The Best Best Books About Power And Resistance

The Books I Picked & Why

The Bolivian Diary

By Ernesto Che Guevara

The Bolivian Diary

Why this book?

I have given this the top spot, not because of the political ideals of the author, but the intimate portrayal of his passion for justice that this classic book portrays with such vivid humanity. Che Guevara was a gifted writer and in this book all the revolutionary idealism that fed into his life-long battle merge into a powerful narrative that is so symptomatic for the romanticism of a bygone era. The Cuban revolution firmly rooted the idea of independence in the political lexicon of resistance movements all over the world, as independence from outside interference, is a necessary step towards a progressive democracy. I read Guevara's books as a Junior Research Fellow at Oxford University in order to train my mind in the various methods of critique.


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The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley

By Malcolm X, Alex Haley, Attallah Shabazz

The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley

Why this book?

The second choice is another statutory example for a life punctured and ended by resistance against the rather more nefarious manifestations of power, in this case racism in the United States. I had to read this book in high school at a German Protestant private school in the northern port town of Hamburg and I was immediately struck by its vivid realism, and the genuine belief of the author that a just struggle will prevail in the end. I am sure Malcolm would see his worldview vindicated by the global BlackLivesMatter movement triggered by the savage murder of George Floyd.


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Gharbzadegi: Weststruckness

By Jalal Al-E Ahmad

Gharbzadegi: Weststruckness

Why this book?

A book which perfectly encapsulates the pulse that delivered the revolution in Iran, and in particular the romanticism behind it. This virtuoso of the Iranian belles lettres, a celebrity intellectual of the 1960s, indicts western imperialism and its modernity for the brutal subjugation of the Global South in the name of the machine, a metaphor for cultural imperialism. Working with an incredibly potent medical analogy that likens western modernity to a disease, al-e Ahmad would have been seriously disappointed with the outcome of the revolution in 1979, which did not bring about the libertarian project that his generation envisaged. I read this book as a PhD student at Cambridge, and I was immediately struck by its powerful concepts that apply even today and beyond Iran.


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Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition

By Paulo Freire

Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition

Why this book?

With this study, the legendary Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, delivered a manifesto for a critical pedagogy that continues to undergird the mission statement of many university departments all over the world, and in particular in the Global South, from the Humanities to the Social Sciences. The book tells the story of the eternal struggle between the ruling classes and the underprivileged castes in society, and their resistance against the oppressive power of that system. I read this book at SOAS University of London. It has informed my understanding of civil resistance as a form of democratic empowerment which is so crucial to keep any form of authoritarianism at bay.


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One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society

By Herbert Marcuse

One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society

Why this book?

One of the books that has made the biggest impression on me and which I applied to my studies far beyond its original locus as the pamphlet for the 68’ generation in post-war Germany. Marcuse became the celebrated spokesperson of a whole generation as a part of the glorious “Frankfurt School” and along with luminaries such as Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. In this damning indictment of capitalist excess, Marcuse’s ideas chime with those of al-e Ahmad (see above), as both of them foresaw the demise of culture and value under the heavy burden of profit-driven production. I read this book as a Political Science student in Germany, first in the original and then in its English translation.


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