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Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity Paperback – November, 2002

7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520232624 ISBN-10: 0520232623 Edition: 0th

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Timothy Mitchell, Professor, Department of Middle East and Asian Studies, Columbia University, is the author of Colonising Egypt (California, 1991, with a new preface), and editor of Questions of Modernity (2000).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 423 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (November 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520232623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520232624
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Mitchell's "Colonising Egypt" transformed my experience as a student in Egypt, so I was looking forward to this work from one of the best minds in in Middle East Studies. "Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity" does not disappoint. Mitchell's work is self-reflective, de-orientalized, thought-provoking scholarship. Mitchell not only connects contemporary political and postmodern theory to his Egyptian primary sources, but he extends theory in new directions and unique interdisiplinary ways. Mitchell empowers the reader to think critically about the negative influences of power and hegemonic discourse on policy and scholarship to create distorted representations and self-fulfilling, self-replicating prophecies. We need more writers like Mitchell to question and challenge the current theory and expertise that has so much currency and momentum in the echo chambers of the Washington Consensus.
The essays cover a wide range of 20th-century topics from malaria to mapmaking, from the manipulated image of the peasant to techno-political nonsense in current development praxis. I have long believed that developmental applications of modern economic theory are very much a "faith-based" process, and Mitchell has put these thoughts in engaging prose. In addition, I was particularly impressed by the chapter on violence, which helped me frame my own thinking on violence, for example, in Syria, Algeria, or Tunisia, places where not so hidden violence functions as an instrument of power and social control. Mitchell writes eloquently on issues that have troubled most of those who work or live or travel in the developing world and who have not found the right language to express their reservations about the descriptive and prescriptive power of current scholarship and techno-political expertise.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. Johnson on April 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In many respects, Timothy Mitchell's Rule of Experts appears to be a cautionary tale of unintended consequences for modern policy makers and economists of the western world, as these experts work to decipher market relationships and implement market policies in non-western nations. But Mitchell's book, with its message seemingly so obvious, goes much deeper as it challenges the very framework historians use when examining non-western cultures. Mitchell does this by bringing into question the creation of the nation-state of Egypt and by tracing the genealogy of how "the economy" came to arrive at its present meaning. He also studies the term capitalism, arguing that it is not as definitive as is assumed in western culture. To examine how these ideas build a framework to help the reader understand their importance in studying poverty, Mitchell uses several themes, three of which will be examined here: first, terms that represent accepted ideas often conceal more than they reveal; second, capital can develop characteristics that allow it to function as both human and nonhuman; and third, property equals power, thus no property equals no power.

First, Mitchell spends a great deal of time tracing the history of the transformation of the term "economy" to "the economy." While this may not seem to be directly related to a discourse on poverty, Mitchell explains for the reader how economy, until the twentieth century, referred to a husbanding of resources or a"'proper governing' of the community's affairs" (pp. 81-82), even when used in relation to a nation-state. It was only through colonialism that the transformation from "economy" to "the economy" was made, and it is the colonized nation of Egypt that Mitchell examines.
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The work of Mitchell is impressive. The book is critically looking at the making of today's Egypt and deconstructing completely the myths that are attached to the Arab Republic. The anti-mosquito campaign, the Asswan dam, overpopulation and land ownership systems are few of the topics tackled and looked at in depth by the researcher. This is an amazing insight in the mechanisms that made Egypt as it is today, and the involvement of the West (US and Europe) in the form of 'technical help' or development aid (US AID) that Mitchell is not afraid of calling interference. A great book!
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It's clear the author has an amazing grasp of Egyptian history, and it's a joy to read about issues and events affecting the poor and disenfranchised that are rarely explored. At the same time, this is not easy reading. It's very dense and complicated - I think you'd need a PhD in cultural theory and semiotics and another in Middle East history to fully understand everything, which makes it very hard to put down in the middle of an essay and pick up a day or two later. As a reader who likes to sneak in a few minutes here and there throughout the day, I've found it a big challenge to set aside the hour or so of careful reading that each essay demands. If you're the type of person who can, I think you'll find the book rewarding.

Unfortunately, the author's admirable effort is marred by a simply bad Kindle edition. Footnotes are not linked, making it very difficult to hop to the back to look up a source. You cannot change the font from what I found to be a very unpleasant one. And chapters are not marked; as far as the Kindle is concerned the whole book is one big chapter. On the plus side, at least the illustrations have been converted legibly.
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