‘Ramblinactivist’ Paul Mobbs’ work-related occasional blog – which examines the troublesome and often difficult meanings behind today’s news and events rather than simply repeating the ‘conventional wisdom’ of the mass/social media
‘A Book in Five Minutes’ is Paul Mobbs’ book review blog; examining a significant ‘old’ (quite likely out-of-print), often overlooked book. But one that provides an insightful analysis of current political or ecological debates.
A book which traces an arc of how the shift from Feudalism into Capitalism, via the reciprocal Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, not only changed the landscape, but also created many of the social ills that still afflict society today.
Murray Bookchin foresaw the rise of consumerism, and the changing dialogue in society towards a politics of ‘post-scarcity’. ‘Post-Scarcity Anarchism’ is an anthology of Bookchin’s essays around this theme.
I think there are very few books that you can truthfully say, ‘this book changed my life’. When I first came across it almost forty years ago, this one changed mine. It explained clearly to me what it was I needed to know to eat well.
Each morning the Sun comes up. We instinctively know this. The problem is that in the modern world, people sometimes find it difficult to tell the difference between: Natural phenomena – like the Sun rising; and the grandiose myths we tell ourselves – like the functioning of the economy.
The most effective books are able to transcend time; by applying a relatively broad, well-observed analysis of the roots of complex issues in the past, that continue to have relevance today. This is such a book.
Published in 1972, and shrouded in controversy since that date, ‘The Limits to Growth’ is the most successful econometric projection ever made, and a groundbreaking ecological book that the environment movement itself has a deep-seated fear of discussing in public.
An audio podcast of this blog post is available on the page.
About A Book in Five Minutes
It happens all too often. I’m discussing some issue or another and I mention a book or report which talked about this very detail – ten, twenty, or fifty years ago; only to be met with a blank or quiet response. In today’s hectic world, it seems too many people don’t spend enough time study the heritage or evolution of the issues they claim to be enthusiastic about.
That's why I’ve started this new section of ‘The Metablog’. A place where I can answer those blank expressions before the conversation even takes place. Rather than wasting time repeating myself I can just say, “I’ve reviewed why it’s important here, read this!”.
Of course, people have such short attention spans these days. Hence I’ve set an arbitrary limit on my reviews of three to five minutes. In that time I’ll review not so much the detailed content of the book, but how it came about, and why it is significant in the canon of literature on the issue. People can then decide if they want to devote the time to read it in detail – but at least they will know why it is important.
The speed of modern life, and the sheer amount of inane content that people are encouraged to soak up, drown out the more meaningful information in life. This is exactly what Aldous Huxley foresaw eighty years ago: It’s not necessary to ban books or stamp-out unwelcome ideas; you just have to produce so much book or ideas that no one knows which are the ‘good ones’.
Activism is a craft. It’s something that develops as you put more effort into learning the background as to how we got in this state, and how people have dealt with these issues in the past. Those who do not study their past will ultimately waste time repeating work that has been done before. What’s worse, they’ll probably repeat the failures of the past for that same reason. I hope these little reviews will direct people towards book and reports which will help remedy that.