Posted by: rogermitchell | January 4, 2015

Russell Brand’s “Revolution” joins my best books list

Big thanks to my son Chris for giving me Russell Brand’s Revolution for Christmas.
It rapidly displaced the several books I was currently reading for both readability and importance. I’d soon read it from cover to cover, not something I often do with books, which like many other academic researchers I tend to read ‘in’. Not only are the revolutionary recommendations that he gleans from other insightful radicals highly practical, he gets to the deep-structural subterranean heart of the political system with courage and acuity. I heartily recommend it.

His practical steps to revolution are worth setting out here for those who might not get round to reading it yet awhile:
Radically alter trade agreements to support the needs of the people and planet;
Impede energy companies’ ability to profit from irresponsible practices in oil refinery and fracking and convert to responsible renewable energy;
Cancel personal debt;
Stop using titles to refer to one another;
Decentralise the power of both the private sector and the state;
Kill a global corporation;
Move to a co-operative economic model;

Of course for many this is impossible because they see the current unjust system as immoveable, for them a new politics that penetrates below the surface is inconceivable.

But it’s his profane grace to fillet the guts of the long term constituted system of the Western establishment that marks this book out.
Some of its content will wound you, for there’s no other way to challenge our allegiance to the established system. But treat it the way Walter Brueggermann suggests we treat the more offensive parts of the Old Testament when it does the same and I think you’ll find the testimony of Jesus is all over it. And while his ingenuous expectation that love and unity is at the core of all religion may worry you, (Richard Rohr has the same effect on me), such theological naïvety is surely profounder than an approach to doctrine that excludes and dominates and ultimately upholds the powers that be. The incarnation and the cross demonstrate that the reality of evil can only be overcome by love, not exclusive truth propositions after all.

Some of us have long been suggesting that when a new clarion call to the kingdom of God comes it will be from unexpected sources. Maybe an ex-addict celebrity comedian from Thurrock is one such. Yep, without a doubt Russell Brand is a prophetic son of peace for me.

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Responses

  1. Good to hear your thoughts, Roger
    I have a similar positive reaction to a book that I just persuaded Leeds library to purchase – ‘Against Austerity’ by Richard Seymour. I am about half way through it, but it is a struggle as my economics / political theory is not really up to speed!
    Shalom and grace to you and Sue
    Alan Spicer

    • A happy new year to you and Lindy. It’s good to hear from you. Haven’t read Seymour’s book, but think I get the general direction. Important stuff. Do you blog? If not, and in any case, would you like to do a brief review/ response as a guest on here?

  2. I’ve always liked Russell Brand as a comedian and thought that he comes across as a very likeable bloke. When I saw his interview with Jeremy Paxman about fame being ‘ashes in his mouth’ and believing in God I thought it was brilliant and I have watched his metamorphosis from bad boy comedian to spokesperson for the coming revolution with great interest which culminated in buying the book, ‘Revolution’.

    Russell is at his best when he talks about his own experience of realising that fame and fortune did not bring lasting satisfaction and describing the hold addiction had over him and how, with the help of others and the embrace of spirituality he has been able to recover from his destructive habits.

    I found ‘Revolution’ a mixed bag, a little too glib in places, and incoherent in others. He attacked General Motors for failing to carry out a product recall on faulty car components leading to the deaths of several people and used this as an example of the need to ‘kill a corporation’ seemingly overlooking the fact that GM indirectly gives employment to millions of people, what happens to their jobs, their communities and their well being if this corporation is ‘killed’? What about all the transformational benefits that modern companies have given us (which I won’t go into in detail in order to avoid a ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?’ list. Suffice it to say that all of us on a daily basis use advanced technologies developed and disseminated by private corporations which greatly enhance and improve our quality of life and have transformed the lives of people all over the globe. Perhaps we are being called to discriminate a la Ed Miliband between ‘good’ companies and ‘bad’ companies, predatory capitalism vs productive capitalism.

    This brings me onto who exactly would do the killing?

    My concerns about revolutions understood traditionally have been the high involvement of coercion and violence in achieving transformation in the power dynamics.

    Implicit throughout Russell’s revolution is the application of coercive state or trans state power whether used to regulate or kill corporations. His revolution implies a massive growth in the power of the state to regulate and order human affairs but history suggests that this always ends disastrously and sees human individuality and freedom subsumed in the name of the collective.

    He talks at length about Cuba as a mostly positive example of Revolutionary change but for tens of thousands of political dissidents these words will ring hollow in a country where freedom of expression is routinely suppressed and state repression of individual freedom is a defining quality is of the polity.

    The Chavista revolution in Venezuela has led to the impoverishment of the country’s infrastructure, soaring inflation and one of the world’s worst homicide rates and a cavalier disregard for political freedoms. We should be circumspect about the fact that Podemos in Spain has received funding from the Venezuelan regime. The fundamental tension between freedom, justice and equality does not receive enough meaningful interrogation in this book.

    When Russell advances different economic models such as the cooperative structure it needs to be acknowledged that structures are just as amenable to corruption and incompetence as the decline and fall of the Cooperative Bank in the UK demonstrates.

    How do we achieve ‘revolution’ without coercion and the expansion of sovereign power at state or trans state level? Do we favour coercion against corporations but not individuals? How do we distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ companies and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ states? How do we provide adequate welfare and support for the vulnerable in an age of globalisation? How do we provide a counterweight for insurgent nationalisms?

    Russell Brand is right to see that deep systemic change is possible and to call it into being. He is provocative and is provoking the right people too. I’m glad his voice is in the mix and I value him. But his book raises more questions than it answers. Indeed, perhaps that’s the point…

  3. Thanks for the companion book recommendation. I’m probably particularly sensitive to calls for regulation and control at the moment because of my experiences on the street where the power of the law is being used to crush freedom and creativity and I see the conditions for human flourishing are being undermined.

    I do think Russell Brand is a breath of fresh air and I find him thought provoking. In fact, on Sunday I dedicated a song to him when I was singing on the streets of Buxton. Which song? ‘Revolution’ by the Beatles!

  4. Really interesting post about this! The list of Brand’s recommendations is particularly useful (having read it quickly, like you, I feel like I might have skimmed over some of his suggestions, or at least forgotten them after the fact!) It’s also interesting to read from the perspective of someone who appreciates the spiritual aspect of Brand’s revolution more than me: in honesty, I had real difficulty with this when I read ‘Revolution’. Anyway, cheers for an interesting post from a different perspective!

    My review: Revolution by Russell Brand

    • Hi Matthew, I’m glad you found the post useful. Any chance of you expanding on your difficulty with “the spiritual aspect of Brand’s revolution”? Sounds like there might be some helpful stuff there and it would be good to get some discussion going if you are up for it. Thanks, Roger

      PS. I’ve found your Facebook page but clicking on your blog address when I search for it seems to draw a blank is it me or a current techy issue?

  5. I can’t comment on Russell Brand’s book yet because it won’t leave my wife! But she’s absolutely loving it and also calling it ‘a breath of fresh air.’ And since my daughter has run off with Tim Jackson’s ‘Prosperity Without Growth’, I’m left with Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ – but I suggest these three are all variations on a theme and signs of some significant shift in a which is kenarchic direction!! 🙂


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