Joining the dots

Whose Crisis, Whose Future? Towards A Greener, Fairer, Richer World, by Susan George (Polity Press), reviewed by Sylvie Wynn
March 2011

In this book Susan George gives us a whistle-stop tour of the continuing financial crisis and the global problems concerning food, water, poverty, conflict and climate. She explains how they are linked and offers suggestions for what we should do about them.

George’s passion and knowledge of her staggeringly broad subject matter can’t help but come through. She constantly backs up her position with evidence but doesn’t stray too far from the bigger picture. There’s even the occasional well-placed chunk of humour in her analogies.

Having a primary interest in climate change, I am guilty of the un-joined up thinking that the author suggests we avoid. I certainly didn’t expect to be so transfixed by the chapter on economics. I now know my CDOs (collateral debt obligations) from my CDSs (credit default swaps), while George’s analysis of the inequitable bank bailouts shows starkly how ‘profits are privatised [while] losses are socialised’.

George’s linking of multiple issues is the most useful feature of this book; she is less clear on possible solutions. She points out the successes of the past and explains why she feels that we can and must fight today’s problems. You can blame droughts, China or lack of technology for all these global problems, she says. You can wait for a revolution to bring along a perfect world. Or, she argues, we can work together to bring down the ‘walls’ of the ‘prison’ that the rise of neoliberalism has imposed.

The book doesn’t reveal how to make the ‘walls’ tumble, however; the reader must make do with a few useful demands to start their erosion – like the Tobin tax on financial transactions.

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