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The Heretic's Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money Paperback – 10 May 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press (10 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745333508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745333502
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 386,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

This book provides a unique inside-out look at our financial system, based on the author's unusual personal adventure. It is not only a user-friendly guide to the complex maze of modern finance but also a manual for utilising and subverting it for social purposes in innovative ways. Smart and street-smart. (Ha-Joon Chang, University of Cambridge, author of '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism')

This is an imaginative, even exuberant exploration of the daunting world of finance - it will unleash a generation of activists, and do a world of good. (Bill McKibben, author of 'Deep Economy')

Money is power, but so too is knowledge. Tinkering with regulation will not change the world, but empowered citizens just might. Brett Scott’s entertaining and informative book is brimming with good ideas on how we can engage and change global finance on our own terms. (Tony Greenham, Head of Finance and Business at the New Economics Foundation)

'Scott re-humanizes and diversifies the image of finance and arouses his reader’s curiosity. He has succeeded in writing a book about finance without being dull or alarmist, but fun and exciting. His irreverent and “colourful” writing style, and his “cool” references make this a “fresh” and dynamic book.' (Marie-Adélaïde Matheï, Research Analyst at UNRISD)

'This is a book for “activists” and “campaigners”' (Robert Deakin, rethezine.com)

About the Author

Brett Scott is a campaigner and former broker who has worked on climate change, food security and ethical banking campaigns. He is a Fellow at the Finance Innovation Lab and has written for the Guardian, Ecologist, openDemocracy and New Internationalist. He blogs at www.suitpossum.blogspot.com.


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4.4 out of 5 stars
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This is an important and interesting book that covers a lot of ground in a succint and clear way. It explains a lot about how the world of finance works and suggests some ways in which activists can take it on. If you know nothing about finance and financial markets you should definitely read it.

If you are looking for a rant about the inquities of global finance then look elsewhere. Scott has set out to do something different in this book. As well as an account of how finance works (rather than a critique of how it doesn't), it is also an exploration of the possibilities to act on the financial system - both through disruption and also through the creation of positive alternatives and exploitation of those spaces that do exist for creativity.

For me, I'd have preferred a little more of the critique, although I accept that this would have been hard in a short, focused book - and I acknowledge that there are plenty of other books that cover this ground. Scott is strong on the rationale for the whole edifice of derivatives, hedge funds and so on, and I'd have liked him to apply his strong facility for clear explanation to the irrationality - the short-termism, the way it necessarily drives projects which wreck the planet, the corruption...(I'd have preferred if he'd dropped the references to 'gonzo' engagement, which didn't really work for me).

A more serious issue is about the whole notion of 'engagement' with the world of finance. 'Engagement' has two separate, almost opposite meanings; you engage with the enemy by fighting against it, and you engage with something else as an alternative to fighting against it - 'constructive engagement', in the language of the diplomats.
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Format: Paperback
Brett is interested in building a community of 'financial heretics'. In this book he adopts a 'hacktivist' approach to the subject of finance. This consists of Exploring (with an emphasis on 'empathetic' exploration), Jamming (seeking out vulnerabilities and exposing them) and Building (reforming the elements of the system into something new). The book is structured around these three categories of action. I think this is a unique approach to finance and, combined with a broadly anthropological influence and Brett's easy-going journalistic style, it makes The Heretic's Guide a valuable and up-to-the-minute contribution to our understanding of Money.

Nevertheless, it can be tough going at times. Chapter Two for example called 'Getting Technical' requires some resolve from the reader. Not that Brett doesn't do a good job of explanation, but the subject matter itself - derivatives, swaps, risk, futures, etc - can be bewildering. I expect though, that the audience for this book will indeed have the resolve needed.

It's going to be on bookshelves alongside David Graeber's 'Debt' as a book not only to make sense of Money, but as something to respond to and be inspired by. And whilst at times, the writing can seem a little like a late night conversation of Occupy veterans trying to imagine Money's role in a brighter future, there can be no better advertisement for Brett's Do-It-Yourself ethos than the book itself. Although traditionally published, it was launched and came to my attention via Brett's Indieagogo funding campaign for a 'School of Financial Activism'.

I hope Brett is as successful at inspiring people to re-envisage and reform their relationship to finance as he was at producing this work.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The most powerful aspect of this book is that it lays out a really simple and effective framework for how to break down the Goliath of the financial system into manageable chunks, based on the `hacker ethos', and then show what an individual could do with that approach. Some sections are more challenging than others, but overall it's really approachable and creative (imaginative metaphors etc.), which is cool because I've often found it hard to imagine creativity in the context of finance. It's a combo between a dummy's guide and a practical sourcebook for ideas and an irreverent middle finger to the financial establishment (he was a broker for a while, so knows the system from within).

He covers the basics but not in a patronising way (I'd actually say the book doesn't try to `suck up' to the reader, and actually demands serious attention whilst reading), and definitely challenges how we think about certain things. A simple example that sticks out to me is how he re-brands money as "COGAS" for "claims on good and services", and uses examples drawn from pop culture e.g. like using cross-dresses and capoeira fighters as examples of the Hacker ethos. It also doesn't plod about trying to academically analyse the causes of the financial crisis, and just offers a kick-up-the-backside and a do-it-yourself approach. Awesome.
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Format: Paperback
This book works amazingly well in two ways:

1. As a way to make the financial system accessible. The book truly does support the authors ambition in this. The book offers up the information and insight we need to transform ourselves from passive, unconscious participants to active participants in our global financial system (with an opportunity to consciously shape and inform it). Its success seems to come from Brett Scotts decision to be informative not prescriptive; to encourage the creation of new thought not try and impose one alternative version. And he has responded to a deep need in society I think. Our public dialogue is so often starved of information - we talk in conclusions: "this is the way it is, agree with me or not; revert to the binary 'prove or disprove' mentality", whereas The Heretics Guide To Global Finance uses information to invite people to think and have a proper conversation. How refreshing!

2. The book also works as a hacker manifesto that uses our financial system as a case study - to awaken individuals to the hack-ability of culture and systems even when those systems appear, at the outset, to be utterly opaque, ingrained, and fixed. From page 6 onwards I was struck by the way the authors insights into how to explore, jam, and build, are completely universal. Any artist, activist, or entrepreneur who wants to affect change needs to harness the power of all three and the book works as an affirming kick in the right direction. It informs/reminds us that we are not powerless, that we are interconnected with an opportunity to inform the world we live in. After all, there is no `abstain' option. While we are here we have a say through all the interactions we have, and we have a choice - to unconsciously support existing paradigms, or explore new ones.
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