- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Carroll & Graf; 51606th edition (July 23, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0786710772
- ISBN-13: 978-0786710775
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,190,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Power and Greed: A Short History of the World 51606th Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
According to Gigantes, an author and former assistant to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the history of the world can be told as the story of greedy and power-hungry conquests. In spite of the efforts of leaders like Jesus or Buddha or Solon to offer principles of structure and order to societies, history has been shaped, he argues, by Grand Acquisitors who have broken society's rules in order to gain power. Gigantes first offers brief sketches of the rule-makers: among them are Moses, who introduced the 10 Commandments, Solon, who introduced democratic principles, and Jesus, who introduced the radical rule of forgiveness. Then the author briefly surveys history's Grand Acquisitors, ranging from the Roman empress Agrippina (who manipulated her husband, the emperor Claudius, and her son, Nero, in her quest to rule) to the conquest of Latin America by Corts and Pizarro, to what he views as today's corporate exploitation of postcolonial countries. Gigantes discusses the Crusades as an example of the greedy desires of the Christian Church to expunge all heretical sects and to maintain power over the known world. While the book contains interesting moments, Gigantes's thesis that insatiable greed and unquenchable thirst for power underlie all of history does not offer an especially new way of reading world events. Better, more detailed sketches of his rule-makers and his Grand Acquisitors can be found elsewhere (in Anthony A. Barrett's Agrippina, for example). Gigantes provides no startling new insights into why this way of thinking is any more helpful than other ways of reading history.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Yes, the book is simple, funny, too short, but right on target. Gigantes makes no pretense of giving a thorough exposition of his thesis, but makes his thesis clear enough to understand and substantiate on one's own. For those who want more depth, he offers an extensive bibliography at the end. His point, however, is to show how the Grand Acquisitors have violated just rules and sacrificed everyone and everything to their own ruthless pursuits of power, money, and glory, with scant nods to noble or ethical ends save to manipulate the masses or clean up the histories of patrons.
There is a serious intent underlying the telling, which is to bring to the fore the principles of Solon's democracy, realized anew in the American experiment, as well as the Great Sages' compassion and wise rules, and show how the promise may have a faint glimmer of hope yet, demonstrated in the possibility of the European Union overcoming a long, bloody history. I would note in passing that, though not discussed, the African nations recently discarded their Organization of African Unity in favor of an African Union, intended to be developed over time into something akin to the European Union.
Gigantes makes a very serious point with humor: never underestimate the lust for power, extent of corruption, depths of depravity, and destructive possibilities of the unbridled drives of the Grand Acquisitors acting unchecked in a world of not so willing pawns whose own leaders are Grand Acquisitor wannabes. Think about that in looking at Bush versus Hussein...
As George Santayana observed: "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it...." Gigantes, who was held prisoner and tortured during "the war" and has served several governments, not only has learned from history but is attempting to pass on that learning in a way that focuses clearly on what the real stakes are. It's been said that history repeats, first as tragedy, then as farce. We live in interesting times -- and as the Chinese observed, that may well be a curse.
Well I have to look for other books for that story. Here there are only some rambling about the wicked deeds of arbitrary chosen representatives throughout history. Is Agrippina all there is to say about Rome? She was no grand acqisitor at all, and Rome had many of them.
What also infuriated me was the way religion is presented here. It is the "Oh yes, there was this nice man with good ideas. But of course he never said he was a prophet (or even the son of God). And his followers who built churches were the most wicked bunch ..." style. Moral values with a religious support are ridiculed and discarded by reference to church-supported cruelties and errors.
Instead the author loves one man: Solon. He is the father of all good - democracy and sovereignty of and by the people. That his order didn't last even one generation and that he himself went into exile rather than to work for his brainchild is not mentioned here. And I rather doubt that the framers of America's constitution had only Solon to guide them. What about all those Romans who created the rule of law?
So in the end this book is not just bad but a waste. The greed is there (after all the people making it must have had some motivation), but there is no power at all!