5.0 out of 5 starsDavid Bollier’s Review is Better, This Is My Attempt, April 21, 2014
I was very impressed by David Bollier’s review of this book at his web site (look for < “Stop, Thief!” – Peter Linebaugh’s New Collection of Essays > and am encouraging him to port that excellent review here to Amazon. Indeed, after working my way through the book myself, I consider myself unable to do proper justice to this deep work that integrates history, poetry, political economy, anthropology, and sociology among other disciplines. Hence I hope others will write substantive summary reviews and I again recommend Bollier’s review above.
Three thoughts keep recurring as I went through this book of original current essays and presentations:
01 Holy Cow. This guy is DEEP and BROAD in terms of arcane as well as popular sources, delving down into little known poems, essays, public statements, etcetera. This book is the one book version of the Durant’s Story of Civilization applied to one topic, the commons.
02 Holy Cow. This is what my top political science professor was trying to explain when I was in college in 1970-1974 – yes, a half century ago — and I was just not smart enough, patient enough, to appreciate it.
03 Holy Cow. This book is not just subversive, it does a magnificent job of head slapping every politician, economists, talking head, and other pretender who presumes to talk about public welfare without for one instant understanding that wages are a form of slavery and disconnection of humanity from everything else. Lionel Tiger makes related points in The Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution and the Industrial System but this book — if you focus and do not get lost in the poetry and minutia of exemplar citation — beats the commons versus capitalism drum along every possible note on the musical scale.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has published a new story about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant catastrophe that took place in 2011. Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster (The New Press) was written by David Lochbaum, head of the UCS’s Nuclear Safety Project; Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist in UCS’s Global Security Program; and journalist Susan Stranahan, who led the Philadelphia Inquirer’s coverage of the Three Mile Island Accident in Dauphin, Pennsylvania.
Moises Naim’s new book THE END OF POWER should properly be called “The Decay of Power”. His thesis is that while it is becoming easier to get power, it is also becoming harder to use it to control others and harder to keep it once you have it.
Naim suggests that globalization, economic growth, a growing global middle class, the spread of democracy, and rapidly expanding telecommunications technologies have changed our world. Together these developments have created a fluid and unpredictable environment which has unsettled the traditional dominions of power.
Three revolutions, he says, “make it more difficult to set up and defend the barriers to power that keep rivals at bay.” He details these revolutions as follows: * “the More revolution, which is characterized by increases in everything from the number of countries to population size, standards of living, literacy rates, and quantity of products on the market”; * “the Mobility revolution, which has set people, goods, money, ideas, and values moving at hitherto unimagined rates toward every corner of the planet”; and * “the Mentality revolution, which reflects the major changes in mindsets, expectations, and aspirations that have accompanied these shifts.”
In other words, says Naim, there is too much going on, too much moving around, too many changing demands and perspectives – and at any time someone new can show up and effectively challenge or undermine your power. In addition, “when people are more numerous and living fuller lives, they become more difficult to regiment and control.” Among other things, such people value transparency, human rights, and fairness to women and minorities – and they share a sense that “things do not need to be as they have always been – that there is always…a better way” and that they need not “take any distribution of power for granted.”
All this is happening at the very time when large hierarchical institutions are losing their “economies of scale” and becoming increasingly difficult to manage, while smaller, more flexible organizations and networks are proving increasingly successful.
Naim provides compelling evidence that power is decaying in all these ways in all fields – from business, governance, geopolitics, and military affairs to religion, philanthropy, labor, and journalism.
Imperial Contagions argues that there was no straightforward shift from older, enclavist models of colonial medicine to a newer emphasis on prevention and treatment of disease among indigenous populations as well as European residents. It shows that colonial medicine was not at all homogeneous “on the ground” but was riven with tensions and contradictions. Indigenous elites contested and appropriated Western medical knowledge and practices for their own purposes. Colonial policies contained contradictory and cross-cutting impulses. This book challenges assumptions that colonial regimes were uniformly able to regulate indigenous bodies and that colonial medicine served as a “tool of empire.”
Europeans in Asia developed powerful anxieties about contagion and made many plans to keep it at a safe distance. Commercial ventures depended on mobility of people and goods, yet for the personal safety of their members, the Europeans in Asia wished to stabilize and control the spaces they inhabited and the behaviors of those around them. By exploring the tensions and contradictions that arose from these efforts to stay safe, the authors — among the best authorities now writing — offer not only fascinating accounts of historical events but fresh views of the processes often termed colonial or imperial.
(Harold J. Cook, author of Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age ) This substantial collection greatly enriches our understanding of medicine, disease, and policy in colonial Asia. The contributors, from a range of disciplines, grapple fruitfully with questions surrounding medical space and the shift from enclavism to public health. In doing so, they make important theoretical and empirical contributions to medical and imperial history.
(David Arnold, author of Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India )
About the Author
Robert Peckham is codirector of the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine and an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong.
David M. Pomfret is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong.
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE THIRD OF THE ANSWER — Other Two Thirds Are Corruption, and Toxic Everything, March 8, 2013
This is an extraordinarily important book. Although other books have been written about the illnesses that are associated not just with electricity but also nuclear plants, coal-fueled plants, and so on, this one is unique in that it is the only one I have been able to find that is precisely at the intersection of electromagnetics and diseases.
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Milestone, Two Gaps, February 4, 2013
I was educated in the Limits to Growth period–back in the day of telephone couplers–and have also been an ardent follower of Herman Daly’s pioneering work in ecological economics as well as complementary work spanning the last several decades, notably by Paul Hawkins among others.
On the one hand this book is very important and not to be ignored, not least because the foreword is written by Herman Daly and there are pages of glowing endorsement from serious people. The book is superbly organized and below I do my summary, as much for my own future recall as for others. First however, two gaps:
01 This book shares one troubling assumption with Limits to Growth — they thought they could micro-manage from the top down and that governments would be the principal actors. The Club of Rome, in choosing to support the Meadows and Randers, explicitly rejected the more affordable and implementable alternative that focused on educating the public with respect to true costs and creating a culture of bottom up conservation instead of a bureaucracy of top-down regulation.
02 The book is perfection incarnate with respect to being the best summary I have seen yet of what are we doing now and what should we be doing, but it skips over the hard part: how to we establish a universal appreciation for whole systems thinking, respect for feedback loops, and acute public awareness of the true cost of every product, service, and behavior? The concept of a steady-state economy is a useful one, but only if one appreciates, as Charles Perrow is at pains to document, that we are our own worst enemies, creating catastrophe at every turn, because we know not what we do or what is done in our name, and allow the hoarding of profit and the externalization of costs to future generations.
Implicit in both of the above, and explicitly not addressed in the book, is the reality that all organizations — be they government or private sector and including non-profit — are corrupt to the bone. Their leaders are focused on what benefits the leaders, not the ctizens, tax-payers, stake-holders, etcetera. I certainly agree with Lawrence Lessig that “the” fatal threat to humanity is CORRUPTION, and I have set for myself the task of further PUBLIC INTELLIGENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.
I particularly reject the carbon tax, mercury and sulfer are much more dangerous, and the last thing we need is another derivatives scheme. Please note that my praise for the book is denoted by the five star ranking and my strong recommendation that it be bought, read, and shared. By virtue of my need to also focus on what is not in the book, my critical comments may seem inconsistent with the grade but they are not — they augment this excellent work rather than diminish it.
Now to the details.
+ New measures and meanings of progress + Limits on material and energy consumption, waste production, plus conservation of natural lands + A staple population and labor force + A more efficient capital stock + More durable, repairable products + Better pricing including a carbon tax [NO — just make TRUE COST pricing available at point of sale] + Shorter work week and more leisure time + Reduced inequality + Fewer status goods + More informative and less deceptive advertising [NO — END all advertising] + Better screening of technology [NO — UNLEASH all technologies now locked up for the wrong reasons] + More local and less global trade of goods and services [YES — resilience at the local level] + Education for life, not just for work [YES, free for life as well]
The authors then go on to discuss eleven things we have too much of, and how to reduce them:
01 Throughput [use only what will renew, create no waste that will not recycle] 02 People [educate the women, make population limitation a national cultural priority] 03 Inequality [set maximum pay differentials, employee owned companies] 04 Debt [end national debt, local currencies, restructure financial institutions] 05 Miscalculation [Human Well-Being as Measure] 06 Unemployment [Full employment policies] 07 Business as Usual [Limit size of corporations] 08 Materialism [Eliminate planned obsolescence, culture of humanity instead of things] 09 Silence [Strengthen academic multi-disciplinary steady-state voice] 10 Unilateralism [Stop being the bully — multinational consensus] 11 Waiting [sustainable scale, fair distribution, efficient allocation, high quality of life]
There are many excellent notes but no bibliography, and the index is a bit light.
The authors take a stab at a “whole system” conclusion, with the following each discussed in a paragraph:
01 Consumption 02 Population 03 Families 04 Community 05 Business 06 Cities 07 Agriculture 08 Nature 09 Energy 10 Money
This is where I identify a third gap in the book. The concept of “free energy” is not in this book, and it should be. Apart from exposing and eradicating corruption in all its forms — in the USA it is corruption, nothing more, that causes the US Government to borrow one trillion dollars a year and waste 50% of three trillion dollars a year each year — we should be doing a global Manhattan Project to create free energy, which in turn creates unlimited clean water. Throw in national call centers, an Autonomous Internet with Freedom Towers everywhere and free cell phones for life for the five billion poor, and you create a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all.
Governments have failed and are not the answer. There are eight “tribes” of knowledge: academic, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit. We are at the very beginning of an era of hybrid governance that must be enabled by open-source decision-support. That is the center of gravity for creating a prosperous world at peace, a world that works for all, and that is not something the ecological economists have grasped just yet.