Work, Exile, Salt, Rat, Monkey

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Deep History Of Work

James Suzman | Next Big Idea | 5th March 2021

Why do we work so much? Blame farming. Our hunter-gatherer forebears toiled little and lived well for 300,000 years until agriculture was invented, and with it the coercions and complications of a capitalist economy — labour, wages, profits, debts. The work-ethic of capitalism seems to have captured our souls, though it is scarcely needed in our current era of "unprecedented abundance" (1,100 words)

The Electrician Who Sabotaged The Nazis

Tereixa Constenla | El País | 1st March 2021

Comprehensive account of an extraordinary life. Born on the island of Corisco, then part of the Spanish colony of Guinea, José Epita Mbomo became an aircraft mechanic and electrician who cut quite a dash through the society of 1930s Spain. A committed Communist, while living in exile with his wife in France during WW2 he helped to sabotage Nazi vehicles and electrical infrastructure (3,482 words)

A Midwest Salt Monopoly

Matt Stoller | Big | 15th March 2021

On consolidation in the American salt market as a case study for the country's shifting political stance on monopolies. A ready supply of salt prevents car accidents in bad weather and keeps vital freight moving. It's an immobile product, making the market peculiarly regional. Now, with a private equity firm "overseeing a roll-up of roll-ups", there will be more shortages and higher prices (1,719 words)

Audio Of The Week: Among Us

Episode: "Urban Rodentology (Sewer Rats) With Bobby Corrigan" | Podcast: Ologies with Alie Ward | 78m30s

Interviews with experts about their "ology". This one is not for the faint of heart: the subject is rats, and particularly the ecosystem that they create around human habitation in big cities. The guest here is so incredibly upbeat and positive about the wonders of these creatures, though, that any rodent-based squeamishness is quickly overcome by their enthusiasm. These creatures have "food dialects", impressive memories and are so resourceful that we should be working with them, not against them, apparently (78m30s)

Book Of The Week: The Monkey King, Or Journey To The West

by Wu Cheng’en, translated by Julia Lovell | Courtesy of Five Books

Much-needed new, abridged translation of one of the classics of Chinese literature, the tale of the ludicrous Monkey as he accompanies a timorous monk on a dangerous journey to India to get scriptures from the Buddha, accompanied by a cast of characters including demons, dragons, Laozi (the founder of Daoism), the Tang emperor, and various heavenly bureaucrats including the General of Curtain-Drawing (339 pages)

For this week's Browser Conversation, we welcome Agnes Callard, professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago and the Browser's most-recommended writer of 2020. Please join us on Sunday 21st March at 6pm GMT (please note: due to daylight savings in the US this is 11am PT / 2pm ET, an hour later than usual). Reserve your place at, and feel free to invite friends

"To be or not to be. That's not really a question"
— Jean-Luc Godard

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