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on 5 May 2004
This book has been widely described as a "revolutionary manifesto", and that title is apt if initially disturbing. Monbiot advocates nothing less that a complete reworking of global trade and government, but incredibly he provides a coherent (if optimistic) method to achieve this.
However, perhaps the greatest utility of this book lies not in its primary aim of global revolution, but in providing clear and studied explanations of many of the more confused myths of both market fundamentalism and the amorphous "global justice" movement. It also does a creditable job of clearing the much maligned name of Maynard Keynes, as well as highlighting the fact that many solutions to today's global issues have already been proposed, decades ago.
This book will probably leave you, as it has left me, with a far more comprehensive understanding of globalisation issues, and confirmation of your suspicions that the world's corporations (and the governments that they have bought) really are the enemy. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
One key title mentioned in the book is Joseph Stiglitz' "Globalisation and its Discontents" - a book I've already highly recommended many times, and one that's well worth reading for an in-depth analysis of just how devastating the world's controlling financial agencies are to the whole world.
Further titles that spring to mind repeatedly in reading this book are Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy - (starting with "Red Mars") which feature a global revolution (albeit on this planet) and the battle to create a truly equitable world society.
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on 1 October 2006
George Monbiot has given me hope, there are alternatives to the problems facing the world - we just need to summon the will to implement them and to challenge those who say 'it was always ever thus.'

This book is worth reading (in my view) for the following quote alone.

''...almost everything I was brought up to believe is untrue. I don't blame my parents for this - they were brought up with the same self-justificatory myths of the British Middle Classes.

All nations, all classes, all tribes tell themselves stories that validate and centralize their existence. These stories are always false.''
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on 23 July 2003
For anyone who thought that "anti-globalisation" protestors were a bunch of nihilists and raving revolutionary "loony left" sort of people, this book should really set you straight. Indeed the term "anti-globalisation" seems to be used most often by politicians to portray activists as a bunch of insular luddites. By contrast, it is obvious that a lot of thought has very obviously gone into this book, and its conclusion about what needs to be done with the global structures is as appealing as it is sensible.
The idea is basically that globalisation is not necessarily a harmful process per se, but without proper democratic structures in place on a global scale, it is manipulated so as to favour powerful vested interests. This idea should really have confronted anyone who has thought seriously about the future of popular sovereignty in an increasingly inter-connected world. It is unthinkable that GATS, for example, effectively hands over control of business regulation to a secret body of WTO officials - but if the proposed alternative is to throw up barriers to trade in every country that feels like it, there is enormous scope for abuse and over-protectionism. For the poorest countries, blocking and distorting trade on the part of rich countries would be disastrous, as countries receiving ultra-cheap agricultural products from Europe and the US are currently learning. The process needs regulation on a global level.
This book has received rather a cool response so far, which I don't think it really deserves (though admittedly I'm dubious about Monbiot's theory that some form of metaphysical paradigm is developing) but on the whole the proposals seem eminently worth pursuing. I would imagine that many people are keen to write off George Monbiot as a quack; and, conversely, I imagine that for many in the global justice campaign, formulating policies and so on smacks of the party political machinery that many are suspicious of. But slogan-shouting and banner-waving are surely never enough - if alternatives to the current model of globalisation do not make sense, or are simply not developed, then it seems to me there is little point in protesting at all. To get beyond all that, this book is a good place to start.
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on 29 November 2004
George Monbiot's 'Age of Consent' is a powerful and visionary call to arms from a seasoned campaigner of the Global Resistance Movement. With devastating clarity of thought, the author sets out a detailed and ambitious blueprint for creating a fairer, more just world, while simultaneously exposing the muddled thinking of those who would lead us down the blind alleys of neo-liberalism, Marxism, anarchism, or 'consumer democracy'.

Ironically for a fully paid-up member of the so-called 'Anti-Globalization Movement, one of Monbiot's central arguments is that there is, paradoxically, a need for more rather than less globalization - in the sense of greater connectivity between people beyond national frontiers as opposed to the unrepresentative and undemocratic 'internationalism', which at present merely masquerades as globalization.

Though Monbiot has been, and will continue to be, criticized for his lack of realism, such shortsighted reactions only serve to underline how vital his horizon-expanding views are to defining the early 21st-century zeitgeist. This book's central aim is clearly to inspire its readers to act, a goal in which it will undoubtedly succeed.

To quote the author's opening broadside: "Everything has been globalized except our consent. Democracy alone has been confined to the nation state. It stands at the national border, suitcase in hand, without a passport." Indeed, releasing democracy from its current shackles must surely be the foremost challenge of our times - fortunately, this book may well provide the key!
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on 18 January 2006
George Monbiot was educated at Stowe School and later Oxford where he read Zoology. As a journalist he spent 7 years travelling around Brazil, East Africa and Indonesia. He is a plucky environmental, political activist leading to him being beaten up by police and security guards on several occasions being imprisoned and also shot at. A revolutionary thinker with a great deal of experience The Age Of Consent is a ‘manifesto’ picturing a world in which George Monbiot sees maximum prosperity.
In The Age of Consent he puts the current democratic world under scrutiny having also written about this on a more detailed level in his earlier book The Captive State and makes the fact that we can even call it democratic questionable, he suggests new systems to unselected world powers such as. WTO, World Bank with real democratic alternatives, and that power should be changed on a worldwide scale so that the worlds power was more equally distributed in terms of population rather than a countries trade or economic position.
He suggests that globalisation should continue but in a different, more fair way. He sees no need for us to be confined within our national border and asks why our sense of community and common interest should rarely go further than the national border. He asks why we do not forget our geographical differences and recognise that if we began to see our similarities and shared interests it would benefit us all. There are a few revolutionary changes he thinks should be done.
Power should be given to people with the creation of a world parliament whereby the world would be divided up in terms of its population and each part elected a representative. These would then meet and discuss world issues. There power would be immense for the sole fact that they would actually be representative of the worlds people and would therefore have huge lobbying weight influencing global institutional and national decisions, and opposing regimes. He estimated the cost to be almost 1 Billion Dollars, but suggested this could be raised from JM Keynes’s idea of an International Clearing Union (ICU) raised at Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. It was accepted by all members except the States, as Monbiot believes, it would have destroyed their dominant trading and economic position taking away the dollar as the international currency for trade.
The ICU would be a global bank replacing the IMF and World Bank whose purpose would be to equalise the power of international trade, reduce the growing disparity between rich and poor countries, prevent the third world ‘debt trap‘ and at the same time raise money for the world parliament. It would monitor worldwide trade where all trade would be done in its own currency, a bancor. Each nation would have an account with a fixed exchange rate and where exports would add bancors and imports would take them away providing an incentive for each country to end up at the end of a year with an account of zero bancors. If a country had bancors left over it would be confiscated to the ICU reserve fund encouraging the country to use up all the bancors by buying from other countries before the end of the year. Countries with an account deficit would have their currency depreciated, encouraging others to buy the next year.
Overall I think this is a well researched book with good ideas, but it does do something much more powerful than the ideas it proposes. It addresses that there are fundamental problems with the global order and gives us groundwork for change. For example why do we sit back and watch food surpluses grow (beef and butter mountains) in rich countries whilst millions starve in poor. It is naïve for us to think that how the world is run now is how it will be run in, even as soon as, a couple of decades. Without proper global democratic systems in place globalisation will further to benefit the rich over the poor.
The question as to why we should stop using democratic systems past the national scale is a very good one in terms of how to create fairer world regulatory systems, I think the one person, one vote World Parliament is a good start, and little more. The problem with representatives of the World Parliament is that they will always be very distant and I think the belief that democracy becomes less and less democratic the more people it represents is true. The system would be strongly weighted to countries of larger populations such as China and India having over 20 seats at the world parliament whereas the whole of Europe would have less than half of that. It seems this unfair weighting would misrepresent the many contrasting views of those smaller countries. A very interesting book I think the subjects will become of increasing relevance.
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on 10 July 2003
There have been many recent books on the problems of 'globalization', 'The Age of Consent' is a suggestion for how to tackle these problems. Monbiot suggests a complete replacement of the unelected controlling powers (Security Council, IMF, WTO etc.) with truly democratic alternatives. Whilst this might sound utopian 'pie-in-the-sky' thinking, well thought out and researched suggestions prevent this from being the case. Monbiot doesn't pretend that his solutions are perfect or will be easy to implement, or that the dominant powers will relinquish control easily, but his arguments are convincing and often include existing examples of how the techniques might work.
The arguments are too detailed to go into here but to give a brief example, he suggests replacing the IMF / World Bank with the Keynesian model of an International Clearance Union where both debtors and creditors have responsibility for the balance of trade. The book shows how this was the favoured solution of all participants in the 1944 Bretton Woods meeting except the US, which changed the minds of other attendees to support the IMF by threatening to withdraw war aid. It may seem implausible that these institutions can be replaced with one which alters the current balance of power but Monbiot provides a mechanism of how this can happen.
Far from being a dry, politically arcane book 'The Age of Consent' is written to be accessible to most with clearly explained ideas. As readers of Monbiot's previous work will expect it is also rigorously researched.
If you are unhappy with the current balance of trade and political control and wish to do more than attack McDonalds or buy Fair Trade coffee from your local supermarket then read this essential book and be inspired to act.
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on 17 November 2003
I've been an avid reader of Monbiot's books (such as Captive State), as well as his regular collumns in newspapers such as The Guardian, and consider him to be one of the foremost thinkers of our time. The Age of Consent is by far his best work, and its brilliance cannot be understated. This is a far reaching book that succinctly demonstrates that viable alternatives to our largely unsustainable society exist here and now, and it's about time we stood up to make a difference. His research is, as usual, spot on, and his solutions for a better world, both in terms of economics and democracy, are nothing short of revolutionary. This is a book every individual should read; these are ideas every person needs to build and act upon. Essential reading if you're truely interested in the welfare of all, and want to do something about it.
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on 24 July 2004
This is an excellent piece of work that manages to take our enlightenment ideal of democratic rule, where the powerful are held in check by the choices and consciences of the many, to it's logical conclusion i.e. a global form of democracy.
He makes the case that the current political order is failing to hold in check the "dictatorship of vested interests," (the global financial elites) and is fairly convincing in outlining how a one-person-one-vote global parliament is the most realistic ideal form we have aim at, in the hope of holding transnational elites to account.
This book is radical in a strange way in that it takes European traditions of Political thought seriously, and follows them through. It is enlightenment thought for the present world order.
The book, having made it's case for it's overall objective, then works backwards along a chain of feasibility, examining how such a structure might be financed. He makes the case for Keyne's system of balanced trade. Firstly as an economic implement for preventing the current global imbalances of trade, which damage the basic function of money , that is of facilitating ongoing exchange for the benefit of all.
He points out that this mechanism would also be able to finance a global parliament, which might in turn be able to have a regulatory effect on international trade.
But this is where the main weakness in his narrative emerges: The parliament needs a fairly radical regulatory change of trade regimes as its condition of possibility, and yet is required in order to produce precisely this regulation of international commerce.
Indeed the first condition that he sets out is that a fair trade organisation be set up to even up the disparity between rich and poor countries. But this to me is the nub of the problem, and if that were achieved it would be the greatest advance.
Whilst he points out that poor countries can collectively use their debt as a weapon against the dominant banking system, and reminds us of our own personal responsabilities as active consciences, he fails to go into the issues of collective mobilisation that underpin democracy as a real world institution.
Issues of mobilisation and participation cannot be dealt with mainly at a global, national and individual level, as it is precisely between these levels that such political processes take shape. The obvious place to start is with local radical democratic processes, and to examine their potential relations to broader structures and goals. Some of these must be, to my mind, connected to the objectives so excellently laid out here.
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on 13 July 2003
George Monbiot has written a daring and provocative book. _The Age of Consent_ is well-argued (I did spot a few minor errors, but these do not affect the book's thesis) and engagingly written. Monbiot does not beat around the bush. For example, he writes, "If we wish to be represented, then let us be represented, and let us no longer accept the evasions, half-measures, impediments, intermediaries and arbiters whose installation masquerades as global democratization. The only genuinely representative global forum is a directly elected one, by which, of course, I mean a world parliament... If a government announced that it intended to abolish parliament or congress and replace it with a union of the country's thousands of local councillors (many of whom know nothing of national politics), which would seek to legislate either as a vast and sprawling body or by means of even more obscure subcommittees, that government should expect to be overthrown. If it were to suggest that the task of representation should be handed instead to a forum of voluntary organizations, either self-selected or chosen by some all-powerful ombudsman it would never recover from the ensuing ridicule."
If you only read one political book this year, this should be it.
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This is a very optimistic book laying forth (as the author puts it) a manifesto for a new world order, and very plausible and inspiring it is as well. It informs you what things are wrong, unjust and a hindrance with globalisation and what stops it from working to the benefit of all, and then goes on to suggest ways to correct these faults and to realign international bodies and organizations so that justice and equality can be achieved. The ideas seem very well thought out and the book overall is very clear and well written. I've come away from similar books feeling very depressed with the state of the world, but with this I feel that change can really be achieved and that everyone will be a beneficiary. A very empowering feeling. If you liked this I highly recommend 'One No, Many Yeses' by Paul Kingsnorth, a brilliant look at small community movements.

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