A List of 132 Radical, Mind-Expanding Books from Rage Against the Machine

If you like Rage Against the Machine, but don’t like their “polit­i­cal bs,” you haven’t actu­al­ly lis­tened to Rage Against the Machine, whose entire rai­son d’être is con­tained with­in the name. What is “the Machine”? Let’s hear it from the band them­selves. Singer Zack de la Rocha point­ed out that the title of their sec­ond album, 1996’s Evil Empire, came from “Ronald Reagan’s slan­der of the Sovi­et Union in the eight­ies, which the band feels could just as eas­i­ly apply to the Unit­ed States.”

The Machine is cap­i­tal­ism and mil­i­tarism, what Dwight D. Eisen­how­er once famous­ly called the “mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al com­plex” but which has fold­ed in oth­er oppres­sive mech­a­nisms since the coin­ing of that phrase, includ­ing the prison-indus­tri­al com­plex and immi­gra­tion-indus­tri­al com­plex. The Machine is a mega-com­plex with a lot of mov­ing parts, and the mem­bers of RATM have done the work to crit­i­cal­ly exam­ine them, inform­ing their music and activism with read­ing and study.

Evil Empire, for exam­ple, fea­tured in its lin­er notes a pho­to of “a pile of rad­i­cal books,” “and the group post­ed a lengthy read­ing list to com­ple­ment it on their site,” declares the site Rad­i­cal Reads. Debates often rage on social media over whether activists should read the­o­ry. One answer to the ques­tion might be the com­mit­ment of RATM, who have stead­fast­ly lived out their con­vic­tions over the decades while also, osten­si­bly, read­ing Marx, Mar­cuse, and Fanon.

There are more acces­si­ble the­o­rists on the list: fierce essay­ists like for­mer death row inmate and Black Pan­ther Mumia Abu-Jamal and Hen­ry David Thore­au, whose Walden and “Civ­il Dis­obe­di­ence” both appear. The Anar­chist Cook­book shows up, but so too does Dr. Suess’ The Lorax, biogra­phies of Miles Davis and Bob Mar­ley, Taschen’s Dali: The Paint­ings, James Joyce’s A Por­trait of the Artist of a Young Man, and Hen­ry Miller’s Trop­ic of Can­cer. This is not a list of strict­ly “polit­i­cal” books so much as a list of books that open us up to oth­er ways of see­ing.

These are also, in many cas­es, books we do not encounter unless we seek them out. “I cer­tain­ly didn’t find any of those books at my Uni­ver­si­ty High School library,” de la Rocha told MTV in 1996, “Many of those books may give peo­ple new insight into some of the fear and some of the pain they might be expe­ri­enc­ing as a result of some of the very ugly poli­cies the gov­ern­ment is impos­ing upon us right now.” Doubt­less, he would still endorse the sen­ti­ment. The work­ings of the Machine, after all, don’t seem to change much for the peo­ple on the bot­tom when it gets new man­age­ment at the top.

Read the full list of Evil Empire book rec­om­men­da­tions on Good Reads. And as a bonus, hear a Spo­ti­fy playlist of rad­i­cal music just above, com­piled by RATM gui­tarist Tom Morel­lo. The 241 song list runs

via Rad­i­cal Reads

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Tom Morel­lo Responds to Angry Fans Who Sud­den­ly Real­ize That Rage Against the Machine’s Music Is Polit­i­cal: “What Music of Mine DIDN’T Con­tain Polit­i­cal BS?”

Hear a 4 Hour Playlist of Great Protest Songs: Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Bob Mar­ley, Pub­lic Ene­my, Bil­ly Bragg & More

The Entire Archives of Rad­i­cal Phi­los­o­phy Go Online: Read Essays by Michel Fou­cault, Alain Badiou, Judith But­ler & More (1972–2018)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (11)
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  • WW says:

    “Slan­der” of the Sovi­et Union? My wife lived under com­mu­nism in East­ern Europe, and thought this mis­guid­ed arti­cle was HILARIOUS! She, and most oth­ers who lived under those oppres­sive-regimes, thank god com­mu­nism fell, and that they now live in a free, cap­i­tal­ist-soci­ety. Who likes dys­func­tion­al cen­tral-plan­ning, and bread­lines, any­ways? A: Peo­ple who nev­er expe­ri­enced it. There’s a rea­son the East Ger­mans built a wall…to keep peo­ple IN their Marx­ist “utopia”!

  • Lonnie says:

    Yawn! This is a pret­ty pre­dictable list con­sid­er­ing the source. Most­ly just a bunch of con­fir­ma­tion bias.
    When you call your­self Rage Against the Machine, it is pret­ty obvi­ous what your MO is. Also, peo­ple like this have to play the char­ac­ter for life after they cre­ate it (to make a bunch of mon­ey none the less, just like Col­in), so their cred­i­bil­i­ty is always being ques­tioned. Maybe they should go hang off an MTV sign to get their names in the news.

  • Jonathan Collins says:

    A laugh­able list of pro­to com­mie dri­v­el that a high school­er would be embar­rassed by. Not sur­prised.

  • Mario Nuzzolese says:

    Haha,the irony of mil­lion­aires preach­ing to us hard work­ing folks about finan­cial inequal­i­ty: price­less

  • Jason X says:

    Ha ha, slan­der is when some­thing isn’t true, Rea­gan was just telling the truth about the USSR.

  • Bob says:

    18 year old, USA hat­ing, fresh off the boat from liv­ing in com­mu­nist Chi­na for 5 years, would be so eager to read and engage in these books. Adult me laughs at the naieve­ity of chil­dren.

  • Zach says:

    It’s always great to see the apol­o­gists for impe­ri­al­ism and cap­i­tal­ism get­ting angered by musi­cians who hap­pen to think for them­selves. I’ve always thought it was odd that more artists didn’t speak out against the pro­pa­gan­da every school kid in Amer­i­ca is sub­ject­ed to.

  • Brandon says:

    Bruh. Rage pro­mot­ed vot­ing for Biden. How in the world do any of their val­ues coin­cide with him? All the EOs as well as the war drums start­ing again?

    These guys don’t think for them­selves. They can’t even be vocal­ly con­sis­tent with their own val­ues.

    The only pro­pa­gan­da kids in schools are sub­ject to are the “white man”, & that any­thing right of cen­ter is evil. Kids are not taught about fal­lac­i­es in school. Kids are not taught to think crit­i­cal­ly or be objec­tive in school. They’re raised to be intel­lec­tu­al zom­bies of the left. The last time schools pro­mot­ed pro­pa­gan­da of the right was the 70s. It’s been 50 years. Open your eyes & stop liv­ing in the past.

  • Scott Arte says:

    I can’t recall how many Che Gue­vara t‑shirts I’ve seen at LGBT parades but he was one of the biggest anti-homo­sex­u­als on the plan­et.

  • Bird says:

    Damn, this list real­ly pissed off the nazis.

  • Carlitoeztevez says:

    Not famil­iar with all the books on This list but love the ones I am famil­iar with, in par­tic­u­lar das kap­i­tal and gueril­la war­fare

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