Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Young people nowadays are one of the most politically engaged generations to hit society. As we have been discussing in previous posts, protests on climate change, gun control and gender equality have been abounding throughout the world, and it’s thanks in part to a massive cohort of young people who won’t stand and watch while politicians do their thing.
As a result, society at large is becoming more and more educated on political issues – and to help out, we’ve come up with a reading list of political texts to get budding political scientists, activists and politicians started:
Rutger Bregman went viral earlier this year after causing a bit of a stir at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Bregman was there to talk about tax – namely the issue of tax avoidance by large corporations and the rich, and the serious negative impact it has on society. Bregman’s speech incited some push back from the audience at Davos, particularly from Yahoo’s former CFO, Ken Goldman, who bemoaned Bregman’s disdain for a system which has seen a global rise in (albeit frequently exploitative) employment. But Bregman also struck a chord with many people; the clips of him speaking at Davos have garnered millions of views on social media, becoming a bit of a social media sensation. The stir caused by Bregman came as no surprise to anyone who had read his first published work, Utopia for Realists.
The book is a well-researched, convincingly advocated argument for radical but reasonable political change: a universal basic income, a 15-hour working week and open borders to solve inequality and unhappiness. The ideas sound far-fetched, but one of the books biggest successes is the positivity which abounds in it – Bregman assures us that things can only get better, because life on earth was a hell of a lot worse before, and we’ve come such a long way already. Things that seemed impossible before – the abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women – became possible. So why not this? It’s essential reading for anyone interested in ways in which we can reduce inequality and create a happier society.
Sticking to the economic side of politics, we have this work by Ha-Joon Chang. The book was written in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which saw large scale bail-outs of banks and other financial institutions and huge economic downturn.
The subsequent ‘Great Recession’ was a huge blow to average people all over the world, and so naturally inspired a lot of dialogue about the global economic system and what global governments should do about it. In this work, Chang criticises globalism and free trade – two concepts which had been largely accepted as fair game before the financial crash – with 23 separate arguments.He also points towards an economic system with greater government intervention in order to create a more stable economy, suggesting that it was a lack of government involvement which led to the financial crisis.
The 2008 crash is a huge topic for anyone interested in politics and economics, and this work (which became a no.1 international bestseller) is one of the most influential and well-read takes on it. A definite must-read for budding politicians!
Madeleine Albright, the first female United States Secretary of State, sought refuge in the UK after fleeing her native Czechoslovakia from the Nazis in 1939. She moved back to Czechoslovakia after the Second World War, only to flee again (this time to America) after the Soviets installed a communist regime in 1948. As Secretary of State, she met and witnessed the rules of Kim Jong-il, Slobodan Milosevic, Hugo Chavez and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In other words, she knows a lot about the danger of fascism – she’s lived it, witnessed it, and seen the rise of its enforcers.
Fascism: A Warning attempts to warn the reader not to take democracy for granted, and urges them to make connections between current political leaders and policies, and fascist leaders and policies of the past. The rise of increasingly illiberal governments in Europe and the Americas is an urgent issue, and so its essential reading for anyone interested in this trend – both those who are sceptical of the threat and those concerned by it.
International political issues are important to learn about too. The subject of North Korea has been in the news a lot in the past couple of years, thanks to a number of flagrant tweets from Trump, a couple of missile tests from Kim Jong-un, and a few tense meetings of varying success between the two leaders. The events have caused some anxiety among people around the world: will North Korea launch a nuclear campaign against America? Will Trump start World War III as a result of mocking the Supreme Leader on Twitter? It’s hard to know exactly what will come of all of this, but part of the anxiety felt among the general populace around the situation stems from an essential lack of knowledge about North Korea, its history, leaders and ideology. Victor Cha is an academic who specialises in East Asian politics and international relations, who acted as the Director of Asian Affairs in the White House and was George W Bush’s top advisor on North Korea. His publication The Impossible State is a great insight into the rise of the Kim family, North Korea’s security issues, and its relationship with the US. It’s a great read for anyone confused about the issue posed by North Korea to governments around the world.
Political texts don’t have to be non-fiction. Plenty of novels do an excellent job of encapsulating and criticising governments, political situations and policies, which is one of the main reasons why works such as Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451 and Catch-22 have had such enduring success. While these works are undoubtedly brilliant, we’ve decided to highlight Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale instead for its incredible relevance to today’s issues. With the rise of the #MeToo movement and increasingly restrictive policies on women’s rights to abortions sweeping America, it’s important to read The Handmaid’s Tale and imagine the vulnerability of women’s bodies to subjugation within a patriarchal society which is heavily influenced by religious fundamentalism, so that we can do everything we can to fight against it.
Bonus: The Thick of It
This is one for our older students for sure – unless your parents don’t mind you cursing and swearing! It’s not a book, I know, but The Thick of It was a massive success when it aired and offers a hugely entertaining, satirical take on how the British government is run.
The show and its characters closely mirrored the events of real-life politics at the time, and does a great job of conveying the ridiculously intricate and confusing roles of ministers, spin doctors, advisors and the civil service while being incredibly funny. It’s a recommendation for anyone interested in politics who loves to laugh.
Blog Post Crafted by Madeleine
Madeleine runs our Admin Team. Despite the fact that she read Japanese at university, Madeleine’s main passion in life is opera and she hopes to become the next Maria Callas some day...
Madeleine manages the staff on our Admin Team, liaising with tutors, clients and applicants. She is responsible for processing the ID, Qualifications, DBS Check and References for all our newly joining tutors.