Reading lists

Paul Mason’s Reading Guide to a Brighter Future

Paul Mason’s journey towards writing Clear Bright Future, in defence of a leftwing radical humanism, began by taking down a few books that had been sitting on his shelves since the early 1980s.

As I write, Britain’s leader of the opposition is being vilified as a Marxist; so are the new leftwing democratic representatives in the US congress. Meanwhile the achievements of the most powerful Marxist in the world – Xi Jin Ping –are lauded by investment banks and repressive states everywhere.

I came to the conclusion that, instead of a dead but interesting doctrine - as Arendt thought – Marxism is going to be the intellectual obsession of the right in the 21stcentury – so someone should unearth and defend both its humanist origins and its implications for freedom.


2. Fear of Freedom

Erich Fromm

Fromm had been a leftwing social-psychologist in Weimar Germany and was the first person to identify the “authoritarian rebel” character that allowed some communists to flip over to Hitler’s Nazis once they held power. In Fear of Freedom, Fromm analysed a social dynamic that has become all too familiar to us: the exploitation of tiredness and disorientation among progressive people to impose fascist regimes.


3. The Promise of Politics

Hannah Arendt

This collection contains her most sustained critique and dialogue with Marx, placing his thought at the turning point of western intellectual history.


4. Engagement with Marxism

Alasdair Macintyre

Writings from the 1950s and 60s by a British philosopher now famous for communitarianism but who, at the time, was trying to evolve Marxism into the source of a moral philosophy.


5. The Poverty of Theory

Edward Thompson

A neglected but masterful attack on postmodernism written just before the whole doctrine of irrationalism overwhelmed the academic left.


6. Capital

Karl Marx

No list of source books would be complete without mention of Marx’s humanist writings. These include not only the famous 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts but key parts of Capital and its forerunner The Grundrisse.



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