Friday, 26 December 2008

Fourth World Review reviewed. (Issue 148)

Another Fourth World Review has found its welcome way to my door. It's another good issue, and before I (critically) review its contents, I want to point out just how much “invisible” work is embedded in these sorts of publications. I've put together a few, and have some inkling of just how hard the editor is working in chasing contributors, proofing, layout, printing etc.

Kirkpatrick Sale, the American thinker on technology and grass-roots politics, has a dismissive piece on Obama. He's probably right, but we live in extraordinary times, and I think that on a couple of issues at least, Obama has a few tricks up his sleeve, and is anyway opening a rhetorical/political space that could and should be filled by the right kind of people and ideas.

Nafeez Ahmed has a good piece on finance capital, peak oil and the growth imperative of capitalism-

“Experts like petroleum geologist Colin Campbell, who worked for companies like Shell, BP, Esso and Texaco confirm we are probably now on what is known as the 'undulating plateau'.
The plateau begins when peak oil induces massive price shocks contributing to economic recession. The recession in turn reduces consumption, lessening the strain on resources and precipitating a collapse in fuel prices. Lower prices create new space for renewed consumption and economic recovery. This 'undulating plateau' is a period of major price fluctuation, which could last from 5 to 10 years before oil capacity limits are permanently breached and we arrive at the era of irreversibly scarce oil supplies and high prices.”

This chimes very much with recent news reports in the Financial Times of alternative energy projects that were all systems go getting put on hold because of plummeting oil prices. Even the commentators have spotted it; see Gideon Rachman from the Financial Times, 23rd December-

"So my fifth choice for 2008 is the rise and fall of the oil price- up to more than $147 a barrel in July and then down to just above $40 now. In the first half of the year, with the oil price soaring, all the talk was of resource scarcity, the growing clout of sovereign wealth funds and the rising power of the world's energy producers. With a fall of $100 in the oil price, oi-rich governments suddenly look as shaky as a Wall Street bank. The Russians and Chinese are- along with the rest of the world- relearning one of the basic lessons of Marxism. Economics drives politics. That is a lesson likely to be driven home with even more force in 2009."

Herve Kempf and Peter Preston look at journalism- the invisibility of the poor and the necessity of the local- respectively.

Paul Buchanan, a Somerset County Councillor, gives his advice on how to bring change “to the Town Hall, District Council and County or Unitary Authority.”

Peter North, in an article that really needed more space to fully explore the issues, distinguishes between localism and autarky.

Tom Barker, associate editor of 4WR has a good piece on “the Ecology of Economics”. As he says-

"In ecological parlance, as a system interconnected on a vast scale, and dominated by international commerce that reaches into every locality, industrial society appears to be entering an unstable point in development called omega that precedes general ecosystem collapse.
The term omega describes the crisis point in a pattern of ecosystem dynamics known as the adaptive cycle, in which ecoystem resilience (against collapse from perturbations) undergoes periodic changes as it matures. As the most intelligent species on the planety (honestly!), if we care to look we can recognise this and potentially do something about it before it happens, but presently economic policy is in the hands of the market. Accordingly, we are being swept along by events in the same way as any other dumb organism."

The journal closes out with a bunch of letters, book reviews, observations and “fourth world news.”

All this for three quid- a bargain!

The journal's problems are the problems of “the movement” more widely. I suspect it's not getting “out of the ghetto”. The gender imbalance is pretty marked (that's NOT to accuse anyone of misogyny). I don't think it is examining some of its assumptions hard enough (small is beautiful, but also probably a bit more problematic than you'd know from this). I don't think it is always engaging sufficiently with its critics- there's nothing in the issues I've seen about the debates between Rob Hopkins and Trapeze, for example.

You can subscribe- and I have- by sending a cheque payable to Fourth World Transition

FWR, 96 Gayton House, Knapp Road, London E3 4BY

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