Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx's Lost Theory (Paperback)
Is revolution possible in the age of the Anthropocene?
Marx has returned, but which Marx? Recent biographies have proclaimed him to be an emphatically nineteenth-century figure, but in this book, Mike Davis’s first directly about Marx and Marxism, a thinker comes to light who speaks to the present as much as the past. In a series of searching, propulsive essays, Davis, the bestselling author of City of Quartz and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, explores Marx’s inquiries into two key questions of our time: Who can lead a revolutionary transformation of society? And what is the cause—and solution—of the planetary environmental crisis?
Davis consults a vast archive of labor history to illuminate new aspects of Marx’s theoretical texts and political journalism. He offers a “lost Marx,” whose analyses of historical agency, nationalism, and the “middle landscape” of class struggle are crucial to the renewal of revolutionary thought in our darkening age. Davis presents a critique of the current fetishism of the “anthropocene,” which suppresses the links between the global employment crisis and capitalism’s failure to ensure human survival in a more extreme climate. In a finale, Old Gods, New Enigmas looks backward to the great forgotten debates on alternative socialist urbanism (1880–1934) to find the conceptual keys to a universal high quality of life in a sustainable environment.
About the Author
Mike Davis is the author of many books including Set the Night on Fire, Prisoners of the American Dream, Old Gods, New Enigmas, Late Victorian Holocausts, City of Quartz, The Monster at Our Door, Buda’s Wagon, and Planet of Slums. He is the recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award. He lives in San Diego.
“Old God, New Enigmas is a project that no one but Mike Davis could have conceived and successfully executed: a systematic account of working-class politics on a global scale that can serve as a worthy accompaniment to Marx’s Capital itself. Historical sociology, cultural analysis, strategic handbook, and brilliant entrée to Marxist debates, Davis’s book constitutes a weapon for action that is outrageously pleasurable to utilize.”
—Robert Brenner, author of The Economics of Global Turbulence
“In this collection of essays, Davis searches Karl Marx’s œuvre for a revolutionary paradigm capable of addressing present-day economic inequality and climate change … While the esoteric case studies and historical summaries will appeal primarily to readers already familiar with Marx, the book also offers the simple pleasure of watching Davis’s nimble mind at work.”
“An exact and exacting account of the forces and tendencies that compose the present, written in the grand tradition of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, not as the application of a theory but as a guide to action. It is the indispensable starting point for any strategy that seeks to end the catastrophe of capitalism’s continued existence.”
—Warren Montag, author of Bodies, Masses, Power
“There is no one better at building on Marx’s legacy of profound and engaged political analysis—the Marx of the Manifesto and The 18th Brumaire—than Mike Davis. This new book puts the class formation, deformation and reformation of precarious proletariats, the social meanings and staying powers of national identities, the capitalist nature of ecological crises in brilliantly well-informed historical, comparative and revolutionary perspective.”
—Leo Panitch, Professor Emeritus, York University
“Whether his theme is Marxian views of proletarian agency or of nationalism, Kropotkin’s climatological-historical materialism or the prospects for an ecosocialist reinvention of city life, Mike Davis’s guiding vision is clear and bold: a reinvigorated and politically charged Marxism, brimming with original insights and suffused with historical depth.”
—Nancy Fraser, author of Fortunes of Feminism
“Davis resuscitates myriad overlooked works of political and environmental history and theory in this insightful collection.”
“The heterogeneity of Davis’s latest book reflects his decades of accumulated interests … [Davis is] a formidable intellectual, and this collection contains many gems.”
—Troy Vettese, Boston Review
“An excellent, pocket-ready primer for historicized militant organizing.”
—Carl Grey Martin, Socialism and Democracy
“Davis offers the possibility of hope … His clear writing style … successfully combining a select history of labour movements, a careful rereading of Marx, and a frank consideration of the calamitous ecological consequences of capitalism on climate change, so as to present a vision of how coming forms of capitalism can best be opposed and transformed into socialist movements that can sustain life instead of destroying it.”
—Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
“Brimming with insights, Old Gods, New Enigmas is a collection in which [Davis] attempts to make sense of how, in the face of crisis and potential disaster, workers can realize their latent power to build a world that respects the implacable demands of ecology and averts climate apocalypse.”
—Micah Uetricht, The Nation