World Development

World Development today is a contested concept, and one that provokes debate across the board. Culture Wars is bringing together reviews of books and the arts, to engage with everything from globalisation to slum cities, from consumerism to international aid.

Questions dealt with throughout these reviews include: following massive economic growth from China and India, are we seeing a new distribution of power on the world stage? How should we respond to the perceived costs of development such as global warming and the erosion of communities? And what are the best models for growth?

Friday 20 June 2008

A superficial balance

China's New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society, by Daniel A Bell (PUP)

Like pretty much everywhere else on the planet nowadays, China is undergoing a cultural malaise triggered by the end of its recent ideology.

Friday 13 June 2008

Savage civility

Wolf Totem, by Jiang Rong - translated by Howard Goldblatt (Hamish and Hamilton)

Rong is dual spokesman: Outer Mongolian to the Chinese and Chinese to everybody else, not caught between fact and fiction but navigating a path between the two roles.

Thursday 29 May 2008

Environmentalism’s fig leaf

The Ethics of Climate Change: right and wrong in a changing world, by James Garvey (Continuum)

We are asked to engage with Garvey’s view of the world as culprits. And as culprits, we are asked to stop what we are doing, and ‘give’ back to the poor what is theirs by some kind of right. In this relationship, the poor are like puppets that Garvey uses to act out a kind of morality play to elicit our sympathy – or guilt - for his cause.

Up to the gods

The Good Soul of Szechuan, The Young Vic, London

If there are parallels to be drawn with modern China, they are not morally simple. It’s interesting that the Young Vic has gone for a version of the play in which Shui Ta’s success rests on his heroin empire, in case tobacco doesn’t place him clearly enough beyond today’s moral pale. The child who was rummaging through bins for food is now employed – but the tobacco factory has given him a cough. Which is worse? Which is better?

Tuesday 29 April 2008

Urbanisation without industrialisation

Planet of the Slums, by Mike Davis

Excremental surplus, Davis argues, is the primordial urban contradiction. Even eight generations after Engels’ depiction of latrines in working class Manchester, shit still cakes the lives of the urban poor—‘a virtual objectification of their social condition, their place in society’, Davis quotes another urban theorist.

Monday 31 March 2008

In search of eco-sin redemption

Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine

There is just one small problem for greens who think detesting humanity is laudable: they are members of the human race too. This means that, at some level, they must despise themselves.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Putting the hippies on the payroll

Green Capitalism: Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance, by James Heartfield

Everyone has gone green. Even reprobate oil corporations have stopped funding the ‘global warming sceptics’, as they retool their operations to cash in on the bonanza of carbon-trading. Bewildered by the sudden desertion of their corporate allies, a few isolated libertarians fight a rearguard action against the green tide.

Cynical capitalism, cynical anti-capitalism

How an unloved system survives by default, and how its would-be critics condemn us to more of the same

In the run-up to Christmas last year, German churches and trades unions joined forces to protest against the loosening of the country’s traditionally restrictive opening hours for shops. Berlin’s city administration, run by Social Democrats and reformed Communists, had passed an amendment allowing shops in the capital to open every Sunday in December, despite objections in terms of both religious tradition and the perceived interests of shop staff.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Is there a new global working class?

ICA, London, 20 November 2007

The answer to the title of a debate at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) ‘Is there a new global working class’ is ‘yes.’ So you can stop reading now!

Tuesday 15 May 2007

We’re all part of the Machine

Fast Food Nation (2006), directed by Richard Linklater

Despite the film’s didacticism, it isn’t a left-wing polemic. It’s a riff on the book - not a celluloid equivalent of it. It’s not an expose, jumping up and down and shouting. In fact it’s a film whose argument has more in common with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than with the work of Michael Moore.

Wednesday 9 May 2007

The universe or nothing

Things to Come (1936), directed by William Cameron Menzies

The film is heavy on ideas and obviously didactic. I feel it gets away with it, mainly because its ideas are interesting. They are clearly the issues that concerned HG Wells and the novel on which the film is based was his means of dramatising them.

Friday 25 November 2005

‘The Rise of China Spells the Decline of the West’

Intelligence Squared Debate, London, 1 November 2005

China may be able to export its way to prosperity, but whether it will forge the political movements and ideas of the future is still an open question, and one worth considering in debates such as these.

Thursday 1 January 2004

From dystopia to myopia: Metropolis to Blade Runner

Future Vision: Future Cities, London, 6 December 2003

From the late nineties on, there has been a marked retreat into the inner world, into childhood and away from dirty, complicated reality.

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