This list is books and articles that I have found, over the years, supportive of my learning and growth with regards to liberation, systemic thinking, and more. Below, at the bottom, I include also some bits of my extended reading list: books and articles I haven’t yet read and why they are on my reading list.
Those marked with a (*) are more academic.
Those that are underlined are particularly useful for understanding the systemic lens that relies on historical, social, political, or economic analyses.
Sharif Abdullah. Creating a World that Works for All, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 1999.
This book created a meme that is now deeply integrated into any movement or group that is focusing, at least in part, on deep consciousness transformation. It hasn’t become stale over the years. It was the first time I saw a list of all the world’s problems (a page that contains 50 of them!) and the assertion that none of them can be solved in isolation from the others, as they all stem from the same consciousness that needs to transform: scarcity and separation. Over time, I have added a third to this list: powerlessness.
Michelle Alexander. The New Jim Crow, NY: The New Press, 2012.
This book broke my heart permanently. Any vestige of illusion that I had held on to previously about forward movement in the nature of systemic racism was shattered in grasping, deeply, the continuity between the pre-Civil War era of slavery in the Southern US and the current practices of mass incarceration and police brutality. It is also where I most deeply learned about how forcing change without attending to the dislocation of the ones formerly in power backfires.
Tom Atlee. The Tao of Democracy: Using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all, Self-published, Booksurge Publishing, 2002.
The two chapters on citizen deliberative councils in this book are a deep introduction to the power of people coming together to solve problems. Tom connected the dots between many different social innovations to show the common features of all of them. This is a true paradigm shift compared to other ways of political governance that exist. May we live in times when this call to transformation is heeded.
(*) Zygmunt Bauman. Modernity and the Holocaust, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989.
That the Holocaust could be a product of modern rationality rather than a regressive aberration was both sobering and affirming of my own increasing doubts about the possibility or even desirability of making rationality central to the project of being human.
Ruth Benedict. “Some Notes of Ruth Benedict” referencing a set of notes called Synergy: Patterns of the Good Culture, American Anthropologist, 72(2), 1970.
These are simply notes from a work that was lost in which Ruth Benedict identifies an aspect of cultural functioning that I have not seen discussed elsewhere: how cultures function better when the individual and society are not pitted against each other, regardless of what form of governance is used. I am grateful to Marshall Rosenberg for including this one in his bibliography.
Jessica Benjamin. The Bonds of Love: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination, NY: Pantheon, 1988.
This is one of my favorite books that I read during my years of studying sociology, and I used it extensively in the chapter in my dissertation that critiques and inverts Freud, building on this book and Alice Miller to posit relationality as core to human development. Benjamin traces some of the toughest problems we face to breakdowns in mutual recognition. While psychological, this book never loses the connection to social context and historical times.
(*) Ann Berlak. “Teaching for Outrage and Empathy in the Liberal Arts”, Educational Foundations, 3(2): 69-93, Summer 1989.
A sobering and troubling essay that helped me understand, forever, why information is rarely enough, in and of itself, to create a shift in consciousness, no matter how thorough and accurate it is. Connection with the heart, and some vision of possibility, are essential in order for the information to be meaningful.
Cristina Biaggi, ed. The Rule of Mars: Readings on the Origins, History and Impact of Patriarchy, Manchester, CT: Knowledge, Ideas & Trends, 2005.
This is a collection of essays that provide a breadth and depth of knowledge of the variety of processes that brought us here and what it has been like to live under conditions of patriarchy for so long. I found it illuminating at a time when I was searching to piece it all together.
David Bollier. Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons, Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2014.
This book is simple and accessible, and provides an introduction to one of the lesser known chapters of the ravages of capitalism: the disintegration of the commons, the many-millennia way in which humans lived in interdependent relationship with life through community-based engagement with the resources necessary for the maintenance of all life.
(*) David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, eds., The Wealth of the Commons: A World Beyond Market and State, Massachusetts: Levellers Press, 2014.
This is a rare academic book that got me to tears. It’s an edited collection that takes the reader on a deep journey of what the commons is and was, and why our future may fully depend on restoring the commons. It changed my thinking and showed me a new level at which to work for change: restoring, at one and the same time, our relationship to each other and to the non-human world, in flow and interrelationship.
Erica Chenoweth, and Maria Stephan. Why Civil Resistance Works. NY: Columbia University
This books is the culmination of long research on the actual efficacy of nonviolence. Erica Chenoweth started out her research believing that armed struggles are the way to go, and changed her approach based on the evidence she found. This book reviewed more than 300 struggles for regime change, end of occupation, and secession, and found that those that adhered to nonviolent standards succeeded twice as often as those that employed violent means. The conclusions about why this is so are deeply affirming and clear to me.
(*) Antonio R. Damasio. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, NY: J. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994.
I loved getting confirmation from the research that is described in this book for my intuitive clear sense that decisions are not a rational endeavor. As he shows in this book, when people are physiologically unable to feel, they are also unable to decide even if their cognitive faculties are intact.
(*) Patricia Dannahy. An In-Depth Exploration of the Affective Aspects of Mathematics Education in Initial Teacher Training, unpublished Doctoral thesis, London: King’s College, London University, 1999.
One of the rare pieces of research about the effectiveness of Nonviolent Communication.
Charles Eisenstein. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition, Berkeley: Evolver Editions, 2011.
If you’ve never been able to understand economics and have felt a longing to make sense of it, this book may be it. It covers everything, including visionary perspectives on what can be done differently, and clear explanations of what the mess we are in is. While somewhat less radical than I would like, I find solace in its existence.
——. The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2013.
This is a series of short chapters that taps into our yearning to live differently, now and into the future, as individuals and in our largest systems. It feeds the heart and the mind at once.
Riane Tennenhaus Eisler. The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1988.
The first of Eisler’s books. It was one of the early works that completely inspired me to believe that life could truly be different on this planet.
Silvia Federici. Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation, Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2004.
If you are going to read only one book to make sense of where we are and why, then read this. For many years I knew that capitalism has violence built into its core; how else would anyone in their right mind wake up in the morning and go do the jobs that the overwhelming majority of humans do these days? This book solved the equation for me by showing the historical roots of capitalism in Europe that, through physical force of enormous magnitude, created a world in which economic force is mostly enough to semi-enslave most of us. This is through a combination of land enclosures, witch hunts, slave trade, and colonization, all in search of cheap labor to fuel the transition.
——. Re-Enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons, Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2019.
This book is a collection of essays that pierced every bit of me as I read them. Federici has an amazing capacity to speak with simple, descriptive language about matters of such horror that I need extra breaths to take them in, sometimes. The essays cover all continents and manage to show up the resilience, strength, imagination, and sheet stubborn power of will of women around the world aiming to keep their families and communities alive as resources are siphoned further and further away from their reach. Despite the horrors documented, I left this book inspired and hungry for more rather than crushed.
Mary Parker Follett. The New State, group organization the solution of popular government. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1918.
It was deeply humbling to finally read this book after knowing about it for many years, and to discover that 100 years ago a woman lived and wrote this book and back then worked out so many insights, conceptual distinctions, and structures and forms that, if implemented, could support a collaborative world that works for all. I copied pages and pages of quotes that inspired me no end.
——. Creative Experience, New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1924.
While The New State emphasizes structure and form, this book is a meticulous exploration into the process of humans coming together in integrative process, beyond differences, to find solutions that work. It’s based on years of experimentation, and it’s full of vignettes that deepen understanding of how we can shift practices to this other way.
Paulo Freire. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, NY: Continuum, 1993.
A classic that I still think of, all these years later, as a model for how teaching can be empowering and subversive.
Marilyn French. Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals, New York: Summit Books, 1985.
The second book I read when I first woke up to feminism, and the one that truly shattered my previous unquestioned beliefs about human nature and history.
(*) Frank Furstenberg. “Family Change in Global Perspective: How and Why Family Systems Change.” University of Pennsylvania Population Center Working Paper (PSC/PARC), 2019-22.
This article provides a potent antidote to the powerful individualizing moves that make where we each end up and the struggles we face personal, and hence susceptible to pathologizing interpretations, from within or from outside. It locates phenomena, instead, within economic and political trends in the last few decades.
Mohandas K. Gandhi. All Men Are Brothers, multiple editions.
This book is a collection of quotes from Gandhi, long and short, from his entire life’s work. It serves as a thorough, simple, and deep introduction to his approach.
Carol Gilligan. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.
This is a ground-breaking old classic that signaled a mini-revolution in the thinking about morality, moving it from the Kantian, rule-based approach to an approach based on relationship and responsibility. It became controversial, and she was taken to task for being “essentialist”, which, to me misses the point: however we get there, women and men end up being very different under conditions of patriarchy, and investigating the ramifications of making the masculine form normative is deeply subversive to the social order.
James Gilligan. Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and Its Causes, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992.
My all time favorite analysis of what brings about violence. This book is written with so much love I could almost not believe it. It completely turns upside down any notion of punishment as the way to reduce violence.
Marija Gimbutas. The Civilization of the Goddess, San Francisco: Harper, 1991.
I am putting on this list a book I have not read because I believe her work is so vitally important that I want others to know about it. (I myself have read and heard a lot about her, just not directly read her book.) Her work is one of the foundations of the resurgence of understanding about the matriarchal societies that existed before the shift to patriarchy.
Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. A human being died that night: a South African story of forgiveness, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
Written by one of the key figures in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee, this book chronicles her journey into understanding the life and being of Eugene De Kock, known as “Prime Evil” because of his role in torturing and killing opponenets of the Apartheid regime. It’s a mastepiece study of compassion and what distorts people sufficiently to engage in such behavior. I found especially meaningful her account of the moment in which he asked her if he had harmed any of her friends or family, and her account of what she then saw in him and what happened in her afterwards.
Heide Goettner-Abendroth, ed. Societies of Peace. Matriarchies Past, Present and Future, Toronto, Canada: Inanna Publications, 2009.
I am still chewing on this breathtaking collection from around time and place, grasping more and more deeply the calamity that has befallen us since patriarchy took root in several places in the world and then, gradually, almost everywhere. It gives us a window in how things were and could still be if we realign with life.
——. Matriarchal Societies: Studies on Indigenous Cultures Across the Globe, New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2012.
Even as patriarchy is fast encroaching on every remaining matriarchal society in the world, there are still pockets of such societies everywhere, except in Europe, the only continent where none could be found when Heide Goettner-Abendroth did her research and wrote this book. We can still learn from their ways.
David Graeber. Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2014.
Although long and heavily footnoted, this book is written by a very skilled storyteller, and is more readable than one would imagine. The scholarship of this book is breathtaking, spanning many centuries across many parts of the world. The links he makes and the conclusions he reaches are deep and transformative. My thinking will never be the same. I am sad that he didn’t mention patriarchy as a factor in all the elements he enumerates, in the production of states, creation of markets, and the rest of what he says. And, despite this, I love this book and recommend it highly regularly.
——. Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, Simon and Schuster, 2018.
I wrote a review of this book: “Meaningful Work, Human Nature, and a Free Society,” in Tikkun, January 2019. I see it as a deep and short introduction through storytelling to the ways in which capitalism is taking away meaning from all of us.
Miriam Greenspan. “Befriending the Dark Emotions”, Common Boundary, 37-43, May/June 1998.
This article touched my heart deeply and supported my early thinking about how we can be present to all emotions instead of making some of them unacceptable, now a foundation of my practice and teaching.
David Grossman. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1995.
You can hardly “accuse” a US Army colonel of being a “pacifist” and, as such, this book has a deep moral authority. Its main gist is that we have a taboo on killing, that armies now train people to overcome the taboo and thus create conditions where many more people shoot during war than ever before, and this results in enormous trauma. Passionate and courageous.
Update: In 2020 I learned that David Grossman uses what he learned here in training police officers, and that his work is implicated in police brutality. This doesn’t change the immense value I see in understanding what is in this book, and it does change my orientation towards the purpose of this book.
(*) Donna Haraway. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, New York: Routledge, 1991.
This book is dense and at times was irritatingly so for me. I am still glad I plowed through it and integrated some of its complex message about how science is both flawed, influenced as it is by our politics and culture, as well as necessary to provide the possibility of liberation.
Yuval Harari. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, NY: Harper, 2015.
It’s no wonder to me that this book became an international bestseller. It’s a before and after book for me, and changed my thinking. In the end, and especially after reading 3 more of his books (in the original Hebrew, my beloved first language), I am more troubled than inspired. And, still, his way of thinking, and especially how he categorizes things, and the ways he slices reality into units of meaning, have sharpened my own analytical tools. My concern is that he ultimately comes across to me as a technophile and “new optimist” that isn’t grounded in love and interdependence despite his deep Buddhist practice to which he refers often. An enigma I hope one day to make more sense of.
(*) Agnes Heller. The Theory of Need in Marx, London: Allison & Busby, 1974.
I was delighted to find this early book from a former Hungarian Marxist, in which she analyzed the way Marx understood human needs. This was essential for my own understanding of Marx and for being able to write a chapter on needs in my dissertation which provided an academic grounding to the theory of human nature that underlies the practice of Nonviolent Communication.
Jason Hickel, “Progress and Its Discontents“, New Internationalist, 7 August 2019.
This article takes on what Hickel calls the “new optimism” that argues that capitalism has created “the best of all possible worlds” and argues, instead, that neoliberal policies have intensified inequalities and increased global impoverishment, joining those, like economist Thomas Picketty, who claim that growing inequality is inherent to capitalism; not an aberration of it.
Arlie Hochschild with Anne Machung. The Second Shift, NY: Avon Books, 1989.
This book is both delightful to read and painful. It’s about how, even when both woman and man in a couple work full time, men continue to do substantially less of the housework than women. While the data may be obsolete by now, the analysis of the relationship between our ideology, our emotions, and our actions, is still priceless.
Etty Hillesum. An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1984.
Etty is one of my all-time heroes. She was a contemporary of Anne Frank, ten years her senior, living and writing in the same city at the same time. Hers is a spiritual journey to find love, compassion for everyone, and courage beyond bounds under conditions of extreme challenge.
Ivan Illich. Deschooling Society, Harper Collins, 1971.
The classic that hasn’t lost one bit of its depth and power, such that when I wrote the bits of vision in my own Reweaving Our Human Fabric I could see no reason to elaborate anything about learning, because this book completed that task of weaving clarity about how learning can happen in ways that attend to so many needs with available resources, voluntarily, for all ages. In fact, it seems to me that he imagined the internet before anyone even had email. Plus, his analysis of what happens in schools and what function they serve remains a highlight for anyone who wants to understand how our societies work.
(*) Kenneth Isaacs. Uses of Emotion: Nature’s Vital Gift, Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.
This is a book I found by total accident and completely fell in love with when I was trying to make sense of how to write about emotions within an academic context and still honor my own experiences. It’s detailed and thorough, and the concept of “affect phobia” that it explains was crucial to my developing a clear path to freedom through mastering emotions.
(*) Alison Jaggar. “Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology”, Inquiry, 32(2): 151-176, June 1989.
This article was a simple pleasure to read for its clarity, passion, and courage to name things and ask difficult questions. Given how much of what we believe we “know” is handed down to us in ways that don’t question the practices of acquiring knowledge, I was liberated by reading it.
Robin Wall Kimmerer. Braiding Sweetgrass : Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2015.
This book continues to grow within me since I read it a year ago. I experienced it as a rare example of true integration between the scientific and the indigenous, using both of sources of knowledge. It shines a light on much that we have lost and what to notice and rest into for the possibility of reclaiming and restoring flow. The author is a botanist, and much of the book is about plants, humans, and the relationships between us. This is where I finally landed fully in how important it is to not take less than we need, in addition to not taking more than we need.
Alfie Kohn. No Contest: The Case Against Competition, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
This is only one of Alfie Kohn’s controversial and refreshing books. In each of them he takes a key mainstream belief and provides extensive research that questions it deeply. I was cured of any doubt that we can collaborate with each other through reading this book.
Frederic Laloux. Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage in Human Consciousness, Brussels, Belgium: Nelson Parker, 2014.
This book led to a leap in my practice and understanding of how to engage with and within organizations. The principles are simple, practical, and radical: just the way I love them. I particularly see a unique and transformative gift in the articulation of “The Advice Process” as an approach to making decisions. It rests on an integration of individual autonomy, distribution of leadership, and deep collaboration that will often bring about the most wisdom possible in a given situation.
Philip Lawn and Matthew Clarke, “The end of economic growth? A contracting threshold hypothesis“, Ecological Economics 69 (2010) 2213–2223.
This article takes Max-Neef’s Threshold Hypothesis (elsewhere in this bibliography) and examines its application to so-called emerging economies in Asia, showing, chillingly, that part of the legacy of colonization is the reality that the over-extraction of resources is now making it impossible for new economies to increase well-being sufficiently using economic growth-based strategies, as the flattening of curves happens at progressively lower levels of GDP.
Michael Lerner. Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation, NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1994.
Although I am not a practicing Jew, this book was a turning point in my ability to align with life and choose to honor its voice within me. I found, in particular, his analysis of the story of the binding of Isaac to be moving and redemptive. By far not just for Jews or even people of faith.
Jean Liedloff. The Continuum Concept, London: Duckworth, 1975.
One of the books that forever transformed my thinking about childhood and childrearing. The connection between how infants are raised and the presence or absence of violence, opened my eyes to the pervasive violence in everyday lives of children. They have never closed since.
Audre Lorde. Sister Outsider, Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984.
This collection of essays is something I come back to for inspiration. I absolutely love the boldness of naming things outside any known boxes, and the fierceness of the call to take on the entire structure of how we related to oppression, our own, and others’.
(*) Alisdair MacIntyre. “Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy of Science”, Monist, 60(4): 453-472, October 1977.
The idea of an epistemological crisis, which refers to a moment in which we face something that is so different from everything we have believed, that in order to integrate it we must question everything we have always believed to be true. This very academic article helped me develop compassion for how hard it is for people, sometimes, to embrace new insights.
Jeffrey Masson. The Assault on Truth: Freud’s Suppression of the Seduction Theory, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1984.
This book is about a not very well known yet crucial turning point in the history of psychology, a moment in which psychology could have become a tool for liberation and instead ended up becoming, more often than not, a tool for supporting the status quo. The moment in question is Freud’s turning away from believing his clients when they told him about their experience of child abuse. Part of the significance of this, for me, was seeing the cost of standing up for truth against the majority, something Freud was ultimately unable to do.
Humberto Maturana Romesin and Gerda Verden-Zöller. The Origins of Humanness in the Biology of Love, Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic, 2009.
This book is pivotal for understanding on the biological level what others, in other fields, have written in anthropological, sociological, archeological, and more recently psychological and neurological terms: that the assumption that humans have natural inclinations towards competition, separation, and aggression is, indeed, an assumption; that trust, love, and cooperation between adults and children, women and men, and people and non-humans is possible and existed for the longest time until the patriarchal turn that became anchored in accumulation and control.
(*) Manfred Max-Neef. “Economic growth and quality of life: a threshold hypothesis“, Ecological Economics 15 (1995) 115-118.
I consider this essay to be a landmark contribution to understanding why the myth of economic growth as panacea is both appealing and destructive. The main claim is that there is only so much that we can drive well-being forward through economic growth. Beyond a certain point, continued economic growth stops contributing to well-being, and in many cases even makes things worse. This is a deep call to rethink our fundamental premises on which the continued exponential destructiveness of our ways of living rests.
(*) ——. “The World on a Collision Course and the Need for a New Economy“, Contribution to the 2009 Royal Colloquium, AMBIO (2010) 39:200–210.
In this article Max-Need lays out in great simplicity and conciseness the flaws of the extractive, capitalist economy, as well as what he sees as necessary for creating an economy of well-being.
Alastair McIntosh. Soil and Soul: People Versus Corporate Power, London: Aurum Press, 2004.
This book is about Scottish history, about social activism, about personal memoir, about poetic description of natural beauty, and about much else in between. And, more than anything, is lays bare the processes that uproot people from land and make them dependent on markets, depriving them of community, connection to life, and strength. At the same time, it demonstrates how even in dark circumstances, sometimes people can come together and stand up to those with much more power and make a dent in their own lives.
Alice Miller. For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, NY: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983.
Reading this book was one of the pivotal moments of my life. I consider the entire section on Hitler a masterpiece of meticulous humanizing of the greatest symbol of evil in Western civilization. The thrust of the work is to make it understandable how a human person who went through what he endured in his childhood, in the cultural context in which he lived and came to power, could end up committing the horrors he did. When I learned of the horrendous experiences of Hitler’s early life in the context of child-rearing practices in Germany at the time he was growing up, and was able to experience, as a Jew from Israel, compassion for him as a child, it was pure magic.
——. “The Political Consequences of Child Abuse”, The Journal of Psychohistory, 26(2): 573-585, Fall 1998.
Alice Miller’s books are widely known and easy to find. This article is less well-known and I found it important to know this information.
(*) Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich. Transforming Knowledge, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.
What I appreciated about this book is the way that it makes it so clear how the lens of gender affects everything in what we think we know – how things are studied, how they are presented, what counts as knowledge, and what is seen and reported. I found this exposition both devastating and inspiring in its thoroughness.
(*) Patrick Murray. Marx’s Theory of Scientific Knowledge, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press International, 1988.
I tend to believe that despite the influence he has had on the world, for better or worse, Marx remains little understood by most. This book did a lot for me to gain a much deeper clarity about what Marx did and what he didn’t do in his analysis of capitalism and its implications. Based on this understanding, I believe that applying a systematic material analysis of any other aspect of life such as reproduction or race relations is yet to be done.
(*) Laura Nader. “Orientalism, Occidentalism and the Control of Women”, Cultural Dynamics, II(3): 323-355, 1989.
Anyone who remains interested in how women remain unfree and how world politics continues to support our unfreedom might find this article unique in what it points out: how nationalism is used, both in the West and in the Arab world, to maintain women’s status.
Michael Nagler. Is there no other way? The Search for a Nonviolent Future, Berkeley: Inner Ocean Publishing, 2001.
I met Michael through Marshall Rosenberg, and we have since become friends. Although he’s written more since, this remains my favorite book of his. It’s an introduction to the depth of what nonviolence is, debunking one myth after another about it, with countless stories and examples, filling the heart and soul, settling the weariness of aloneness. It would still be my first recommendation for understanding nonviolence fully.
Darcia Narvaez. “Baselines for virtue.” In J. Annas, D. Narvaez, & N. Snow (Eds.), Advances in virtue development: Integrating perspectives. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016.
This chapter offers a psychological perspective that fully matches the biological one of Maturana and Verden-Zöller, and the sociological and anthropological of the matriarchal studies and gift economy groups some of whose members are in this bibliography. It provides a clear statement of what happens to each of us that mirrors what happened to all of us collectively over millennia.
(*) Justin Oakley. Morality and the Emotions, London; NY: Routledge, 1992.
When I was writing about morality for my dissertation, I found this book helpful in understanding how theories of morality that only rely on rationality, the legacy that Kant left us, fail to make sufficient sense of the pervasiveness of acts of extreme violence. Absence of morality viewed as lack of empathy rather than failure to apply moral reasoning speaks to me very deeply.
(*) Susan Moller Okin. “Thinking Like a Woman”, in Deborah L. Rhode, ed. et al, Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.
This article is one of several that helped me understanding how the experience of having a body, and a body of a certain kind, affects our perception of the world and what it means to know anything. Only for those truly interested in theories of knowledge.
Samuel P. Oliner and Pearl M. Oliner. The Altruistic Personality: What Led Ordinary Men and Women to Risk Their Lives on Behalf of Others?, NY: The Free Press, 1988.
Understanding why some people saved Jews and some didn’t provides some unexpected keys to what we can do to increase courage and reduce violence: ask for what is needed, and raise children without fear by eliminating punishment.
(*) Raimon Panikkar. Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics: Cross-Cultural Studies, NY: Paulist Press, 1979.
I am forever glad that I came across this obscure book written by someone I haven’t seen referenced anywhere apart from the probably even more obscure article that mentioned it. The author is Indian and also received a serious Western education. The combination allowed him to see some things about how we think in different places in the world and invited me to become ever more aware of the power of presuppositions, those assumptions that we don’t even know we have. This is not easy read by any means.
Joseph Chilton Pearce. Magical Child, Plume, 1992.
This is one of the books that supported my ongoing process of opening to discover how different child-rearing could be, and what radical consequences for all of us could happen as a result of giving children the room to explore and unfold their humanity in their own ways.
(*) Mark Poster. Critical Theory of the Family, NY: Seabury Press, 1978.
This book was the only work I found (though others may exist) that looked at the evolution of family through the lens of historical change and especially change in production. The little insights strewn here and there about how such changes affect who we become as people in different cultures were priceless and I remain hungry for more.
(*) James W. Prescott. “The Origins of Human Love and Violence”, Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 10(3): 143-188, Spring 1996.
Although many people remain unconvinced by this article, I was completely satisfied with this analysis and the amazing correlations between how infants are treated and the incidence of violence in difference cultures. It goes along with Liedloff’s book that I also include in this bibliography.
Minnie Bruce Pratt. “Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart”, in Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Barbara Smith , Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism, Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1984.
This is one of the most moving accounts I have read of a person facing her upbringing, her privilege, and her place in society. This woman didn’t spare herself and her readers anything, and I believe that nothing is dated about her exploration. If you want to wake up to what it means to have privilege, this is a must read.
(*) Allan Rohlfs. “Fraudulent Degrees or Fraudulent Assertions?” A Reply to Frank M. Dattilio, Journal of Mental Health Counseling, January 1990.
A fellow trainer of Nonviolent Communication, Allan here looks at the disturbing evidence that suggests that the more licensing and education in psychology and therapy, the less effective the treatment that people receive. An eye-opener that was fun and distressing to read at once.
Carne Ross. The Leaderless Revolution: How ordinary people can take power and change politics in the 21st century, NY: Blue Rider Press. London: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Having been a top UK diplomat who was in charge of sanctions against Iraq, Ross resigned from the foreign service and went on to become an accidental anarchist by his words. His rendition of what made it possible for him to sign off on the orders that created such horrors is worth the entire book. And there is boatloads of other rich information about how humans can work together.
(*) Erica Sherover-Marcuse. Emancipation and Consciousness: Dogmatic and Dialectical Perspectives in the Early Marx, London: Basil Blackwell, 1986.
This is a very dense book, most of which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend except to those who particularly delight in reading about critical theory (I personally did enjoy it, in other words). The section on a personal practice of liberation which she includes I found satisfying and it forms part of my own conclusions about how we can liberate ourselves from.
(*) Elizabeth Spelman. “Anger and Insubordination”, in Ann Garry and Marilyn Pearsall, eds., Women, Knowledge and Reality: Explorations in Feminist Philosophy, Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989.
A refreshing and unexpected analysis about what anger does or doesn’t achieve in communication depending on who is allowed to be angry and in what circumstances. Even though I no longer do academic feminist theory, I still love it.
Matthew Stewart. “The Birth of a New American Aristocracy”, Atlantic, June 2018.
This article offers a fresh analysis I hadn’t heard of before, nor since, about class structure in the US. Positing the presence of what he calls “the 9.9” helps me understand the resilience of US society (at least before the Covid-19 pandemic): a wide band of people who end up supporting the siphoning of wealth to the very wealthy at cost to the 90%, simply because it allows them to thrive sufficiently.
Genevieve Vaughan, ed. The Maternal Roots of the Gift Economy, Toronto: Inanna Publication & Education Inc., 2019.
This edited collection is a deep dive into fully integrating why matriarchal societies function the ways they do: it’s because they anchor and embody putting mothering at the center. With that comes a deep orientation to satisfying needs, just like mothering focuses on the needs of the little ones, who cannot care for themselves. This is why gifting originates in mothering, and any theory that aims to theorize gifting from an approach that makes exchange the norm is unlikely to succeed in making visible the vibrancy and ever-presence of gifting, even within exchange economies.
(*) Patricia J. Williams. The Alchemy of Race and Rights, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.
I was moved to the core of my being by this book, written by a passionate African-American lawyer who questions just about everything we think of in terms of both law and liberation theories.
Steve Wineman. Power-Under: Trauma and Nonviolent Social Change, Unpublished manuscript (available freely online at http://www.gis.net/~swineman/download.html).
I think of this book as a landmark in understanding a crucial dynamic that I have not seen discussed elsewhere: the interplay between actual access to power and the experience of power. Wineman makes the point that abuse is most often delivered by people who feel powerless even while being in power.
Walter Wink. The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 2000.
This book was pivotal in my understanding of nonviolence. I had had an intuitive affinity with Jesus for some years already, and this book gave me the depth of understanding about what it means to absorb violence and not pass it on, so that there is now overall less violence rather than escalation. In particular, his reformulation of offering the other cheek was transformative. This book has loads of information about some formative moments in the solidification of patriarchy through Christianity.
Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores. Understanding Computers and Cognition: A New Foundation for Design, Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1986.
In an earlier incarnation, I was a Computer Science graduate student studying artificial intelligence. I left when I realized that I was trying to prove it won’t work… This book provides a refreshing path away from the either/or battles about artificial intelligence, and suggests a relationship between humans and computers that I found much more satisfying than others. From one of the early pioneers of artificial intelligence, this nuanced perspective was particularly insightful.
(*) Anna Yeatman. “A Feminist Theory of Social Differentiation”, in Linda J. Nicholson (ed.), Feminism/Postmodernism, NY and London: Routledge, 1990.
If you are not interested in social sciences or have never been exposed to postmodernist writings, this will probably be wasted on you. If, however, you have been exposed to either, and especially if you find postmodernist language depressing or annoying, you will find an exploration in this article that will likely nourish you and give you some relief and sustenance.
My intention is to gradually put here the long list of books that I am hoping to still read during whatever years remain in my life. As of November 2020, I only began putting it together here, and thus there are only two entries of several dozen.
(*) Thomas Picketty. Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Cambridge, MA: Belnap Press, 2017.
I believe this book has a wealth of information that is quite useful in seeing the historical patterns that make it such that wealth siphons upwards to the already wealthy in a way that, over time, makes capitalism more similar to feudalism than commonly assumed, in that the capitalists become a class of rentiers that pass on their wealth to their progeny.
Rebecca Solnit. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, Penguin Random House, 2010.
I want to read this book because it documents a phenomenon I want to understand better: that under certain conditions of calamity, people simply know how to come together to solve their problems. While I deeply have the principle of it, I believe this book contains examples I and others can learn from.