False Dawn, by John Gray

I just read this book, quickly, over just a few days. Well, quickly for me. I do read of people who get through astonishing quantities of books but there is more to life than reading.

It was written in 1998 and that remains a drawback for the reader in 2011. You have to admire the writer’s prescience – he predicted the global economic crisis, based on his analysis of worldwide political and ideological trends. But some of the book has become dated.

His basic premise is that the Washington consensus – the idea that US style free market capitalism is the natural order of things and that all peoples of the world, given the chance and all other things being equal, would choose it – is completely wrong. He also argues that free market capitalism erodes society in many unrecognised ways and that the market does not inexorably lead to prosperity and a society’s success.

It is a polemic – he is putting across a point of view – but it is thought provoking and powerful. From the vantage point of 2011, it is not easy to see how he is wrong. The feeling that the world is largely adrift on a sea of ethnic, religious and materials-based difference is hard to resist.

His prescription for dealing with it is to accept difference and not seek overarching philosophies that apply to all societies. And he is right that the Washington consensus is similar to Marxism, in its core belief that ‘one size fits all’.

A good book – worth a few days’ reading.


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