What a magical, charming little book this is. A history of the world aimed at the young adult. It was first published decades ago by this renowned art...moreWhat a magical, charming little book this is. A history of the world aimed at the young adult. It was first published decades ago by this renowned art historian and it speaks volumes of the man himself and his attitude to history. Drab and dull as history can sometimes appear, it comes to life when Gombrich speaks, and this is written as one would speak to a child, yet it is never patronising. It gives the reader credit enough to understand the events as they happened and this book merely provides a window from which to view them. It’s concise and beautifully constructed. An absolute joy to read. (less)
Tariq Ali has written a series of books on the state of Pakistan in the past and this is his latest offering sub-titled “on the flightpath of American...moreTariq Ali has written a series of books on the state of Pakistan in the past and this is his latest offering sub-titled “on the flightpath of American power”. As always it pulls no punches and provides a good account of the politics in Pakistan up to and including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in 2008. The intrigue, backstabbing, assassinations and plotting within the various Pakistan governments down the years have always been played out on a canvas of American design. Where Pakistani dictators have trodden, the CIA and American military has never been far behind.
This current book gives us the background to the new front in the war on terror, Waziristan separated from Afghanistan by the spurious Durand Line. It is here that the US is focusing on a new battleground while killing and maiming innocent civilians. This is not just a tale of American imperialist dominance though, it gives us the reasons why this front has been opened in the war on terror. From Islamist parties being used by the army in a similar way to Lenin’s useful idiots in the areas in question to an ever increasingly bastardised government in the hands of ever more pliant civilian leaders and brutal, authoritarian military heads of state. Of the 60 years Pakistan has been a state, 34 of those years have seen a military dictator as head of state, and in the years that they weren’t? These were the years of personal fiefdoms of the ruling elites in Pakistan such as the Bhutto family and the Sharif brothers.
While the bureaucracy has been swung back and forth like a pendulum the people have continued to suffer with appalling health care, lack of basic education and infrastructure and a central budget that gives more credence to nuclear weapons than it does to feeding its own people. Ali despairs over the state of his homeland and the blame goes far and wide, but his solution would work and it is simple: land reforms, corruption legislation, social-infrastructure investment, the rule of law, the US to mind it’s business, empowering women and freeing minds. Though many before have paid with their lives for trying to bring progress and an economically and politically destitute nation, Tariq Ali believe it’s worth another shot and he’s probably right but will anyone listen?(less)
Published in 1990. The famous Marxist historian takes up the phenomenon of nationalism. He dates the central theme from 1780 since the concept of nati...morePublished in 1990. The famous Marxist historian takes up the phenomenon of nationalism. He dates the central theme from 1780 since the concept of nationalism itself is a fairly recent adaptation of old tribal allegiances. In the middle ages and early modern period it was possible for serfs to feel an attachment to their laird or a king but the concept of a nation is relatively new.
Patrie has been manipulated throughout the ages and frequently by governments we would not call nationalist in themselves, but it has helped ruling classes to stoke ethnic tensions and keep the workers in their place. The first part of this book deals with what constitutes a nation and the various ethno-linguistic currents of nationalist movements and how they closely relate to nothing more than myth. The second part contests that nationalism has been a potent force particularly in the twentieth century but is waning. Here the author gives himself over to hope as much as reason seeing technological advances and state reductions coupled with unstoppable waves of migration as the precursor to the inevitable collapse of the nationalist ideology of historic imagined communities. Imagined insofar as they are a curious mixture political construction and false sovereignty. Common language or religion mixed with an ethnic cohesion or historical experience present only an opportunity to create these social artefacts we call nations. From here is produced the imagined community. It was necessary to make Italy before Italians could be made.
Hobsbawm sees nationalism as chauvinism and an opportunity for the reactionary elements in society to seize power. It is this assumption of perversity that runs through the book and gives it its fierce critical element. Nationalism has done little good for the people of the world, and will one day hopefully have its opportunities for damage reduced. Given that the book was written in the aftermath of Soviet collapse there is an element of wishful thinking in the hypothesis. It could be argued that nationalism has grown since 1990, especially in the Balkans where new states had to be created to halt genocide and the general slip of the United States to nationalistic fascism. Hobsbawm does say that the collapse of nationalism will take a long time, and I hope eventually that he is right. For now, although this is a detailed and interesting history of an ideology in which the conclusion is at best a work in progress. (less)
There is a political party in Haiti called Fanmi Lavalas, roughly translated in to English as Waterfall Family, this is the Flood of the title of this...moreThere is a political party in Haiti called Fanmi Lavalas, roughly translated in to English as Waterfall Family, this is the Flood of the title of this book, the flood is the people. The damming is the attempt by the international community to stop the people having their day. I consider myself sceptical of developed nations interventions in third and developing world countries, and yet as I read this book by Peter Hallward even I was shocked at the lengths the US and France Mainly, but others as well, will go to in their desire to keep ordinary people down. George Bush’s government has been rightly vilified over the Iraq debacle, but little has been said about his forays in to Haiti (and he is by no means the first US president to do so).
Jean Bertrand Aristide has been twice elected, overwhelmingly by the people of Haiti, and he fights for them. Like Chavez, but less radical, or Castro but less comic (latterly), he is another nightmare for American imperialism. After trying the age old tactics of threatening people, shooting Aristide loyalists, bribing people, funding opposition groups and using NGOs as well as the mass media to smear Aristide they finally realised that nothing could shake the public faith in this quiet, humble priest of Port au Prince. On finally understanding this they decided to kidnap him in 2004. Once deposed already to international disgust in the early 90s, this was different. The international smear campaign was supported almost completely with even left-leaning organs of the press claiming Aristide was a human rights abuser, a communist or simply a murderer, none of which is true. Proven. The people whom the US and France came to support in all elections were themselves murderers, fraudsters and elitists whose entire politics was shaped to keep the income distribution as wide as possible in Haiti, following in the footsteps of the Duvalier family who lead Haiti with an iron fist right up to the 80s for over 30 years.
Upon the election of Aristide, political violence came to an immediate stop until the US backed overthrow in 1991. In 1994 when he returned after international outcry, violence stopped again although he was hamstrung by policies imposed on his government that stunted his ideas for true democracy. This book is deserving of the word “shocking” in every area. I don’t think I have read a book that has made me so angry. In this new edition there is an equally sickening afterword on the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Haiti which the elite classes with American help have used as an excuse to disenfranchise the Haitian people again. The US military intervention in this time is truly horrifying and utterly, utterly racist. Hallward has written a superb balancing to international narrative on Haiti, and now it seems that there is a possibility for Aristide to return, his party Fanmi Lavalas has been banned from taking part in elections, ostensibly because they would win, outright so it remains to be seen what he can do. However, like Nelson Mandela or Kwame Nkrumah, Aristide is the symbol of an entire nation’s struggle, and having him back in Port au Price will is vital for the progress of the people of Haiti in their struggle against darkness, the darkest darkness of “international diplomacy”.(less)
Ha Joon Chang is fast becoming a poster boy for the moderate left. His down to earth approach towards solving the worlds problems, within the systems...moreHa Joon Chang is fast becoming a poster boy for the moderate left. His down to earth approach towards solving the worlds problems, within the systems we have in place is quite refreshing and in many ways much more realistic than the radical philosophers that espouse worthy but ultimately futile ideas of violence revolution.. His last book, Bad Samaritans told of the global domination of the west at the expense of developing nations and 23 Things largely follows on from this critique. The book is broken down in to easily digestible chunks, ideal for the reader who wants to break in to the world of economics and globalisation. Chang cuts through the jargon of the system well using simple metaphors and examples to aid the reader. An economist himself, the author is bitter about economists and their influence on global politics over the last thirty years, claiming "Economics, as it has been practised in the last three decades, has been positively harmful for most people." Anyone who still believes that global free trade is beneficial to everyone should read Chang (this book or the previous one) and take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. Present developed nations only became the way they did due to intense protectionism, colonialism and state funded monopolising of industry. Only when economies had grown to a particular level did nations feel confident enough to open up their markets, and not fully even then. Through the IMF and World Bank third world nations have been ordered to free up their economies and open the doors to international competition and cannibalism. In no country has this method worked, including the so called “Asian Tigers” including South Korea where Chang calls home. He expertly shows us that in almost all cases economic growth was higher during pre-neoliberal times (ie pre-Regan/Thatcher) across the world. These 23 Things develop around this central point. Chang explains all this through the prism of capitalism; he himself is no socialist and believes in globalisation, but a form of globalisation that can and should operate for the benefit of all. There’s nothing wrong with being rich as long as no one is abjectly poor. The chapters take us on journeys from entrepreneurialism to free markets, wage labour and “consumer choice” to immigration and many other areas linked to globalisation and each chapter is myth-breaking of the highest order. Although fairly introductory at source there were some points that made me raise my eyebrows as in the section on entrepreneurialism being an increasingly collective process from schools right through to in-house company training, and some new ways of explaining old arguments and paradoxes such as the inherent fallacy of consumption. A book I would recommend to anyone who wishes to understand the world we live in, not as it is professionally understood but how it really operates, and how it can be changed.(less)