Most helpful critical review
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 21 December 2012
I've got a lot of time for John Bird. His overall philosophy is great, the Big Issue is an important project and quite a good magazine, and I generally like his guest op-ed spot.
But this book is a real disappointment. I bought it on the strength of a short piece in the magazine, and all the good bits were actually in that 200 words or so.
This has barely two ideas to rub together. The poor need help that doesn't make them dependent. The idea of self-help is a good one, but the Tories have conscripted it for their purposes. Some people make a living and a career out of helping the poor, even though they are not poor themselves and don't really understand them (or care about them, it is implied but not said). The poor are useful to the rich because they buy stuff, from which others make a profit. Poor people should use their purchasing power more carefully and not buy stuff from rich people.
That's it. I defy anyone to find anything more profound in here. There is no discussion of 'the poor' as a category, no indication that the author is aware that anyone else has ever thought about this (despite his twenty years in Marxist organisations, the term 'reserve army of labour' does not appear). It's important to make things simple so that lots of people can understand them, but you can also dumb down so far that all the content is gone. That's what has happened here.
There aren't even any useful or interesting examples of self-help projects, apart from the Big Issue and similar magazines. Some anecdotes about alternative forms of collective purchasing would have given the book at least some value.
Don't waste your money on this.