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Book Reviews: "Crude World", "Mutual Aid: An Introduction and Evaluation"

Troubled Waters

Crude World. By Peter Maass. Penguin. £10.99.

The delta of the River Niger is an enormous wetland, once a flourishing ecosystem with a wide range of life forms. But now it is not a wildlife sanctuary: rather it is a horrendous landscape of ruined villages, devastated populations and roving armies. The reason for this is simply the delta’s vast oil reserves and the prospects for wealth and power that these entail.

This is but one clear example of the ‘resource curse’, which states that countries dependent on the export of resources such as oil are susceptible to more corruption and warfare but less freedom or economic growth. In this enlightening book, Peter Maass surveys a number of cases and shows how oil rarely produces benefits for those who live in the places where it is found.

Kropotkin on the French Revolution

Kropotkin’s work on the French Revolution, just issued in its English edition, professes to be written from the point of view of the “common people”. The author says: “The Parliamentary history of the Revolution, its wars, its policy and its diplomacy, has been studied and set forth in all its details. But the popular history of the Revolution remains still to be told. The part played by the people of the country places and towns in the Revolution has never been . . . narrated in its entirety.” (Page 4.) Kropotkin claims that his work, to a certain extent, fills the gap which previously existed. “the people,” he says, “long before the Assembly, were making the Revolution on the spot; they gave themselves, by revolutionary means, a new municipal administration.” (Page 108). Further: “The Assembly only sanctioned in principle and extended to France altogether what the people had accomplished themselves in certain localities.

Book reviews

Politics of Apathy

Why We Hate Politics. Colin Hay. Polity Press.

Colin Hay is a Professor of Political Analysis and has produced a book typical of the academic genre tightly argued and well referenced if somewhat dense, and at times, abstract. His main focus is that politics is an increasingly dirty word and he sets out to examine why.

Cooking The Books 1: Marx and corals

In his latest book, Coral, A Pessimist in Paradise, the biologist and popular science writer Steve Jones attributes to Marx the statement that we see mighty coral reefs rising from the depth of the ocean into islands and firm land, yet each individual depositor is puny, weak, and contemptible. Marx was something of a polymath, but an expert on corals?

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