Review: A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation – And How to Save it

6 Star Top 10%, Atlases & State of the World, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Complexity & Catastrophe, Corruption, Crime (Corporate), Crime (Government), Economics, History, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Politics, Power (Pathologies & Utilization)
Amazon Page

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond 5 Stars – Superb Individual Effort, October 25, 2011

In its own way this book is every bit as good as such classics as The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology) or The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters (New in Paper) and I am also reminded of Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization, all books I have reviewed here at Amazon, mirrored (often with material added) at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

I was tempted to keep the book at five stars because the author tip-toes around the core issue of our day, institutionalized corruption. While he opens by saying he is striving to address the “linkage between political violence and social crisis in the context of imperial social systems,” the word imperial is as close as he gets to calling out the global criminals that used to be called the elite, and their equally complicit enablers, the political class. Which reminds me of another important book, The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future – and What It Will Take to Win It Back as well as the more recent Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History.

The author missed an extremely important work, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, also available free online as a PDF, so I will list the ten high level threats to humanity identified and prioritized there, because it helps put his own stelar reflections in perspective:

01 Poverty
02 Infectious Disease
03 Environmental Degradation
04 Inter-State Conflict
05 Civil War
06 Genocide
07 Other Atrocities (I now include Goldman Sachs and other banks in this category)
08 Proliferation
09 Terrorism
10 Transnational Crime

Where the book really shines, and the thrust that keeps this book in my top 10% (above 5 stars), is the author's focus on how the global economy has gotten out of synch with the natural order. While others have written important books about ecological economics, natural capitalism, the future of life (all book titles to search for, I have reviewed them), this book really makes the direct connection between a corruption of capitalism and democracy, and the realities of life on Earth. Parsing Trotsky on war, I like to say “You may not be interested in reality, but reality is assuredly interested in you.”

Early on the author focuses on our failure to ask the right questions.

His core argument is extremely intelligence and deep with integrity. Summarized:

01 Global crises are integral to the ideology, structure, and logic ofthe global political economy

02 Therefore, policy reforms just will not do it — deep changes to the *system* are required.

03 All of the different crises are inter-locked, we fail deeply when we try to treat them in isolation.

Oddly enough, I had been intrigued by an earlier reference to the need to revisit Karl Marx (in What Comes After Money?: Essays from Reality Sandwich on Transforming Currency and Community, only to find here that the author has advanced our understanding of Marx by bringing to light the human consequences of imperial social systems.

The author mentions three books. I have not read them but want to share active links to all four as they strike me as very helpful.

Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet
Parecon: Life After Capitalism
Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order

He also mentions his own 2009 thesis, Violence of Empire, sadly it does not appear in the Amazon US database.

His bottom line is clear–capitalism in its present form is killing us–but I certainly consider his research, his arguments, compelling. We have created climate change, energy scarcity, food scarcity and so on.

While there are a number of books on the poisoning of life by industrial approaches to agriculture, household appliances, and so on, the author does well in focusing on the ecological consequences of corrupt decisions across many industries. I give him very high marks for focusing — long before Occupy Wall Street — on the faulty economic system that underlys our current crisis.

I hugely admire his focus on the “systemitization of debt.”

The author correctly discounts terrorism as a fraudulent threat that is also directly linked to the West's over dependence on oil, he neglects to note that it is also related to the west's love affair with 42 of the 44 dictators (43 now) and the west's consistent screwing over of the publics of foreign nations in preference to class warfare and ideological warfare connections to “elites” that are nothing more than well-dressed criminals.

Most interesting to me, the author delves into the possibility that Al Qaeda is actually a proxy mercenary force for the West, used to secure strategic access to energy resources. While I have real doubts about that, I do recollect that the NATO/CIA sponsorship of the Red Brigades is now documented, they were a false flag operation intended to justify fascism in Italy–and it worked for a time.

He is naturally critical of militarization, which addresses symptoms rather than the underlying systemic causes of instability. On this latter point, see my 2011 Thinking About Revolution, in full text online for Google translate, at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

After meticulous chapters on each of the major sucking chest wounds the author posits as converging into the perfect storm, he ends the book with fifteen specific recommendations.

QUOTE (216): “At its core, capitalism is a specific relation of production based on the dispossession of labour, a politically constituted social relationship whose historical origins and and structured dynamic have been dissected by….”

I am reminded of Lionel Tiger's excellent The Manufacture Of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System, and of course the two classics, The Naked Capitalist; a Review and Commentary on Dr. Carroll Quigley's Book: Tragedy and Hope, a History of the World in Our Time and Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time.

Ethics matters.

My final thought as I put the book down: “wow.”

NOTE: Amazon's ten-link review can be avoided by reading my reviews at Phi Beta Iota where all cited books are linked to their Amazon page. Why Amazon does not understand the foolishness of this limitation is beyond me.

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