Rise by Liam Young review – how Jeremy Corbyn inspired the young

A Corbyn aide sets out to explain the ‘youth surge’ on the left, but though the surge is real, and important, the book is uninspiring

Every few years, an event hits the radical bookshops. A clutch of new writers appear, telling you the story and how it will change everything. A typical book might have a cover with a clenched fist, and it might be called, for instance, Rise. Then the movements fail, and the books join each other in the bargain basements. For the British left, the snap election of June 2017 really was an event, and an ecstatic one – a sudden, thumping statement that enthusiasm and anger mattered more than media and received opinion. Helped by a massive youth swing leftwards, 40% of those who voted supported Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to become prime minister – 10% more than for Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband, and only 2% ...

The House of Government by Yuri Slezkine review – the Russian Revolution told through one building

A dizzying epic history of a 1931 block of flats in Moscow, home to the Soviet elite, aims to tell of the rise and fall of Bolshevism

It is rare to come across a work of history that so obviously wants to be a literary masterpiece. Roughly the length of War and Peace, The House of Government aims to capture the rise and fall of Bolshevism through a building and its residents, via a study in eschatology – the creation of an apocalyptic cult, its unexpected success, and its equally unexpected failure. It is a dizzying book, a hall of mirrors, panoramic and bizarre, as puzzlingly esoteric and thrillingly fervent as the doctrines it describes. Whether it succeeds in what it tries to do – essentially, to write a totally new history of the Russian revolution, cast in the mould of a teeming historical novel – is questionable. That there is nothing else ...

The Architecture of Neoliberalism by Douglas Spencer review – privatising the world

Sell off social housing and build on Hyde Park? Meet the breed of architects giving free-market ideology a physical formArchitects seldom make the front pages of newspapers. Patrik Schumacher recently managed it, though, getting himself on to the cover of the Evening Standard after a speech in which he advocated privatising all social housing and all public space – including Hyde Park – and espoused intensified gentrification of inner city areas. His advocacy on behalf of plutocrats reached hilariously villainous levels when he said of second home owners in London: “even if they’re only here for a few weeks and throw some key parties, these are amazing multiplying events”. This is “neoliberal” rhetoric at its purest. Neoliberalism – a form of free market fundamentalism that effectively came to power at the turn of the 1980s with the election of such enthusiasts for Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman as Margaret Thatcher ...

Keep Calm and Carry On – the sinister message behind the slogan that seduced the nation

It is on posters, mugs, tea towels and in headlines. Harking back to a ‘blitz spirit’ and an age of public service, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ has become ubiquitous. How did a cosy, middle-class joke assume darker connotations? To get some sense of just what a monster it has become, try counting the number of times in a week you see some permutation of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. In the last few days I’ve seen it twice as a poster advertising a pub’s New Year’s Eve party, several times in souvenir shops, in a photograph accompanying a Guardian article on the imminent doctors’ strike (“Keep Calm and Save the NHS”) and as the subject of too many internet memes to count. Some were related to the floods – a flagrantly opportunistic Liberal Democrat poster, with “Keep Calm and Survive Floods”, and the somewhat more mordant “Keep ...

Keep Calm and Carry On – the sinister message behind the slogan that seduced the nation

It is on posters, mugs, tea towels and in headlines. Harking back to a ‘blitz spirit’ and an age of public service, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ has become ubiquitous. How did a cosy, middle-class joke assume darker connotations?

To get some sense of just what a monster it has become, try counting the number of times in a week you see some permutation of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. In the last few days I’ve seen it twice as a poster advertising a pub’s New Year’s Eve party, several times in souvenir shops, in a photograph accompanying a Guardian article on the imminent doctors’ strike (“Keep Calm and Save the NHS”) and as the subject of too many internet memes to count. Some were related to the floods – a flagrantly opportunistic Liberal Democrat poster, with “Keep Calm and Survive Floods”, and the somewhat more mordant “Keep ...

Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe by Antony Loewenstein review – the management of nightmares

Our economic system now depends upon transforming emergency relief, incarceration and the processing of asylum seekers into profits

At one telling moment in this unnerving and convincing book, Antony Loewenstein quotes the managing director of one of the many private military companies (“PMCs”) working in Afghanistan. The United States, says “Jack”, “is not capable of running empires”. Instead, western governments outsource imperialism to people like him in a variety of organisations – Halliburton, G4S, Serco and Capita are the best known of a long list – which make their money from incarceration, the “processing” of asylum seekers or the provision of private “security” in conflict zones. No longer able to sustain itself by selling dreams, capitalism now thrives on the management of nightmares. Even the provision of disaster relief is transformed into profit.

Disaster Capitalism takes us on a journey around the victims of this system: Greece, Afghanistan, Haiti and Papua New Guinea. It then turns ...

Ghost Cities of China by Wade Shepard review – unpopulated replica towns explained

From desolate copies of western towns to a village with a skyscraper taller than the Shard – the story of cities without people in the world’s most populated country

One of the many under‑populated cities visited in this book is Hallstatt, on the outskirts of Huizhou, in Guangdong province. It is a precise copy of Hallstatt in Upper Austria. “The resemblance to the real Hallstatt went down to the smallest detail … the sounds of birds tweeting were playing throughout the streets from hidden speakers … and The Sound of Music soundtrack played on an endless loop could be heard everywhere.” Wade Shepard was inspired to visit such places after his first, more mundane, sighting of a ghost city. He went to Tianti, in Zhejiang province, by accident getting off a bus at the wrong stop, and found a series of empty high-rises and office blocks so quiet he could hear only the ...