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Why Things Are Going to Get Worse and Why We Should Be Glad
Why Things Are Going to Get Worse and Why We Should Be Glad
by Michael Roscoe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth a read, 10 May 2015
1. This book is a first rate attempt to make sense of where we are coming from, where we might be headed as a society, and, also what could be done about it. The three parts of the book address this respectively, and do so at a level easily comprehended logic that is amazing given the complexity of the subject. The "Look inside" function facilitates in understanding the content of the three parts.

2. Economic theory abstracts from the reality of the society in which we exist simplifying, and overly so, all existence in a profit/loss calculus. The author unravels that explaining how the present situation of increasing inequalities, increasingly unemployment, recurring crises, and destruction of nature and environment has been building up over decades. Whilst the economists (mainstream ones) and policy makers have paid great attention to profitability, the other aspects have been ignored to the point that society as we know it is seriously threatened.

3. In a sense the first two parts of the book are a convincing explanation, achieved through presentation of appropriate graphs and charts, of the point made by Karl Polanyi (The Great Transformation, Chapter 6, The self-regulating market and fictitious commodities: land, labour and money). Polanyi had argued that the laws of supply and demand and the resulting price mechanism does not apply and should not be applied to land (nature and environment), labour (human beings), and money (a medium of exchange and store of value). To treat these three like say manufactured commodities in a self-regulating market would risk destroying the society. Hence the three were termed fictitious commodities by Polanyi and regulation was seen as absolutely necessary in case of all three.

4. What Michael Roscoe sets out in part three is an answer, his answer, to this regulation issue raised by Polanyi. These proposals which suggest how all may be gainfully employed to maximise the interests of the whole society are eminently sensible, but there may be other possibilities. The book does not seem to rule this out but does not explore alternatives either. Part 3 of the book was perhaps the more difficult one to craft, and, for that reason, is in my view also the lacking in punch and sharpness that characterise the earlier two parts of the book.

5. The problem of course is that an agenda such as the one proposed by Michael Roscoe does not appeal to the large corporation or to the political class, and therefore is not easy to propagate given the manner in which our democracies are structured and organised, and in the manner that the society has become accustomed to a focus on personal gain and immediate gain. It does not appeal because the political class is uncomfortably close to big finance and the bog corporation and is also often at the more desirable end of the growing inequality situation. Mainstream media too reflects the power of money and has little interest in an agenda such as the one proposed.

6. To conclude, this is a serious and important book in my view that has captured the complexity of our predicament in a pleasantly comprehensible manner.


The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West (Praeger Security International)
The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West (Praeger Security International)
by Alexandros Petersen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a normative policy prescription, 25 Dec. 2013
1. The editorial reviews and the preceding readers' reviews give a good flavour of this book's scope, and I shll try and not repeat that discussion. The book essentially develops an argument about the importance of inclusion of Central Asia in the "West", and the importance of the land between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea in any effort to achieve this goal. In support of the importance of Central Asia, the author also refers to natural resources as well as the advantage of land trade routes over sea borne trade.

2. As examples of previous successful efforts to incorporate "non-western" spaces into the "west", the author refers to postwar Germany and Japan. I would call into question the concept of the "West" at this point. To me it seems that Germany was notonly always a part of the "Christendom" but Mitteleuropa itself, the precursors of the "west". And as for Japan, it made a conscious decision at the time of the Meiji Restoration, followed by a sustained effort to emulate the European institutions and also some specific cultural practices (the dress, in particular), and went about building its own empire in the "best" European imperial manner to "civilize the natives".

3. It is the author's policy prescriptions, where I have particular difficulty. For example, that country A, B or C be incorporated in EU, to fend off what the author sees as the incorporation of Central Asia in the Chinese/Russian economic/political space. Perhaps such advice made some sense in the pre-2008 financial crisis era and EU seemed a very attractive proposition. Right now, even the balance of public opinion is Turkey does not seem to favour joining the EU! Indeed, as of now we see individual European countries vying and scrambling for strong economic relations with China, quite contrary to what their EU and NATO membership might lead one to expect. This is not a postwar moment with Europe and Japan in ruins presenting a tabula rasa to an ascendant America to write the script. China is in ascendance, and America and Europe enfeebled by sundry wars in the much "coveted" Middle East, and a financial and economic crisis of gigantic proportions; all of west's own making.

4. The book is an informative and serious read but the conclusions seem to have just gone astray.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2014 5:03 AM GMT


Strange Weather in Tokyo
Strange Weather in Tokyo
by Hiromi Kawakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a chronicle of loneliness, 10 Nov. 2013
1. The book is definitely a first rate read, and the customer reviews give a good account of the plot and the narrative- therefore I shall not repeat that bit.

2. There is "romance" in this novel, as has been noted, but to my mind the defining characteristic of the book is the loneliness of life in Tokyo. For example over the many seasons, the equivalent of X'mas, Thanksgiving, Eid, Diwali, etc simply does not occur. Apart from the young lady and her teacher (Sensei), the other major character in the book is the bartender. A brief entry is made by a young male from the lady's school days, and in sensitivity and manners this poor lad is simply no match for the Sensei.

3. You could almost say that stark loneliness moves the two into romance and a relationship: 'it grows because you tend it', the book notes. I should add that I have never been to Japan, do not know the language, and the Japanese friends I have, have resided outside Japan for extended periods. I am therefore unable to say whether this novel presents an odd eccentric situation, or whether this is indeed representative of Japanese "culture" (from the book this "culture would be mainly a lot of drink in the bar, combined with extremes of reticence, and courtesy and consideration towards others).

4, I enjoyed reading the book very much, and I am happy to have discovered this author


2014: How to Survive the Next World Crisis
2014: How to Survive the Next World Crisis
by Nicholas Boyle
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars an ambitious and welcome approach to tackling the current malaise, 1 Oct. 2013
1. Professor Boyle's book ranges widely in scope, identifying the current global predicament of a world caught in a financial and economic crisis, drawing on history for precedents and guidance, and looking to philosophy for a satisfactory way out over the longer term.

2. The book argues that the present moment may be akin to once in a century crisis situations, of which 1815 and 1914 are the most recent. In the first case, that of 1815, we had the Concert of Europe and the outcome was a century of peace with Britain as the world's leading power. In the second case, that of 1914, we had a war that continued in hot and cold modes for almost 80 years, under the overarching presence and authority of the United States. This long period of war has been followed by a global financial and economic crisis that is unprecedented in its scale.

3. The book then argues that the increasing global linkages call for greater authority to be vested in global institutions, and it is in a global mode that solutions must be sought. The time for the nation state is past, and to seek a solution in purely national terms would imply protectionism and acrimony; and if history be our guide, war.

4. The one particular policy that the book discusses is to levy a Tobin tax on speculative financial transactions (which ought to reduce the possibility of future financial crises), and use the proceeds to create a more equitable and harmonious world through ambitious goals relating to reducing poverty.

5. The book draws on philosophers to explore the nature of the state, the coming of the nation state, and the concept of personal identity. The philosophical underpinnings of the United States as an exceptional nation created by the Almighty to do good work on His earth are shown to be open to at least some doubt. I found the discussion of the frequently used device of "the American people" by the American politicians most interesting

6. Europe, the book posits, already accepts supranational institutions in the EU. The biggest hurdle therefore to the author's proposal (in his view) is whether the United States can be brought around to this perspective, and forego its self-declared exceptionality (and I would say that one cannot see any American politician suggesting that if s/he wishes to get elected). The alternative though is continuing instability and perhaps eventual war as nation states work to achieve their best interests to the exclusion of other nation states.

7. Now there are shortcomings in the book, but I have rated it as a 5 star work because not much more was possible within the bounds of the what would be about 100 pages of a regular book (this one is a volume with small pages). The shortcomings though are not of a critical nature (eg, whether it is IMF that is best placed to do the Tobin tax, how should the governance of an international institution be structured, etc, at one level; and how would China respond to these ideas at another level) and do not violate the basic concepts and argument put forth.

8. The critical aspect for me is the broad ideas that the book brings together in one coherent whole; the shortcomings may then be seen as the further work that is required by the concepts set out in the book.


Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present: A History of the Continent Since 1500
Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present: A History of the Continent Since 1500
by Brendan Simms
Edition: Hardcover

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a useful compendium, 29 April 2013
1. The book's ambition is Alexandrian in scope and to a limited degree Mr Simms does manage to pull it off.

2. The basic hypothesis, that the geographical space that is synonymous with Germany is the pivot of history is well argued for the most part but does begin to look less convincing when Mr Simms gets down to a discussion of current developments- the chapter on democracies and perhaps the chapter on partitions as well. There is no questioning the importance of Germany in 20th century history, and a concern about its role in 21st century, but there have been ideological struggles not all of which can realistically be seen as owed to Germany, and we have yet to grasp the significance of the geography that is Asia-Pacific- for Europe and for the larger world. Because Amazon insists on this crazy ranking by stars, owed perhaps its American origins, I would give the book three stars in this department.

3. As a very readable and comprensible account of the "going-ons" in Europe since 1453 in some six hundred pages, the book would rank high. There are minor errors of fact, and in some instances also rather nuanced interpretations and opinions; tending to enhance the book's "right of the centre" slant I would say. These shortcomings have to be excused if the constraints of time taken to do the work, the length of the period covered, and the number of pages to which the narrative needs to be restricted, are taken into consideration. In this area the book approaches the five star category.

4. In asking questions rather than offering a prognosis as the conclusions, Mr Simms, I would say, has "short-changed" the reader. This is at best three star stuff; a reasonably intelligent reader would already be aware of these "questions".
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 29, 2014 3:32 AM GMT


After The Banquet (Vintage Classics)
After The Banquet (Vintage Classics)
by Yukio Mishima
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing author, 12 Mar. 2013
The author, Mishima, lived to an age of 45. I find it most remarkable that the author was only 35 years of age when he published this book. It is not usual for a person that young to capture the range of emotions differentiated by age as he manages to do, and do exceedingly well.


Peacemaking, 1919
Peacemaking, 1919
by Harold G. Nicolson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Offers what history books might lack, 23 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Peacemaking, 1919 (Paperback)
Nicolson writes very well, with a feel for his subject. He manages to capture the mood of the moment. The book is more in nature of immediate observations as the process developed (or unravelled, depending on one's perspective), unburdened by afterthoughts that come from hindsight. In this respect the book offers an insight into the peace deliberations and the main personalities that history books are likely to lack.


The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)
The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)
by Christopher Layne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good realistic approach to America's conduct in the world, 23 Dec. 2009
Layne offers a perspective on a realistic approach on America's part to its conduct in the world at large. He advocates an ideology free stance that takes into account America's resources that may be available to pursue its goals. Layne makes a convincing case that stands in sharp and refreshing contrast to the ideology-burdened and self-righteous "Wilsonian" stance, or its neocon variants.


The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
by Rupert Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This one is, 13 Nov. 2006
Rupert Smith brings together his long and relevant experience of command in some of the more prickly theatres of conflict in our time in lucid writing to put through the message that the nature of "war" has changed irrevocably. And the armed forces too have to be reformed and thus prepared for the new conflicts

This book is one of its kind. Prospective buyers may like to get the book's flavour from the mp3 audio of Rupert Smith's recent lecture (of the same title) at the RSA, and the questions and answers that followed (website~ [...]
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2011 4:01 PM GMT


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