91 books like Punishing the Poor

By Loïc Wacquant,

Here are 91 books that Punishing the Poor fans have personally recommended if you like Punishing the Poor. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Human Condition

Jennifer Banks Author Of Natality: Toward a Philosophy of Birth

From my list on birth, one of our greatest underexplored subjects.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a family that was focused on people, poetry, and politics. My parents both worked with children with disabilities in Massachusetts and my mother ran a daycare center in our house. As a reader, student, poet, and then editor, I’ve drawn on those experiences and expectations, and have searched through books looking for their echoes. Since 2007, I've edited books at Yale University Press where I'm currently Senior Executive Editor. I have a BA from Cornell University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I've also worked in various publishing roles at ICM, Continuum, and Harvard University Press.

Jennifer's book list on birth, one of our greatest underexplored subjects

Jennifer Banks Why did Jennifer love this book?

First published in 1958, this is one of Hannah Arendt’s most influential books and in it she attempts to define the human condition in the aftermath of World War II, developing her concept “natality.” 

It’s a challenging book that I’ve wrestled with and argued with and never forgotten. It includes some of her most powerful and frequently cited passages about birth. Lately, I’ve been returning to its opening pages, in which she discusses the launch of Sputnik into space. 

She saw this launch not as an exciting technological breakthrough, but as a fateful repudiation of our earthly existence, an existence that was defined by birth with possibilities and limitations.

By Hannah Arendt,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Human Condition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The past year has seen a resurgence of interest in the political thinker Hannah Arendt, "the theorist of beginnings," whose work probes the logics underlying unexpected transformations-from totalitarianism to revolution.

A work of striking originality, The Human Condition is in many respects more relevant now than when it first appeared in 1958. In her study of the state of modern humanity, Hannah Arendt considers humankind from the perspective of the actions of which it is capable. The problems Arendt identified then-diminishing human agency and political freedom, the paradox that as human powers increase through technological and humanistic inquiry, we are…


Book cover of In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the West

Jacqueline Kennelly Author Of Citizen Youth: Culture, Activism, and Agency in a Neoliberal Era

From my list on how neoliberalism f*&ks up democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to activism at a young age, inspired by a book given to me by a friend in Grade 10. I also grew up poor; my trajectory into university was unusual for my demographic, a fact I only discovered once I was doing my PhD in the sociology of education. By the time I started interviewing activists for my doctorate, I had a burning desire to understand how social change could happen, what democracy really looked like, and who was left out of participating. I am still trying to figure these things out. If you are, too, the books on this list might help!

Jacqueline's book list on how neoliberalism f*&ks up democracy

Jacqueline Kennelly Why did Jacqueline love this book?

I’ve loved Wendy Brown’s work since I started reading it while I was doing my PhD back in 2003. I cite her stuff in almost everything I’ve written. This recent book pulls together her vast expertise and insights about political theory, inequality, and democratic practices to explain how neoliberalism has always been anti-democratic, and how it continues to prop up authoritarian styles of leadership, like that of Donald Trump in the US. Key to this, she argues, is how neoliberalism has always made an appeal to ‘tradition,’ which smuggles in patriarchal, classist, and heterosexist notions of the nuclear family, the supremacy of Christian ideals, and a sort of rugged individualism that denies the necessity of a welfare state.

By Wendy Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Ruins of Neoliberalism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Across the West, hard-right leaders are surging to power on platforms of ethno-economic nationalism, Christianity, and traditional family values. Is this phenomenon the end of neoliberalism or its monstrous offspring?

In the Ruins of Neoliberalism casts the hard-right turn as animated by socioeconomically aggrieved white working- and middle-class populations but contoured by neoliberalism's multipronged assault on democratic values. From its inception, neoliberalism flirted with authoritarian liberalism as it warred against robust democracy. It repelled social-justice claims through appeals to market freedom and morality. It sought to de-democratize the state, economy, and society and re-secure the patriarchal family. In key works…


Book cover of Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action

Jacqueline Kennelly Author Of Citizen Youth: Culture, Activism, and Agency in a Neoliberal Era

From my list on how neoliberalism f*&ks up democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to activism at a young age, inspired by a book given to me by a friend in Grade 10. I also grew up poor; my trajectory into university was unusual for my demographic, a fact I only discovered once I was doing my PhD in the sociology of education. By the time I started interviewing activists for my doctorate, I had a burning desire to understand how social change could happen, what democracy really looked like, and who was left out of participating. I am still trying to figure these things out. If you are, too, the books on this list might help!

Jacqueline's book list on how neoliberalism f*&ks up democracy

Jacqueline Kennelly Why did Jacqueline love this book?

I have an intellectual crush on Pierre Bourdieu. He has a sexy mind. Unfortunately, he passed away just as I was getting to know his work, back in 2002. Bourdieu wrote a mind-boggling number of books, but I have chosen this one as a good introduction for people who’d like to get to know his work. Practical Reason is actually made up of a series of lectures, all written relatively late in his career. They do quite a good job of accessibly summarizing his key ideas. Bourdieu supported the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and was a vociferous critic of neoliberalism. Bourdieu’s work helps to explain how inequality is recreated across generations, and why dominant interests tend to shape the trajectory of the state. 

By Pierre Bourdieu, Randall Johnson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Practical Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Do social classes really exist? Is disinterested action really possible? What do the family, the church, and the intellectual world have in common? Can morality be founded on hypocrisy? What is the "subject" of action? In this new volume, one of France's foremost social thinkers of our time responds to these major questions and to others, thus tracing the outlines of a work that could be called "Pierre Bourdieu by himself."

In these texts, the author tries to go to the essential, that is, the most elementary and fundamental, questions. He thereby explains the philosophical principles that have led to…


Book cover of Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

Jacqueline Kennelly Author Of Citizen Youth: Culture, Activism, and Agency in a Neoliberal Era

From my list on how neoliberalism f*&ks up democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to activism at a young age, inspired by a book given to me by a friend in Grade 10. I also grew up poor; my trajectory into university was unusual for my demographic, a fact I only discovered once I was doing my PhD in the sociology of education. By the time I started interviewing activists for my doctorate, I had a burning desire to understand how social change could happen, what democracy really looked like, and who was left out of participating. I am still trying to figure these things out. If you are, too, the books on this list might help!

Jacqueline's book list on how neoliberalism f*&ks up democracy

Jacqueline Kennelly Why did Jacqueline love this book?

The important argument lying at the heart of this beautifully written book is that the trajectory of the current global economy, driven by neoliberal logics, is fundamentally one of expulsions: that is, expelling the poor, the biosphere, democracy, and anything else that gets in the way of maximizing profit. This book takes massive case studiesfrom palm oil production in Malaysia and Indonesia to water bottling by large corporations in the USand demonstrates how they are ultimately about pushing people out instead of inviting people in. It raises important questions about who the economy is for, and what ends we are ultimately building toward as a global society. I don’t have a pithy personal story about this book; I just think you should read it.

By Saskia Sassen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Expulsions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soaring income inequality and unemployment, expanding populations of the displaced and imprisoned, accelerating destruction of land and water bodies: today's socioeconomic and environmental dislocations cannot be fully understood in the usual terms of poverty and injustice, according to Saskia Sassen. They are more accurately understood as a type of expulsion-from professional livelihood, from living space, even from the very biosphere that makes life possible.

This hard-headed critique updates our understanding of economics for the twenty-first century, exposing a system with devastating consequences even for those who think they are not vulnerable. From finance to mining, the complex types of knowledge…


Book cover of History, Memory, and Trans-European Identity: Unifying Divisions

Caner Tekin Author Of Debating Turkey in Europe: Identities and Concepts

From my list on European identity for history readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a postdoctoral researcher, I'm fascinated by the notions of cultural belonging to Europe and European nation-states, as they have evolved throughout history in relation to what the holders of these notions call their "others". I know of few cases in the field of identity and memory politics that are as controversial, as curious, as fragile, and yet as fascinating as the idea of a Europe, a social and political construct that emerges from past events but is shaped for political purposes. Debates about a common European history and memory are intertwined with those about the geographical and cultural definitions of Europe, and my book list often includes the most recent examples of these interactions.

Caner's book list on European identity for history readers

Caner Tekin Why did Caner love this book?

How was the common European memory constructed in the second half of the 20th century and how does it serve the common understanding of Europeanness?

Transforming memory constructions into a common European culture of remembrance requires political will and capacity, which today is mostly represented by the EU and its nation states. By analysing the speeches of political elites at commemorative events, Sierp shows how 'European memory' was materialised between pan-European and national initiatives after the Second World War, and how regional conceptions of the Holocaust and its perpetrators were transformed into a common understanding.

The book also recalls the historicity of European memory and its function for the project of European identity.

By Aline Sierp,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked History, Memory, and Trans-European Identity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book questions the presupposition voiced by many historians and political scientists that political experiences in Europe continue to be interpreted in terms of national history, and that a European community of remembrance still does not exist. By tracing the evolution of specific memory cultures in two successor countries of the Fascist/Nazi regime (Italy and Germany) and the impact of structural changes upon them, the book investigates wider democratic processes, particularly concerning the conservation and transmission of values and the definition of identity on different levels. It argues that the creation of a transnational European memory culture does not necessarily…


Book cover of European Integration: From Nation-States to Member States

Philip Cunliffe Author Of The New Twenty Years’ Crisis 1919-2019: A Critique of International Relations

From my list on liberal international order in the 21st century.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having come of age at the End of History in the late 1990s, it seemed to me back then that the only big political questions left were international ones. Everything in domestic politics appeared to be settled. As I pursued this interest through my scholarly work as an academic, I came to understand how questions of international and domestic order were intertwined – and that one could not be understood without the other. As we’re now living through the end of the End of History, unsurprisingly we’re seeing tremendous strain on political systems at both the national and international level. These books will provide, I hope, some signposts as to what comes next.  

Philip's book list on liberal international order in the 21st century

Philip Cunliffe Why did Philip love this book?

A brilliant book that succeeded in snapping the contrastive manacles that had hitherto hobbled our understanding of European integration. These conceptual manacles bound us either to over-emphasizing supranationalism on the one hand, or on the other, to claiming that European integration was nothing but an adornment for nation-states. Bickerton shows not only that supranationalism grows out of dynamics that are internal to European states, but that this out-growth involves a profound transformation of the structure of states themselves – the shift, as described in the sub-title, from nation-states to member-states. This brilliant insight illuminates so much politics today, from domestic struggles between liberals and populists to geopolitical rivalries. 

By Chris J. Bickerton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked European Integration as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

European integration confuses citizens and scholars alike. It appears to transfer power away from national capitals towards Brussels yet a close study of the EU reveals the absence of any real leap towards supranationalism. The EU is dominated by cooperation between national representatives and national officials yet it continually appears to us as something external and separate from national political life.

This book takes on these paradoxes by arguing that European integration should no longer be studied as the transcendence of states or as merely an expression of national interests. Rather, we should approach it as a process of state…


Book cover of The Portuguese: A Modern History

Louise Ross Author Of Women Who Walk: How 20 Women From 16 Countries Came To Live In Portugal

From my list on historically accurate books about Portugal.

Why am I passionate about this?

Louise Ross is a non-fiction and fiction writer, speaker, and podcaster. Originally from Australia, she moved abroad in the mid-'80s, living in the UK, France, the US, and since 2014, Portugal. Her book, Women Who Walk: How 20 women from 16 countries came to live in Portugal, (2019), is a collection of mini-memoirs. In 2020, she released the sequel and comparative read, The Winding Road to Portugal: 20 Men from 11 Countries Share Their Stories. Louise lives on the Estoril coastline where she continues to interview women living in Portugal, and around the world, for her podcast, Women Who Walk

Louise's book list on historically accurate books about Portugal

Louise Ross Why did Louise love this book?

On the back cover, Hatton says that his purpose in writing The Portuguese – and this quote made me smile knowingly, and it’s why I bought the book – “is to describe the idiosyncrasies that make this lovely, and sometimes exasperating country unique and to search for explanations, surveying the historical path that drove the Portuguese to where they now stand.” Hatton succeeds beautifully in his endeavour, offering up 280 pages of an enlightening and scintillating read.

By Barry Hatton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Portuguese as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Portugal is an established member of the European Union, one of the founders of the euro currency and a founding member of NATO. Yet it is an inconspicuous and largely overlooked country on the continent’s southwest rim. Barry Hatton shines a light on this enigmatic corner of Europe by blending historical analysis with entertaining personal anecdotes. He describes the idiosyncrasies that make the Portuguese unique and surveys the eventful path that brought them to where they are today. Portugal, which claims Europe’s oldest fixed borders, measures just 561 by 218 kilometers. Within that space, however, it offers a patchwork of…


Book cover of A Short History of Brexit: From Brentry to Backstop

Jonathan Charteris-Black Author Of Metaphors of Brexit: No Cherries on the Cake?

From my list on the truth of the origins, issues, passions of Brexit.

Why am I passionate about this?

If there was ever one word that seems to have changed the foundations of modern Britain it is the word 'Brexit': something that had seemed so antediluvian shifted from being impossible to becoming reality. I could not believe this was happening and I wanted to explore the influence of language in creating this reality. I decided to apply the approach I had originally authored known as Critical Metaphor Analysis to unravel the metaphors through which the arguments of Leavers and Remainers were articulated. In doing so I tried to tell the story of Brexit through its metaphors because the role of language itself is often overlooked in accounts of persuasion.

Jonathan's book list on the truth of the origins, issues, passions of Brexit

Jonathan Charteris-Black Why did Jonathan love this book?

This book provides the clearest and most accessible overview of the background of Brexit. I found it a highly reliable source of information on the historical context and it helped me understand the complexity of the various economic and political aspects of Britain’s membership in the EU from an unbiased and objective standpoint.

By Kevin O'Rourke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Short History of Brexit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Crisp, clear and quietly devastating' Guardian
'Excellent, authoritative, highly readable' Irish Times

A succinct, expert guide to how we got to Brexit

After all the debates, manoeuvrings, recriminations and exaltations, Brexit is upon us. But, as Kevin O'Rourke writes, Brexit did not emerge out of nowhere: it is the culmination of events that have been under way for decades and have historical roots stretching back well beyond that. Brexit has a history.

O'Rourke, one of the leading economic historians of his generation, explains not only how British attitudes to Europe have evolved, but also how the EU's history explains why…


Book cover of The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity, Transnational Politics, and the Origins of the European Convention

Nat Rubner Author Of The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights Volume 1: Political, Intellectual & Cultural Origins

From my list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

Following my PhD at King’s College, Cambridge I was invited by the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London to serve as an Honorary Research Fellow. This enabled me to focus fully on 15 years of research into previously untapped archives and interviews with more than twenty-five politicians and jurists active in the process of the African human rights charter. By coincidence, thirty-five years or so ago, in an earlier incarnation, I was also responsible for editing the first public debt prospectus for the African Development Bank in Abidjan.

Nat's book list on the intelligent person’s guide to human rights

Nat Rubner Why did Nat love this book?

An outstanding book that reinterprets the origins of the European human rights system.

His compelling analysis is supported, as one would hope, with an impressive range of archival research. It will surprise the modern reader as it stands in stark reproach to the widespread understanding of the European political project and human rights system as constructed on a liberal-minded ethical foundation. A real delight.

By Marco Duranti,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Conservative Human Rights Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The European Court of Human Rights has long held unparalleled sway over questions of human rights violations across continental Europe, Britain, and beyond. Both its supporters and detractors accept the common view that the European human rights system was originally devised as a means of containing communism and fascism after World War II.

In The Conservative Human Rights Revolution, Marco Duranti radically reinterprets the origins of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that conservatives conceived of the treaty not only as a Cold War measure, but also as a vehicle for pursuing a controversial domestic political agenda on…


Book cover of Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain

Jonathan Charteris-Black Author Of Metaphors of Brexit: No Cherries on the Cake?

From my list on the truth of the origins, issues, passions of Brexit.

Why am I passionate about this?

If there was ever one word that seems to have changed the foundations of modern Britain it is the word 'Brexit': something that had seemed so antediluvian shifted from being impossible to becoming reality. I could not believe this was happening and I wanted to explore the influence of language in creating this reality. I decided to apply the approach I had originally authored known as Critical Metaphor Analysis to unravel the metaphors through which the arguments of Leavers and Remainers were articulated. In doing so I tried to tell the story of Brexit through its metaphors because the role of language itself is often overlooked in accounts of persuasion.

Jonathan's book list on the truth of the origins, issues, passions of Brexit

Jonathan Charteris-Black Why did Jonathan love this book?

Written from a standpoint outside of Britain yet offering such great insight, this book offers a highly convincing account of the stupidity of Brexit. The author pours his wrath onto Brexit and Brexiteers and is a brilliant polemicist. It’s well-written and entertaining.

What I like about this book is that, unlike a lot of academic writing, it doesn't pull any punches and the author is rhetorically committed to a single perspective that he adheres to with great consistency.

By Fintan O'Toole,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heroic Failure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'There will not be much political writing in this or any other year that is carried off with such style' The Times.

A TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR.

'A quite brilliant dissection of the cultural roots of the Brexit narrative' David Miliband.
'Hugely entertaining and engrossing' Roddy Doyle.
'Best book about the English that I've read for ages' Billy Bragg.
'A wildly entertaining but uncomfortable read... Pitilessly brilliant' Jonathan Coe.

In exploring the answers to the question: 'why did Britain vote leave?', Fintan O'Toole finds himself discovering how trivial journalistic lies became far from trivial national obsessions; how the pose…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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