ways in which patriarchal culture prevents them from knowing themselves, being in touch with their feelings, and loving.

In The Will to Change, Bell Hooks gets to the heart of the matter and shows men how to express emotions, a fundamental part of who they are, regardless of their age, marital status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Masculinity punishes these fundamental emotions, and it's so deeply ingrained in our society that it's hard for men to break free from it. Hooks wants to help change that.

With candor and fierce intelligence, Hooks addresses men's most common concerns: fear of intimacy and losing their place in society. She firmly believes that men can find the path to unity between body and spirit by reconnecting with the openly emotional part of themselves and reclaiming the fulfilling inner lives that historically have been the exclusive domain of women.

The Will to Change is a brave and startling work, intended to help men reclaim the best of themselves.

El deseo de cambiar
  1. Espiritistes i lliurepensadores. Dolors Marín. Angle Editorial.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Barcelona was bustling with social changes brought about by industrialization, as well as cultural and political concerns that represented a rupture with the previous century: utopias, labor movements, city construction... In this mix, a group of women stood out, most of them forgotten by history, who had a real and strong presence in the construction of a new society. These were women who broke stereotypes, achieved education and intellectual recognition, and fought for economic and labor independence, creating a reference point that we cannot ignore any longer. They were responsible for bringing spiritualism into our homes, a practice already common in the rest of Europe, understood as a confrontation with the system, as a form of radical spirituality that disrupts the social order represented by the official church, and as a first step towards free thinking. Cándida Sanz, Matilde Fernández, Matilde Alonso, Maria Trulls, or Amalia Domingo are some of the biographies that the author presents in this unique book that claims the historiography of dissent.

Espiritistes i lliure pensadores
  1. Feminismo posthumano, Rosi Braidotti. Gedisa Editorial.

Rosi Braidotti uncovers the deeply intertwined relationships between feminism and posthumanism. The philosopher advocates for the role of feminisms in the development of the posthuman turn and exposes how posthumanist studies are neglecting feminist theory. Posthuman feminism retrieves arguments from previous books (such as "The Posthuman" and "Posthuman Knowledge") and delves into the consequences that thinking through posthuman theory has for feminist theory and practice, and vice versa. Braidotti conceives of the posthuman as a marker of current situations and as a navigational tool. In both cases, the term aims to help achieve a more adequate understanding of the challenges we face in today's world—sexism, racism, increasing inequality, ecocide—and to chart a course through them. Thus, posthumanism will be feminist or it will not be. This work aspires to be a reading of its time, identifying and evaluating emerging trends in contemporary feminist theory and practice that allow us to overcome the current posthuman convergence phase.

Feminismo potshumano
  1. La libertad democrática. Daniel Innerarity. Editorial Galaxia Gutenberg.

What has happened for freedom to become a slogan of the right and obedience seem to be a value of the left? Might there be behind this curious ideological shift a different conception of freedom in a democratic society? Taking the idea of freedom as its guiding thread, this book analyzes the future of democracy and the new ideological landscapes, offers some keys to understand the behavior of its actors, and wonders what dimensions of society we should democratize and how to confront the crises we face.

Those who, in the name of their right to do as they please, do not internalize the impact their actions may have on others end up contributing to building a society in which many will see their own possibilities diminished. By caring for the common good, we are not surrendering to a neutral or foreign structure, but to something that nurtures our personal freedom. Jon Elster, one of the most prominent republican thinkers, alluded to the figure of Ulysses allowing himself to be tied up to avoid succumbing to the sirens' song. He thus reminded us that often the best way to preserve freedom is to restrain oneself, not so much out of respect for others' freedom, but to protect oneself from the follies one might commit if shouting freedom at anything. The current social contract, as Daniel Innerarity argues in these pages, is demanding a self-limitation of personal freedom to ensure the survival of humanity on the planet.

La libertad democrática
  1. La lucha por barcelona: clase, cultura y conflicto,1898-1937. Chris Ealham. Alianza Editorial.

Why did Barcelona become the undisputed capital of the European anarchist movement in the years leading up to the Civil War?

In this book, social protest, urban conflict, class cultures, and repression are analyzed in one of the most important revolutionary centers of the 20th century. Chris Ealham investigates the sources of anarchist power in the city, placing it at the center of Spain's political, cultural, social, and economic life between 1898 and 1937. During this period, a variety of social groups, movements, and institutions competed with each other to impose their own urban and political project in Barcelona: central authorities struggled to maintain control of the most rebellious Spanish city; nationalist groups sought to create the capital of Catalonia; local industrialists wanted to build a modern industrial city; urban middle classes fought to democratize the city; and, meanwhile, anarchists sought to end the oppression and exploitation to which the city's workers were subjected. All this unleashed a torrent of conflicts, often violent, for control of the city, both before and after the Civil War. Thus, we are faced with a work of great importance in the field of contemporary Spanish history that fills a significant gap in current literature.

La lucha por barcelona. Clase, cultura y conflicto,1898-1937
  1. Mujeres, raza y clase. Angela Davis. Ediciones Akal. 

Having been gestated within the abolitionist and labor struggles of the late 19th century, how is it possible that the voice and demands of black women have been systematically invisibilized by liberal white feminism? From this question, Angela Davis traces a new genealogy of American radical liberation movements in which she unveils the common roots of anti-slavery struggles and women's rights movements.

Throughout its pages, it depicts the material and symbolic context in which the various struggles were manifested, the strength of collective organization against dominant forces of power and exploitation. But this is not just a settling of accounts with the past: it also projects a look into the future. A reconstruction like this offers an enlightening analysis not only to denounce situations of injustice but also to spell out the strategies of struggle and the problems of composing differences that still tear apart political movements today.

It is precisely the relevance of this classic of emancipatory thought that Pastora Filigrana emphasizes in the prologue prepared for this edition: Angela Davis provides us with the keys to combat, "with a political alliance of different struggles articulated from race, class, and gender. It is the great lesson she offers us: it is up to us to continue writing it".

Mujeres, raza y clase
  1. Revolucionarios cibernéticos. Eden Medina. LOM Ediciones.

Between 1971 and 1973, a group of Chilean and British engineers developed a technological project to assist the Allende government in managing the industrial sector of the state economy. The system they envisioned challenged the limits of what was possible and faced complex problems, such as real-time control, dynamic system modeling, and the creation of computer networks. Drawing from archives and interviews, Medina masterfully reconstructs one of the most ambitious applications of cybernetic ideas in history and the context that made it possible: the socialist experiment of the Popular Unity.

Revolucionarios cibernéticos
  1. The Right to Water, Farhana Sultana & Alex Loftus. Routledge Books.

The right to clean water has been adopted by the United Nations as a basic human right. However, understanding, negotiating, experiencing, and fighting for these universal calls for the right to water remain a key challenge. The Right to Water clarifies how universal calls for rights are articulated within historical, geographical, local contexts, governance, politics, and social struggles, thus highlighting the challenges and opportunities that exist. Bringing together a wide range of scholars, policymakers, and activists, the book examines how struggles for the right to water have sought to translate moral arguments about access to safe water into viable claims. This book is an intervention at a crucial moment in shaping the form and future direction of struggles for the right to water in a range of political, geographical, and socioeconomic contexts, seeking to be proactive in defining what this struggle could mean and how it could advance much broader transformative policy.

The book addresses a range of approaches focusing on philosophical, legal, and governance perspectives before seeking to apply these more abstract arguments to a series of concrete struggles and case studies. In this way, the book draws on empirical examples from Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, and the European Union.

The right water
  1. Water: A Critical Introduction. Naho Mirumachi, Katie Meehan & Alex Loftus. Editorial Wiley-Blackwell.

Explore the hydrosocial cycle and the impact of power, knowledge, and scarcity on water rights and usage through this engaging and student-friendly textbook.

In Water: A Critical Introduction, a team of prominent researchers provides an expert examination of our most pressing water-related challenges, arguing that water flows are shaped by social practices and power geometries. Combining firsthand research and headline case studies, the authors reveal the often-hidden hydrosocial relationships in mainstream water narratives, addressing current issues such as water scarcity, floods, global water governance, legal conflicts, human rights, drinking water supply, health, the water-food-energy nexus, and much more.

Spanning five centuries, this comprehensive volume reflects on how imperial expansion has shaped hydrosocial relationships in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, how water demand has changed over time, and how this change has impacted lifestyles.

As the first main text synthesizing critical water research from both local and global perspectives, this book is grounded in clear and persuasive arguments, the "four pillars," and is supported by the authors' original research and updated synthesis of the latest critical research on key water issues. It also includes maps, illustrations, and additional learning materials for educators. Readers will find: A lively and thorough introduction explaining why a critical approach is necessary to fully understand our current water challenges, with a focus on the "skeptical superhero." A global focus on major debates in water issues, including large dams, privatization, transboundary conflicts, agriculture and irrigation, water supply and sanitation, human rights, governance dilemmas, and the Sustainable Development Goals. Exhaustive explorations of the roles played by expert knowledge, global capital, climate change, and struggles for justice in the hydrosocial cycle. Critical theoretical perspectives integrating environmental social sciences, feminist critique, and broadly defined political economy with water resource specifics. Detailed treatments of water governance, science, and management, including the origins and implications of neoliberal approaches to water privatization, commodification, and financialization. An accessible text that "invites the reader" on a critical journey.

Water: A Critical Introduction is a key text for advanced high school, undergraduate, and graduate students seeking a better understanding of trends in environmental management, political ecology, governance, water science, and engineering. Written with an interdisciplinary audience in mind, this book will benefit students taking courses in environmental studies, environmental law, geopolitics, international studies, human geography, hydrology, engineering, environmental economics, and related disciplines.

Water. A Critical Introduction

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