A must read for anybody that has not benefited from an education in both economics and philosophy Heath's book is a page turner. Initially called FiltA must read for anybody that has not benefited from an education in both economics and philosophy Heath's book is a page turner. Initially called Filthy Lucre: Economics for People who Hate Capitalism it is sort of an ex-Marxist's (but still centre-leftist's) appeal for people on the fringe to take a good look at both capitalism and economics in a new light but it works just as well at debunking the fallacies of the conservative/libertarian right, trying to bring confused Atlas Shrugged worshippers into the centrist fray. While the book wears its centre-leftism on its sleeve it is an extremely dispassionate and well argued plea in favour of capitalism. Indeed the amount of 'wrong' on both extremes is neatly balanced in the two halves, one debunking the fallacies of the right, the other the fallacies of the left. The arguments come easily to Heath, a self-effacing philosophy professor and he explains difficult economic concepts like corporate failings, fractional-reserve banking, outsourcing or the dreaded sub-prime loans with neat anecdotes and facile examples.
Not necessarily for people who hate capitalism, Heath's book is a must read for everybody who misunderstands either capitalism or the role of the state in the economy. Pick it up....more
Although it tackles an interesting and touchy subject and manages to keep itself fairly balanced while discussing some problematic concepts Fatal miscAlthough it tackles an interesting and touchy subject and manages to keep itself fairly balanced while discussing some problematic concepts Fatal misconception has a Fatal flaw. It is unbearingly dull. Its first half especially is an unbearable slog through the eugenics movement in the first half of the century and while it makes good points about the eugenic-driven desire to control other (non/off-white) people's sexuality i cannot recommend a book that is just so dull. Compare and contrast with an actual non-fiction engaging historical read like King Leopold's Ghost or Imperial Reckoning....more
On a second read, King Leopold's Ghost loses none of its power. Hochschild knows how to write a fascinating, frightening retelling of one of the greatOn a second read, King Leopold's Ghost loses none of its power. Hochschild knows how to write a fascinating, frightening retelling of one of the great atrocities of the past two centuries. In doing so he focuses on the oft hidden historical events and the men at their centre. These men, mostly white, as very little archival attention was paid to the actual victims of the Congo atrocities are painted in vivid portraits, heroes, villains, willing and unwilling collaborators and at the centre of it all the man himself, the profit obsessed, power hungry king of the Belgians who *just* wanted a colony to call his own, no-matter how many bodies he had to step over.
Journalistic in style, gripping and extremely well-written King Leopold's Ghost is a must read....more
Jared Diamond has been accused of many things - Anthropologists and critical theorists have sharpened their pitchforks and accused him of eurocentrismJared Diamond has been accused of many things - Anthropologists and critical theorists have sharpened their pitchforks and accused him of eurocentrism, archeologists have accused him of mis-using findings, geneticists have shaken their heads in disbelief at some of his interpretations of genetic ties between people, even linguists have sometimes had a bone to pick with him.Diamond is none of the above - he's a ecologists and a biologists and most of his work, intended as a grand theory of history from a sort of evolutionary science perspective is built on speculation about plant and animal life. And while there may be some truth to some of his claims the book remains just that. Speculation. Because the more you stare at it and contextualise Diamond's endlessly repeating lists of arguments you come to see where he stretches and grasps at straws. The last chapter in particular, usually the reiteration of arguments, the most persuasive part of a scientific work brings down his book. His theory of continental axes makes very little sense, his 'exceptionalism' of european disunity seems hilariously contrived and it is in his questioning of whether there is still a use for his approach to historical analysis today, post-globalism that you kind of realise that there really isn't a use even before. Sure he may have a point about grain weights and civilisation, he may have a point about large mammals that are easy to domesticate (although I believe there are some cracks in that theory as well), he may even have a strong point to make about interconnectedness and the rise of epidemics as a function of 'dominant' societies, but putting everything together and forcing them to fit in order to create a great theory of history is a way too ambitious and ultimately fruitless endeavour.
Good arguments, don't really hold that much water if you stick with 'em past the initial popsci squee....more
Mead's monstrous tome on yesterday and today's maritime powers is everything a historical book should be: insightful, well documented, balanced and moMead's monstrous tome on yesterday and today's maritime powers is everything a historical book should be: insightful, well documented, balanced and most of all entertaining. It is a powerful work that seeks to explore one of the greatest ascendancies of history, the rise of the Anglo-American maritime system hegemony and its foundations in Weberian theological asceticism and Smithian 'invisible hand' market society. While that might seem a bit dull it most assuredly is not. The book is written with bucketfuls of style and gusto, witty literary and pop culture references, humour and a passion for rhetoric and literary tricks. Highly recommended....more