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The New Rulers of the World - John Pilger

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Genre: Politics / Society / Philosophy / Author: John Pilger / Edition: New Ed / Paperback / 192 Pages / Book is published 2003-02-20 by Verso Books

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      16.04.2009 22:23
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      Globalisation and its discontents

      This is the first quality swap I managed to obtain from the website www.readitswapit.co.uk. I was going to do an extensive review of this book but have decided to keep it short as two other members have already written excellent crowned reviews about the book.

      Australian John Pilger is one of the most outstanding investigative journalists in the world today. He remains one of the few who is not afraid to speak out and ask the most awkward questions of our political leaders. The New Rulers of the World deals with some of Pilger's long abiding themes, in particular the secrets and illusions of modern imperialism, referred to by many as globalisation or the global economy. In the past imperialism described colonial and territorial policies, but today it has more to do with economic and/or military dominance and influence. Imperialism is a word most modern politicians shy away from or they completely deny it exists. But for John Pilger leaders such as George W. Bush and Tony Blair are the new imperialists. And in the eyes of those who hold the reigns of power anyone who opposes the new imperialism is either a loony lefty or a terrorist.

      The book is made up of four essays. The first essay entitled "The Model Pupil" deals with Indonesia and the Suharto regime which, with Western backing, overthrew the democratically elected government in the 1960s and massacred over a million people in the process. It also touches upon the genocide that occurred in East Timor. The regime was an integral part of a western design to impose a global economy on that country. In essence Pilger describes how the resources of the country were carved up between US and other global corporations. "Paying the Price" deals with the intervention in Iraq during the 1990s and focuses in particular on the relentless bombings by British and American planes and the absurd and tragic sanction blockade that was imposed during this period and resulted in the suffering and death of millions of innocent Iraqis. The third essay is entitled "The Great Game" and deals with the post 9/11 period and the military interventions into Afghanistan. Here Pilger exposes the 'Orwellian truth' behind the propaganda of 'the war on terror". The last part of the book "The Chosen Ones" gives insight into the suffering, oppression and discrimination against the Aborigines of Australia.

      The first three essays of this book can be tied together under themes to do with the global economy and the new imperialism with emphasis on how the use of military might enforces such a system upon three different nations. The last essay is somewhat different in that it deals with the legacy of the old imperialism and the continuing oppression of an entire indigenous population. The book was first published in 2002 and updated in 2003 so some of these stories are a little dated, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein for example was yet to take place. However, the historical, political and economic facts and analysis contained in the book are utterly absorbing and still highly relevant. They will serve as useful documents for anyone studying in this area or with a general interest in geopolitics. I found the two middle essays to be very useful. The essay entitled "The Great Game" in particular is a must read. These writings reminded me of what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan before the current occupations by the "US-led military coalition" and the strategic and economic importance of these to nations to Western powers. Here it is also made clear how both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were the products of US policy.

      Despite its subject matter, at just over 200 pages The New Rulers of the World is not a heavy read. John Pilger writes in a clear and concise manner that is easy to grasp. It is a captivating if at times gut wrenching read. Sometimes you come away thinking that the whole western political system is rotten to the core. Perhaps this is the one weakness of the Pilger's writing: our evil leaders... surely they can't all be bad guys... or can they?

      The book is available online for around £8 a copy. Buy it.

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        22.09.2004 21:13
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        John Pilger's book is, essentially, a look at the modern face of imperialism, concentrating on instances that constitute or border on genocide and with a particular attention paid to omission and misinformation of the media and the academia. He chooses only some instances, but those which were chosen illuminate particularly well how the "imperialist imperatives of the American Century have undermined the greatest Western achievement, that of secular, redistributive politics". Whatever you think of the author's idea of the greatest achievement of the Western culture (I would personally agree with him at least partially), what he chose to write about makes for a powerful and sometimes VERY harrowing read.

        The book contains four essays, preceded by a long introduction, which in a good tradition of serious non-fiction writing, summarises the most important points of the book. If you come across the book but don't feel like tackling the whole of it, please read at least the introduction!

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        "The Model Pupil" concerns the Suhrato coup in Indonesia in 1965-66 and the ensuing and mostly covered-up bloodshed that claimed up to million lives in what is rightly compared by the author to the Holocaust. This was moving enough to learn about; as until now my knowledge consisted of nothing more but some vague mixture ideas from the old Polish communist press and some newer British media. The most shocking thing was perhaps the language used to refer to the events in Indonesia by the Western press at the time. "The greatest massacre of the second half of the XXth century was not so much news as the cause for celebration. Suharto's ascendancy was 'the West's best news for years', 'a gleam of light in Asia'. "

        Pilger uses the term "unpeople" to denote the different value that is put on distant lives from what is considered the Third World as compared to lives (or deaths) of the Westerners: "that Afghan peasants have the same right to life as New Yorkers is unmentionable, a profanity". Or perhaps I should be using term 'Northerners' really as the divisions in the modern world are defined more and more by the North-South rather than the East-West axis.


        The second text, "Paying the Price", is perhaps the most viscerally moving, as it describes in anecdotal detail supported by quantitative statistics the effect of the Security Council sanctions on the most vulnerable members of the Iraqi population. One example: a country that had one of the lowest infant mortalities in the world has now one of the highest. And it doesn't seem to be just a leftist propaganda, as a Unicef report stated that "up to 6000 children die every month mostly as the result of the blockade". Almost twice the number of 9/11 victims. But, again, these are unpeople. Three senior United Nations official resigned from their posts in a protest against what they saw as administering a genocide. Of course the sanctions are no more now ... all that is left is a wrecked, ruined country ripe for Muslim fundamentalism and/or American contractors to take over.


        The third essay is called "Great Game" and in its factual layer describes the way that American dominance in the strategically supremely important region of Central Asia has been achieved. I found this chapter to be the most illuminating and perhaps the most important in its analysis of how the governments, the capital, the academia and the media collude in sustaining what is either a silence or lies and how the Big Money and the Big Force (in the form of US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines) go hand in hand to achieve the desired goal. It is them that keep the MacDonald's safe and sound, it is them that provide 'stable' regimes which allow companies to build pipelines and heavy infrastructure necessary to harness the Caspian oil.

        Although anti-globalisation would be an important keyword for John Pilger's book, it is slightly different than the one we might know from 'No Logo' for example. Globalisation is seen here as a newly respectable face of the old beast of imperialism and the author certainly makes a persuasive case for his perspective. Pilger himself quotes from a Russian dissident, Boris Kagarlitsky: "Globalisation does not mean the impotence of the state but the rejection by the state of its social functions in favour of repressive ones, and the ending of democratic freedoms".


        The last chapter has perhaps the least relevance to the general understanding of the world system, although it still makes for an illuminating if perhaps a hardly surprising read (maybe just for me, still influenced by anti-colonial propaganda of communist Poland). Entitled "The Chosen Ones", it describes the 'hidden Australia' (Pilger is Australian and it shows that that subject is somehow the closest to his heart) of the Aborigine settlements, the discrimination, the blighted and uprooted lives of the majority of what remains of Australia's original inhabitants (they managed to get rid of the ones in Tasmania completely). The "stolen generation" is mentioned, but also the land rights and the virtual although perhaps not legally set apartheid that ruled until recently, together with distorted propaganda on how much public resources is actually devoted to the welfare of Aborigines in comparison with the population of the white incomers.

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        The underlying explanation offered by John Pilger seems to be that it was all designed and planned by the triumphant and unscathed (in fact, greatly fattened on the spoils of war) United States of America after the WW II; and later on operationalised and executed at Breton Woods. After all, IMF and World Bank are controlled by America and they are largely responsible for the disastrous 'structural adjustment programmes' imposed on the developing countries and whose result is doubling the gap between the poorest and the richest 20% of humanity in 50 years since these institutions were established. I am not sure if such a theory, bordering on a conspiracy, is really one I can comfortably subscribe to, as I do not believe in grand designs of that kind. However, there certainly is such a thing as strategic policy and the one currently being implemented by the US (which seemingly has been in more or less of a fashion for quite a while) does seem to be bent on total economic and political dominance of the world.

        The case against the ones "in the know" (the academics and the media) is made very strongly in the book: "Those with the power to understand suppress their knowledge". Overall, the omission and censorship are internal to the press as much as forced from above: so-called liberal columnists deliberate the issue of torturing prisoners and often come to the conclusion that torture is somehow OK, somehow justified; in these dangerous times of terror and uncertainty (and the tortured ones would be unpeople anyway, wouldn't they).


        All in all I was moved - sometimes to tears; shocked and angered by John Pilger's book; perhaps the most by the chapters relating the most recent and closest events (Iraq, Central Asia). But having read this I also felt a little bit more empowered and a little bit less stupid. It is important to know. I believe it is important even if one doesn't do much with this knowledge.

        It also made me think, think seriously about what kind of world we are living in and leaving to our children. Is it possible to create a better one? Are human beings doomed to life of terror, where famine, war and genocide are a reality for the millions? Should we just live our lives being grateful to the fate for the good fortune of being born in a relative wealth and peace of the second half of XXth century Europe?

        So, yes, you should read this book unless you already know all that Pilger writes about. It is not long (few over 200 pages), does not demand more of a reader than an average broadsheet article, while being considerably better and clearer written than most. Pilger does not engage in a complex and sophisticated political-science analysis, he puts events in contexts and does his research, but does not flood the reader with unnecessary facts or sidelines. The television origin of the book makes it more accessible but not less valuable. Yes, you should read this book.

        In a way, a conspiracy interpretation of the evil of the world (which is what I think Pilger proposes to some extent) is more attractive and more hopeful, as it somehow suggests that a replacement of "bad people" with "better people" would help. It suggests that it is the greed and power-hunger of individuals that is the cause of the misery. I am not so sure. Having grown up in a communist country, surrounded by marxism, I absorbed certain ideas of dialectic; having studied scientific psychology I learned of conformism and demands of a role. However much I would like to hope that change is possible, I can't help thinking that it is the whole system in which the global society is organised that is at fault. Bush or Stalin, Blair or Pol Pot don't really matter much unless we change the system.

        Now, can we change the system? Again, I have a grave doubt as to a true possibility of change, but surely we do not have any other MORAL option then to believe that change is possible. We have to believe that some improvement IS achievable. The first duty for us, the normal little people in the rich North, is to seek and spread the truth. We don't have to risk much. John Pilger's book was printed by a legal, above-ground publishers. Nobody is going to jail in Britain or Australia for reading it. YET. But the freedom and comfort we enjoy are fragile, are as fragile as low infant mortality and universal education were for Iraqis. Most people in the world don't have these freedoms and comforts. We do and we also have a choice of making our ignorance just a little bit smaller, to make the new owners of the world just a little less powerful.

        -----------------------

        The book is available new on Amazon for 8.00 GBP, and that is in a new edition with an extra essay on Palestine included. Used editions are quoted from 3.00 GBP and I might even buy it...

        I borrowed it from a library, so it would be probably available from yours as well (possibly on order).


        Thanks to jillmurphy for pointing this one out. I wasn't as unbiased as she was in her review.

        Thank you all for reading.

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          31.07.2004 03:15
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          John Pilger is an unreconstructed leftie. He is probably one of the few people left who use the word "comrade" without a trace of irony. Journalist, writer and maker of TV documentaries, Pilger has won just about every award going, including an Emmy. He is Australian, but bases himself in London. His abiding theme is of that of modern imperialism, known by some as the global economy. In this book, The New Rulers of the World, Pilger continues this theme and updates it. There is little new material here. The book is, essentially, a bringing-up-to-speed refining of his previous work. At its heart, lies the argument that wealthy nations and global corporations (with the US at their head) wield a modern day imperial power whose greed and rapaciousness is a force in the world far more destructive than that of any terrorist organisation. In fact, his point is that these are the real terrorists. There are four essays. The first, "The Model Pupil" deals with Asia and the birth of globalisation. It talks of the bloodbath in Indonesia and the rule of Suharto. It speaks of a million deaths and the carving up of Indonesia's economy by western corporations fully aware and dismissive of those deaths and countless other human rights abuses. The second, "Paying the Price" talks about intervention in Iraq since before Operation Desert Storm but spends most time in an analysis of the effect on Iraqi civilians of the sanction blockade, particularly on the children. It is distressing reading. "The Great Game" talks about the aftermath of 9/11, and the prologue to it, if you like. It exposes western foreign policy's role in the destablisation of entire regions and it exposes more corruption than you could have possibly made up i
          n your own personal conspiracy theory. Finally, in "The Chosen Ones" Pilger returns to his native Australia to discuss the plight of its first people, the Aborigines. This too, is distressing reading. I don't really want to précis the book here for you any further than I have. What then, would be the point in you reading it, save to acquaint yourselves with the sources and to check the verification of Pilger's facts? Neither do I want to pick out the most sensational of tidbits from the endless record of the suffering of real, normal people. That seems irretrievably tasteless. These are Pilger's themes and I think you need to explore them for yourselves, not through my review. Does that make sense? Oh, you know, I was brought up with John Pilger. As soon as I was able to read, I read him, there in the Daily Mirror at home, alongside people such as the recently deceased Paul Foot, a man who will be missed terribly. (What a shadow of its former self is that newspaper today). In all those years, I have never had any cause to doubt his sincerity. He is, whether you agree with him or not, a man of integrity. His research is impeccable, his sources open and well-documented. His argument is clear, cogent and very difficult to dismiss. His writing is restrained and accessible and yet his anger at injustice leaps at you from his each and every page. He is a seasoned campaigner and you simply cannot mistake the fact that he is the genuine article. I can say with much truth that this man has been a huge influence on my political thinking throughout my life, although I do not agree with everything he says by any means. The Rulers of the New World is, I would say, of interest to a broad range of people and not just those in sympathy with the theorists of
          modern imperialism. For those who do sympathise, he is more accessible and less of an intellectual challenge than such writers as Noam Chomsky and George Monbiot. Pilger is not a rarefied academic and although I like both of these writers, I cannot deny that they are an effort to read. Pilger is also better than either Chomsky or Monbiot at relating his themes to the lives of real, normal people. He is less? well? inyerface than Michael Moore. He does not make jokes and he does not spend half his books self-publicising. Much as I like Moore too, I confess to spending some time reading him thinking, "If you say 'my film, Roger & Me' once more, I will throttle you man"! Pilger sticks to his subjects and does not make his books personal crusades ? I think of Moore as a bit of a "willy jouster" and I find this often gets in the way of his points. Pilger is not like this. Whether or not one agrees with his conclusions, one has the inescapable feeling this is a man who wishes to expose what he sees to be the truth, and has no need to squash his ego into the equation. For those politically neutral, Pilger is happily uninterested in party politics. He provides an accessible point of view refreshingly free from the taint of sponsored think tanks and he is clearly not motivated by self interest. And for those who consider a global economy to be the best hope for all our futures? well? then it is always good to read the enemy when he is as clear and as cogent as this, is it not? A variety of perspectives is invaluable to everyone. At only two hundred pages, do not be deceived into thinking that The New Rulers of the World will be an easy read, for it is not. It is accessible in style and Pilger does not pitch it above the heads of those of us who do not spend our lives
          in the circles of politics or the halls of academe. However, its scope is massive, its cast of characters huge and its narration of recent history exhaustive. It will require your concentration. It is, though, an enlightening, angry, crusading read that exposes a view of the powerful that you may find both convincing and shocking. Just the sort of thing I like then! ISBN: 1-8594-412-X List Price: £8 More info on John Pilger at: http://www.johnpilger.com

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          In The New Rulers of the World the award-winning journalist John Pilger selects from his recent Guardian and New Statesman essays on power, its secrets and illusions.