False Dawn, By John Gray
Sunday 08 November 2009
Events since False Dawn was first published in 1998 would seem to bear out John Gray's thesis that global capitalism leads not to universal prosperity but to chaos. In chapters on the US, Russia, China, Japan and developing countries, Gray shows again and again that laissez-faire capitalism is the problem, not the solution. On virtually every page there is some insight that makes you think: for instance, Gray points out that America's unemployment figures look far better than they are if you factor in the US prison population of more than a million.
Gray argues trenchantly that a global free market is not a natural state of affairs, but an artificial creation. One-size-fits-all capitalism – based on the American model, of course – is a Utopian dream, a legacy of the Enlightenment project of a universal civilisation, like Soviet and Chinese communism. Like them, it's doomed to be a tragic failure.
Gray is hard on the Enlightenment, blaming its blind faith in reason for everything that's gone wrong since the 18th century. Yet the Enlightenment project was hardly without achievements, and towards the end, Gray does concede that the resources of critical rationality we have inherited from it may be of some help in solving our problems.
Is there a solution? Gray states in his newly added foreword that there may well not be. Ideally he favours, in Isaiah Berlin's words, "a reasonably peaceful coat of many colours" – a world of many varieties of capitalism, each suited to its own region. But he doesn't think this likely.
More probably, we are living in the last days of a second belle epoque, and the collapse of global capitalism will herald instability and war. As much a work of political philosophy as economics, this is a thought-provoking and bracingly pessimistic book.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
After Sam Smith’s Mobo success, is the help of a pushy parent the surest route to stardom?
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts