Laurie Penny's new book is Bitch Doctrine. She says that we that we must ".. have the courage to make impossible demands - to face down ridicule and say: "We want more" .

IF YOU HAVE read any of Laurie Penny's work, you probably won't be surprised by Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults. That's because this is a collection of some of the columns she wrote through 2013 and 2016, albeit with a few tweaks here and there.

Bitch Doctrine traverses familiar Laurie Penny territory - feminism, capitalism, gender, sex, politics, culture and... Donald Trump. If you are looking for a book that will confirm liberal opinions and prejudices then Bitch Doctrine is probably not likely to do it for you. Laurie Penny talks feminism but she is also talks a socialism that doesn't mean merely voting for the Labour Party. She is a lot more Rosa Luxemburg than Jacinda Ardern.

She embraces revolutionary politics in her own iconoclastic freewheeling way, but she insists there can be no socialism without feminism and no feminism without socialism. This has been her consistent view since her school days:

"The biggest single change, though, was discovering socialist and anti-capitalist politics in my mid-teens, which I came to through reading feminism and realizing that there were broad economic questions at play that needed bigger answers than simply "close the gender pay gap."

She's up front, confrontational, enthusiastic and insistent and not averse to the odd joke or pun. And sometimes she strives too hard for effect. Her affection for witty word play can sometimes gets in the way of the point she is trying to make. One reader wrote:

"I strongly disliked this book at the beginning as I thought that it was one long, unoriginal rant that was massively overwritten with the assistance of a thesaurus. However, after the initial 20% of the book, I started to find it really interesting and I'm glad I pushed myself through the initial part."

On a couple of occasions she quotes Fredric Jameson's well-used comment that "it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism" (which I have also been known to employ on a probably too regular basis.) But, despite her acknowledgement of dark days, she retains an optimism of will:

"Right now, the future seems dark and frightening and it is precisely now that we must continue to imagine other worlds and then plot ways to get there". 

There is still a world to win, says Penny, reaching back over a century to Karl Marx.

But if you are looking for a treatise on socialist strategy within Bitch Doctrine, then you won't find one. The best that Penny will offer is that we " have the courage to make impossible demands - to face down ridicule and say: "We want more" .

But in this age of a dehumanising neoliberalism and  social democratic parties that are little more than the handmaidens of capital, making demands of a hostile and unresponsive system could be viewed as revolutionary. It is at least a call for further political action.

The struggle continues. But Laurie Penny warns:

"Just as you can't construct a useful feminism that only works for wealthy white women, you can't build a politics of class struggle that does not have feminist, anti-racist, and queer politics at its core. Well, you can, and people do, but they're silly and ineffective and their parties are boring.”


Comments are moderated.