04/11/2017

MIT Press To Publish ‘Communism For Kids’

Philip Jenkins, American Conservative

Day by day, it becomes harder to tell parody from reality. If I told you that a major press was publishing a book called Communism for Kids, would you believe me? After due investigation, I can confirm that the title does exist, and that it is deadly serious. Even more remarkable, it comes from a very respectable publisher, namely MIT Press—yes, that MIT. (I cannot presently confirm suggestions of such possible future MIT titles as Sure, Johnny, You Should Take Candy From the Guy in the Van.) While we might like to attribute this project to temporary insanity, it does reflect some larger and really troubling currents in U.S. political discourse.

Communism for Kids is the work of Bini Adamczak, “a Berlin-based social theorist and artist” heavily involved in “queer theory.” When it originally appeared in German, the book was titled KommunismusKleine Geschichte, wie Endlich Alles Anders Wird—roughly, “Communism: A Little Story, How Finally Everything Will Be Different”—without the explicit provocation of being aimed at children. In fact, the book is a simplified, user-friendly account of Marxist theory, illustrated with cartoons. At its heart are a series of case studies in pseudo-fairy tale language, where people explore various economic arrangements before settling on utopian communism.

Somewhere along the line, MIT Press decided to market it “for kids,” inspiring some confusion in the process. Amazon lists it as a children’s book intended for grades 3–7, although also suggesting a much more realistic age range of “18 and up.” Conceivably, the press deliberately chose the new title as a marketing gimmick in order to drive controversy and thereby increase sales. Alternatively, on the basis of their experience in Cambridge, Mass., they decided that there actually were enough play groups that would be delighted to work through Adamczak’s scenarios.

Either way, the book is targeted at “youngsters” broadly defined, and it has attracted some amazingly laudatory blurbs. Celebrity academic theorist Fredric R. Jameson remarks that this “delightful little book may be helpful in showing youngsters there are other forms of life and living than the one we currently ‘enjoy.’” Oh, the lowering severity that the professor bestows on us when we dare “enjoy” anything in our present monstrous dystopia! Novelist Rachel Kushner thinks that Adamczak’s is precisely the book we need at a time when global capitalism has brought us “more inequality than has ever been experienced by humans on earth” (which is a precise inversion of actual historical reality).

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