Richard Seymour

The Indigo Press is an independent publisher of contemporary fiction and non-fiction, based in London. Guided by a spirit of internationalism, feminism and social justice, we publish books to make readers see the world afresh, question their behaviour and beliefs, and imagine a better future.

Author photograph © Marta Corada

Richard Seymour

Richard Seymour is a writer and broadcaster from Northern Ireland and the author of numerous books about politics including Against Austerity and  Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics. His writing appears in the The New York Times, the London Review of Books, the GuardianProspectJacobin, and innumerable other places including his own Patreon. He is an editor at Salvage magazine.

His book The Disenchanted Earth: Reflections on Ecosocialism & Barbarism is published on 22 April 2022, available for pre-order now. His book, The Twittering Machine, was published in August 2019.

The Disenchanted Earth: Reflections on Ecosocialism & Barbarism

 From Richard Seymour, one of the UK’s leading public intellectuals, comes a characteristic blend of forensic insight and analysis, personal journey, and a vivid respect for the natural world. 

A planetary fever-dream. An environmental awakening that is also a sleep-walking, unsteadily weaving between history, earth science, psychoanalysis, evolution, biology, art and politics. A search for transcendence, beyond the illusory eternal present. 

These essays chronicle the kindling of ecological consciousness in a confessed ignoramus. They track the first enchantment of the author, his striving to comprehend the coming catastrophe, and his attempt to formulate a new global sensibility in which we value anew what unconditionally matters. 

Richard’s recommended reading list

Still by far the most original, persuasive and breathtaking account of the origins of our climate crisis. The standard story told about our fossil fuel dependency is that it’s just too efficient, too energy-dense, enabling an abundance of production that could not otherwise take place. While that isn’t completely wrong, Malm’s deep archival research, which he turns into a gripping historical narrative, reveals something else. Looking at the rise of coal, he finds that nineteenth-century capitalists did not choose coal because of its greater energy efficiency – water offered far more energy efficiency – but because of its political advantages. Water was necessarily communal, coal could be privatised. Water was flow, coal was stock. Which raises the question, what if the struggle over renewables is hampered by similar considerations? What if our dilemma is at least as much political as economic?
Why is it left to environmental scientists to point out that we are embedded in a ‘web of life’, an intricate network of dependencies of which we are scarcely aware for most of the time, even as we consume more and more biospheric resources? Why, for example, do the bees have to almost go extinct before we notice how much we depend on their free pollination work? Moore’s surprising, critical book shows how capital treats nature as a ‘cheap’ or ‘free’ good, minimising the immediate costs of production even while the long-range costs for the species pile up. The ‘frame of capital’, as he argues, imposes an artificial ‘Cartesian divide’ between humans and the natural world which, even as it makes resources and labour more exploitable, blinds us to the processes of ecological degradation happening every day.
I am a sucker for everything about what Fridtjof Nansen called the “Ice Temple of the polar regions”. Most of the histories and travelogues pale, however, in comparison to Pyne’s matchless synthesis of environmental science, art, history and culture. He can write analytically an poetically, he can be rigorous and beautiful. Along with his many volumes of writing on the history of fire, now an urgent global topic, this is one of Pyne’s most indispensable books. And it is all the more urgent now that the frozen polar regions, which have existed for the entirety of human history, are melting.
A genuinely oneiric literary classic, describing the author’s journeys into the High Arctic, and his encounters with narwhals, polar bears, geese, and the immense, implacable, minatory force of the ice itself. Lopez, with his attention to detail, and pitch perfect metaphors and similes, is as perceptive about Arctic history, the intrusions of empire and Eskimo culture as he is about the different types of snow and ice, and the surprising bounty of life to be seen in the frozen north.
This is a truly unusual, mind-expanding book by a philosopher of language. There are many books which tell us how intelligent animals are. This one demonstrates, with a wealth of vivid detail and scholarly information, how many animals possess linguistic intelligence, have names for one another, are able to describe things and people in detail. Meijer wants us to understand animals as beings we can potentially communicate with, and learn to live with better, rather than merely exploit and kill. 
There are many fabulous books about the natural environment in the British isles – Mabey’s The Unofficial Countryside, Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, and recently Vron Ware’s The Return of a Native. MacFarlane’s beautiful book is intended as a “counter-desecration phrasebook”. He wants us to learn a different sensibility, a different way of relating to the natural environment that will bind us emotionally to the fate of wildernesses. Using local vernacular as a leaping off point, he engages in exhilarating forays into the social and cultural history of the landscape. He makes one want to walk, explore, admire, and resist the Gradgrindish narrow-mindedness of development for the sake of profit.

The Twittering Machine

In surrealist artist Paul Klee’s The Twittering Machine, the bird-song of a diabolical machine acts as bait to lure humankind into a pit of damnation. Leading political writer and broadcaster Richard Seymour argues that this is a chilling metaphor for our relationship with social media.

Former social media executives tell us that the system is an addiction-machine. We are users, waiting for our next hit as we like, comment and share. We write to the machine as individuals, but it responds by aggregating our fantasies, desires and frailties into data, and returning them to us as a commodity experience.

Through journalism, psychoanalytic reflection and insights from users, developers, security experts and others, Seymour probes the human side of the machine, asking what we’re getting out of it, and what we’re getting into.

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