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A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It Paperback – October 6, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


[Ahmed's] arguments are in the main forceful and well-sourced, with particularly good sections on agribusiness, US policies of 'energy security', and what he terms the 'securitisation' of ordinary life by Western governments. -- Guardian How can a discussion of the all too familiar crises of our time be a hopeful book? By combining a microscopic dissection of the structure of each with a telescopic view of how they weave together in a whole system. If the myriad international conferences and programs haven't worked, it isn't that we have to try harder but that we have to confront the whole free of conventional constraints. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed confronts the whole. -- Richard Levins, John Rock Professor of Population Sciences, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University; author, Evolution in Changing Environments This important analysis exposes vital truths and challenges much conventional wisdom. It deserves to be widely read. -- Mark Curtis, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Strathclyde; former Head of Policy, Action Aid and Christian Aid; former Research Fellow, Royal Institute of International Affairs; author, Web of Deceit: Britain's Real Role in the World and Unpeople: Britain's Secret Human Rights Abuses This is an important book. There has been much discussion already about climate change, peak oil, the cost of food and overpopulation, the global financial crisis busting neoliberal capitalism, the rise of violent extremism, and the containment of the so-called war on terror. But this is the first book to systematically explore their interconnections and place them within a single comprehensive narrative. That makes it a very worthwhile read for policy-makers everywhere. -- Rt. Hon. Michael Meacher MP, UK Minister of State for the Environment (1997-2003); Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (1975-79); Under-Secretary of State for Industry (1974-75) Few thinkers weave as many threads into a tapestry as Nafeez Ahmed has done so superbly in this book. Those of us who seek to operate within the form of capitalism that has evolved today would do well to ask ourselves a very big question. Are we wasting our time? If it is true that only root-to-branch rewriting of the global economic operating manual can save society from an unliveable future, shouldn't we be putting our weight behind that re-engineering process before it is too late? -- Dr. Jeremy Leggett, UK Department of Trade & Industry's Renewables Advisory Board (2002-2006); CEO, Solarcentury, member of UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil & Energy Security; author, Half Gone and The Carbon War Nafeez Ahmed's book confronts the reader with the stark message that life as we know it is unsustainable. It provides a chilling enumeration of the existential challenges humanity faces, and can only by qualified as optimistic in the sense that it does not leave a single illusion in place. A must-read but not as bed-time reading. -- Kees van der Pijl, Professor of International Relations, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex; Chair of Department of International Relations and Director of Centre for Global Political Economy (2000-2006); Leverhulme Major Research Fellow; author, Modes of Foreign Relations and Political Economy (3 volumes) A staggeringly comprehensive bird's-eye view of the gaping cracks that are appearing in global industrial civilization. Ahmed weaves a context that makes current economic and geopolitical events comprehensible. If you want to understand why the world is coming apart at the seams and what we can do to lay the foundations for a sane, peaceful, and sustainable society, read this book. -- Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute; author, The Party's Over, Powerdown and Peak Everything Dr. Ahmed presents the clearest synthesis to date of the systemic problems facing human civilization. There is no shortage of popular texts on climate change, economic challenges, energy scarcity, and terrorism, but this work is the first to effectively integrate these diverse issues into a compelling and unified system - one that is both accessible to a broad audience yet grounded in rigorous academic research. -- Jeff Vail, Former US Department of the Interior Counterterrorism Analyst; former US Air Force Intelligence Officer for global energy infrastructure; author, A Theory of Power In this magisterial exposition of the multiple intersecting challenges facing humanity in our century Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed points to real solutions. Armed with the depth of knowledge and the courage demonstrated in this work we can and will construct the other world that is possible. All of us, but especially the youth of our planet will be empowered by reading this book. -- David Schwartzman, Professor of Biology, Howard University, Washington DC; author, Life, Temperature and the Earth: the self-organizing biosphere

About the Author

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development in London. He has taught international relations, contemporary history, empire and globalisation at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex and the Politics & History Unit, Brunel University. His previous books include The War on Truth: Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (2005) and Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (2003).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press (October 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745330533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745330532
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Norman Dyer on October 19, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is probably the most important book you can read today if you want to learn about the greatest threats to humanity. It is full of facts, documents and testimony about the consequences of our food production shortfalls, energy shortages, financial instabilities, military/terrorist battles, the political moves to remove human rights from the general populous, and even about climate change. Its key strength is the peer reviews by a dozen world experts, inside and outside of power. The author deserves applause for bringing to our attention so many interconnected, on-going, accelerating processes. He reviews the issues already out there and adds some little-disclosed military and political agenda of consequence. He tries to connect the dots, and to some extent prioritizes the problems with analysis and suggested solutions.

The first chapter is so scary that it is likely many readers will not make it through the book. It brings together the facts and analysis on global warming that have frightened the Pentagon and all European governments since at least 2004. The prognosis is so bleak that all the other chapters seem trivial by comparison, though they cover some very dark problems (genocide, martial law for the masses, large scale detention camps, global dictators, another great depression, mass starvation, acute resource shortages). He could have reversed the order of the chapters to allow the reader to better prepare for the "big one", but he had his reasons.

The author develops a social and philosophical analysis which distills to a list of "key structural problems".
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Format: Paperback
In its own way this book is every bit as good as such classics as The Collapse of Complex Societies (New Studies in Archaeology) or The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters (New in Paper) and I am also reminded of Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization, all books I have reviewed here at Amazon, mirrored (often with material added) at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

I was tempted to keep the book at five stars because the author tip-toes around the core issue of our day, institutionalized corruption. While he opens by saying he is striving to address the "linkage between political violence and social crisis in the context of imperial social systems," the word imperial is as close as he gets to calling out the global criminals that used to be called the elite, and their equally complicit enablers, the political class. Which reminds me of another important book, The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back as well as the more recent
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Here are a couple of (long) quotes from the Introduction: "This book provides an integrated, interdisciplinary reassessment of our current global predicament. It is an empirically driven analysis of global crises, developing a body of data from which a reinvigorated human-centered global vision for security through civilizational renewal can be developed, and through which can be revealed the myriad points of interconnection, so often missed by conventional security experts, between different global crises. It proceeds by reviewing the complex systemic interrelationships between global crises, explaining their shared trajectories, and developing a single qualitative map by which to chart their mutual convergence over the coming decades. It makes the following key sub-arguments: 1) Global crises are not aberrations from an optimized global system which require only minor adjustments to policy; they are integral to the ideology, structure and logic of the global political economy. 2) Therefore, global crises cannot be solved solely by such minor or even major policy reforms - but only by drastic reconfiguration of the system itself. Failure to achieve this will mean we are unable to curtail the escalation of crises. 3) Conventional expert projections on the impact of global crises on the political, economic, and ecological continuity of civilization are flawed due to their view of these crises as separate, distinctive processes. They must be understood holistically, intertwined in their causes and hence interrelated in their dynamics."

"This book identifies and reviews trends in and across six specific global crises. It begins with a discussion of: 1) climate change; 2) energy scarcity; 3) food insecurity; and 4) economic instability.
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