99% of books are not what I'm looking for.
November 17, 2011 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Looking for the 1% of books with OWS themes.

I would like to become more educated on things related to Occupy Wall Street. By that, I mean books having to do with what the movement is about like the bail-outs, corporate bad behavior, government bad behavior, class inequality, other things I am not thinking to list, etc. Basically, I want books that a movie like Inside Job might have taken cues from or similar things applied to other social issues.
posted by itsacover to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
How recent? The Grapes of Wrath is pretty good.
posted by one_bean at 9:41 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am open to all suggestions, but would like current event books as well.
posted by itsacover at 9:44 PM on November 17, 2011

By Barbara Ehrenreich:
* Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America
* Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
posted by maurreen at 9:49 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich, Rolling Stone article by Tim Dickinson.

Anything by Thomas Frank.
posted by lukemeister at 9:52 PM on November 17, 2011

This very recent book is about the OWS movement.
posted by obliquicity at 9:58 PM on November 17, 2011

Best answer: Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber, who was one of the people involved in the beginnings of OWS.

He's also written Direct Action: An Ethnography and Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology which are both also really good (the general assembly process and rejection of leaders/heirarchy in OWS is basically anarchist principles in action).
posted by bradbane at 10:04 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a official non-official list of books to catch up on the grievances of OWS. They are listed at occupyeducated.org.
posted by gmarceau at 10:15 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, next month Verso is publishing Occupy.

Also, Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story basically predicted the movement, and is wonderful novel besides.
posted by emilycardigan at 10:16 PM on November 17, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!! These are all awesome so far!
posted by itsacover at 10:20 PM on November 17, 2011

Best answer: The Big Short by Michael Lewis was a fairly entertaining read, and also did more to help me understand the causes of the financial crisis than any other single source I've read.
posted by Errant at 10:26 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Like Dickinson's Rolling Stone piece, the New Yorker's "Empty Chamber" is relatively short but devastating in the extent it exposes the corruption and bad faith that's been withering the Senate from the inside over the last few years.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:56 PM on November 17, 2011

Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, is an investigation of rising inequality over the past forty years from a political science perspective. It argues (fairly persuasively, in my opinion) that, in recent decades, the rich have used politics to reinforce their position at the top, which goes a long way to explaining their runaway gains. Hacker and Pierson do a great job of weaving discussions of hardcore political science research into their narrative. Here's a sharp review from policy blogger Ezra Klein.
posted by sashapearl at 11:05 PM on November 17, 2011

n+1 is a "print magazine of politics, literature, and culture founded in 2004 and published three times yearly." I had a print subscription to n+1 for several years and thoroughly enjoyed their content, both intellectually and aesthetically. They recently created a gazette (currently on the second issue) focused on exploring the historical issues leading up to OWS. The gazettes are available to download for free. It offers some exploration of the historical context regarding OWS as well as some interesting firsthand narratives and editorials of those in the movement. I really like n+1's voice and would suggest anyone interested in politics, literature, culture etc. to take a look.
posted by danielcoda at 12:01 AM on November 18, 2011

13 Bankers
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:31 AM on November 18, 2011

Off the Books by Sudhir Venkatesh is a really good look at how a particular slice of the 99% gets by.

Food Politics is a book by Marion Nestle about how corporations have bought regulations favorable to themselves.

Political Economy Theory in anthropology addresses disparity, but it's 430 in the morning, I am not hunting up articles right now.
posted by bilabial at 1:31 AM on November 18, 2011

New: Dean Baker on U.S. political economy (a free download).
posted by lathrop at 5:48 AM on November 18, 2011

Despite being over 160 years old, The Communist Manifesto is a worthwhile read, because it does a good job of describing the transition from cottage industry to the factory system brought about during the Industrial Revolution. It might not seem current, but it's highly relevant and worthwhile as a foundation for further reading, understanding, and inquiry.

The link above goes to an online version of the manifesto, with downloadable .pdf, audio, etc.
posted by EKStickland at 6:40 AM on November 18, 2011

Seconding The Big Short by Michael Lewis.
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:17 AM on November 18, 2011

Best answer: I would also recommend getting some books on economics and how the free market works. It helps to get a sense of where the theory of the free market works and doesn't work. I'm not saying this to defend it or to say that OWS is wrong and you need to "educate yourself", because that's presumptuous and arrogant. But to understand OWS, you need to understand what they are fighting against, and what the mindset of Wall Street and "the rich" is.

Especially some of the more esoteric concepts, like the different ways markets can get corrupted. Good intentions, bad outcomes; unintended consequences; bubbles; rent seeking; the nature of fiduciary responsibility; how the Laffer curve has two sides, each of which is ignored by partisans trying to further their own goals; and on and on. I think there are a lot of overlaps between OWS and full-on libertarian free-marketeers. The recommendation to read Marx is a good one. He was a brilliant guy, and while I disagree with some of his solutions, he understood capitalism pretty darn well. We are seeing how capitalism can get corrupted and fail, and we have already seen how communism can fail.

It is instructive to me that the various revolutions in eastern Europe in the 80s and 90s were so similar to the OWS of today. Seeing the same abuses and saying the same things about opposite systems.

Your mention of the bailouts is a good example. I don't think any rational person would say that they were a 100% good thing. But there is a book out (can't remember the name, sadly) from someone looking at it from the perspective of the people "in the room" at the time. The conclusion was that Something Terrible was afoot, and stopping it NOW was more important than a lot of other ideological concerns. I don't know where the truth is, but I do know that it isn't fully the domain of either side of the political spectrum. My sense is that everyone knew it was a bad idea, but they were concerned about collateral damage of the impending deleveraging, and knew that as bad as throwing money at the problem was, doing nothing was worse, and there were no better ideas to be had.
posted by gjc at 7:17 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

A really outstanding book is "Wealth and Democracy" by Phillips. It goes back to the beginning of America, looks at how the money was made, how the money was kept, the influence on politics (how much a Senate seat cost through the ages), populist reaction, the share of the pie everybody got through the years, the earlier bailouts (many!), globalization, the cycle of empire along with military adventures and the increasing proportion of the economy dependent on finance and a lot more. If you had read this book before 2008, you would have had a pretty good idea what to expect.
If you want to know how the 1% engineered the transfer of wealth, I would recommend a recent book "Extreme Money - Masters of the Universe and The Cult of Risk" by Das. It explains, in easy-to-understand language, how the banks and hedge funds actually used leverage through various products and accounting magic (clearly explained), to make their profits. He also shows what happens when they bet wrong.
posted by PickeringPete at 8:10 AM on November 18, 2011

You'd never think it, but Practchett's light fantasy series has two books about economic conspiracy, monopolic control, and class inequality - Going Postal and Making Money.
posted by The Whelk at 7:44 AM on November 19, 2011

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