What We Are Reading Today: The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien

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Updated 06 June 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien

Author: John Garth

This book takes you to the places that inspired J. R. R. Tolkien to create his fictional locations in The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and other classic works. Written by renowned Tolkien expert John Garth, The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien features a wealth of breathtaking illustrations, including Tolkien’s own drawings, contributions from other artists, rare archival images, and spectacular color photos of contemporary locations across Britain and beyond, from the battlefields of World War I to Africa, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
Garth identifies the locales that served as the basis for Hobbiton, the elven valley of Rivendell, the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep, and many other settings in Middle-earth, from mountains and forests to rivers, lakes, and shorelands. He reveals the rich interplay between Tolkien’s personal travels, his wide reading, and his deep scholarship as an Oxford don. Garth draws on his profound knowledge of Tolkien’s life and work to shed light on the extraordinary processes of invention behind Tolkien’s works of fantasy. He also debunks popular misconceptions about the inspirations for Middle-earth and puts forward strong new claims of his own.


What We Are Reading Today: Systemic Corruption by Camila Vergara

Updated 29 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Systemic Corruption by Camila Vergara

This provocative book reveals how the majority of modern liberal democracies have become increasingly oligarchic, suffering from a form of structural political decay first conceptualized by ancient philosophers. Systemic Corruption argues that the problem cannot be blamed on the actions of corrupt politicians but is built into the very fabric of our representative systems.

Camila Vergara provides a compelling and original genealogy of political corruption from ancient to modern thought, and shows how representative democracy was designed to protect the interests of the already rich and powerful to the detriment of the majority. Unable to contain the unrelenting force of oligarchy, especially after experimenting with neoliberal policies, most democracies have been corrupted into oligarchic democracies. Vergara explains how to reverse this corrupting trajectory by establishing a new counterpower strong enough to control the ruling elites. Building on the anti-oligarchic institutional innovations proposed by plebeian philosophers, she rethinks the republic as a mixed order in which popular power is institutionalized to check the power of oligarchy. Vergara demonstrates how a plebeian republic would establish a network of local assemblies with the power to push for reform from the grassroots, independent of political parties and representative government.

Drawing on neglected insights from Niccolò Machiavelli, Nicolas de Condorcet, Rosa Luxemburg, and Hannah Arendt, Systemic Corruption proposes to reverse the decay of democracy with the establishment of anti-oligarchic institutions through which common people can collectively resist the domination of the few.