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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 5 November 2009
This is a slightly updated version of John Gray's book, originally published in 1998.
Given all that's gone on since he seems broadly vindicated.

The heart of Gray's thesis is that neo-liberalism has hardened into a faith which denies human and environmental realities. It's actually become a weird kind of Marxism. His other main point is that although capitalism is on the ascendency - it will take many different forms dependent on local factors (Chinese capitalism will always be dissimilar to American capitalism).

He pretty much takes apart the internal contradictions of Thatcherism/ Reaganism and the socially destructive effects of the free market (and that's its almost always imposed by state fiat), the fact that we're running hard up against global environmental constraints and the anti-social effects of letting a free market rip (1 in 200 US citizens in jail for example, largely because social cohesion has been destroyed with local labour markets).

His other major point is that the market is destabilising, and this has definitely been vindicated by recent events.

I found this book to be bracing, but ultimately a bit too pessimistic. Gray's good at laying into present mistakes but he's no better at predicting the future than anyone else. If you want a a quick guide his postscript is excellent, it condenses the whole book - very useful for students.
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on 28 January 2012
The vast majority of people I know or have spoken to about the financial crisis don't know what they're talking about. They're picking up snippets and sound-bites from the media, then passing them on as facts to others which subsequently causes complete confusion. I was one of those people too.

Economics is boring. Just the word itself makes people groan because it's all math and confusing jargon, however this book gives a glorious history of how the capitalism we use has descended into chaos and will ultimately fail. The confusion is the word "capitalism" itself, and Gray explains how there are different kinds of capitalism such as that based on debt (which we in the West use) and that based on savings which is still used by the Chinese and Japanese (how else can they buy our Government debt?).

I have learned so much from this book it quite literally changed my life and I know that's an awful cliché. It goes against everything I've been taught and expected from the financial paradigm I've grown up with but has given me an understanding how I might just be able to protect myself and my children from a future of perpetual debt. I can't change Governments or stop bankers getting bonuses, but I can educate those around me in simple terms to look forward, know what to expect and to prepare for the ultimate endgame which happens with all financial systems based on fiat currency; thanks to this book.

Be warned though... it's no easy read. It's long, thorough and at times you find yourself drifting, but stick with it, you'll walk away with a knowledge that only a few people have.
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on 2 November 2013
What an amazing book! It should be required reading for everyone, and especially politicians. It explains why we are in the state we are in and also why nothing is about to change. I have read other books by John Gray but this one far exceeded my expectations. Do yourself a favour and read it. You might actually discover what's really going on and what you can do about it to protect yourself.
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on 6 June 2013
Well written, to the point, dis-illusioning in the best sense of the word. Excellent summary of everything we need to know about the current financial upheaval in the world, though written more than 10 years ago.
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on 26 May 2011
What I particularly liked in this book is its description od the different economic models that currently exist. He describes in particular the US, Japan, Russia, China and Germany. His description mix historical, cultural and economic backgrounds and are very illuminating.
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on 7 July 2013
Reading False Dawn feels like being repeatedly bashed over the head. Certainly John Gray is a singularity, and he challenges left and right thinking with intellectual passion, if not necessarily convincing intellectual rigour in this case. He seems delighted to report that on its original publication False Dawn was attacked for its unorthodoxy by both left and right. Whilst I might be open to unconventional thinking, self-satisfied glee in an academic seems both rather childish and to undermine his integrity.

Clearly, John Gray has his own way of seeing things and is quite happy to present his opinions as the right way of seeing. However, some statements are so disagreeably extreme and some are so clearly unsubstantiated that, taken as a whole, this book is better with a pinch of salt. His subject (the inter-relatedness of global economics and politics) is constantly and rapidly shifting, so that his way of seeing is bound to seem and even be proved the 'most correct' at given moments in time. Although the 2008/9 credit meltdown has been serious enough to make high society worry, what will be the long-term outcome?

For John Gray, optimism about the future for the UK, indeed for the western world, is the delusion. John Gray essentially argues that 'the west' has in fact nose-dived since 1989/90. But this is not really radical thinking, considering Oswald Spengler and 1920s high society. False Dawn even starts with a quote from the Great Gatsby (recently very much in vogue). Apart from a gaping hole at the centre of his message, False Dawn narrates how similar, how different, and how comparatively more complex yet more predictable the crisis of 'the west' is today, by looking at Russia, China and others.

The gaping hole is that, if you extract the two concepts at the centre of False Dawn, you get: on the one hand the long-term 'globalisation' of trade, industry and technology, which Gray himself considers has been extant since at least the first Industrial Revolution (international trade, of course, goes way back). On the other hand, you get the short-term 'global free market project', which Gray himself considers has never really existed in practice but is being audaciously attempted by a political theory. (It is this political theory which John Gray despises. It is the neo-liberal/New Right theory of Reagan/Thatcher.) So far, so interesting, but what does it matter then, if 'globalisation' will continue inexorably and regardless of any feeble 'project' to control it for the benefit of any nation or region or race or political regime or religious belief?

If you are John Gray, you do not think society in 'the west' should do whatever it thinks is best for itself, either by revolutionising industry in the 18th/19th century or otherwise today. You don't mention the Irish Famine when highlighting social impacts of the early Victorian free market project. You casually lump together J S Mill and Karl Marx as Enlightenment thinkers. You throw in the fear of global climate-related catastrophe. And you repeat your message enough times to sound convincing. But his is just one way of seeing. And we can all agree that things could always be better.
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on 15 April 2015
This is a poor book, with many opinions being offered as fact. The language is biased ('slash-and-burn capitalism') and the conclusions are error-prone: for example, new technology is offered as the major reason for falling wages and rising unemployment in the west; but many jobs being off-shored are low-technology operations. He talks of 'The Great Game' being a battle for oil: it was, in fact, a battle over Afghanistan to control access to India: it had nothing to do with oil. There is a firm anti-western view propagated through the book, with little or no attempt to balance the view by indicating any positives from a laissez-faire approach to business. A forecast that the next crash (ie, the crash we have just been through) would see a replication of the 1930s protectionism has been proven wrong.

If there had been numbers, graphs or verifiable facts in the book, it might have made more sense. But it was, in fact, just an an anti-New Right tirade. I was hoping for something better.
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on 29 October 2015
Fascinating. A good writer makes complex ideas readable. JG does that.
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on 26 March 2016
Highly recommended.
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on 18 December 2015
Excellent
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