Top critical review
Could have been consistently engaging
on 13 December 2017
This could have been a consistently engaging read because it's written in clear, simple language and certainly contends with grand ideas but the gaps in data and analyses left my curiosity stranded and re-purposed to poking holes in the arguments for the most part instead of propelling it.
My evaluation of the book downgraded from 3 at the beginning to 2 stars by the end because there were some chapters in the 3rd and 4th parts that just put me off his style of research and writing-chapters 11, 15 and 16. Couldn't put my opinion on chapter 17 and 18 in perspective after that and didn't particularly care for or agree with Chapter 19. The last chapter was made interesting by the sheer subject matter more than anything in the writing. This is around half the book.
I do like some of his ideas which, without commenting on originality, at least imply analytical rigour, like the fate of animals stuck on our indifferent conveyor belts which even the most passionate postcolonial thinkers seemingly fail to question, or the dangers of historical determinism in determining our future course/s.
These ideas however, are couched in between claims and conclusive jumps that don't seem to be launched from solid theoretical platforms or even if they are, I'm left contemplating their plausibility because he does not do a good job of referencing enough literature or providing these additional details in the text himself. For e.g., his flights from the bankruptcy of the Mississippi Company in 1719 to the French Revolution in 1789 as the eventual outcome without referencing one little American Revolution the way we are classically taught...History pruned and painted in the service of a punchline. This affects the way I interpret other anecdotes which the book is peppered with even when these have a stronger correlation, and more importantly, causality-which for all his caution on determinism, Hariri sometimes conflates. We can correlate the rise of science and Empire but can we effectively claim that the imperial project was undergirded by western scientific rigour, without which it would have been difficult to sustain?
In other cases, the ideas are too simplistic to really enthuse a reader with a basic orientation to world events, like his exposition on capitalism-wasn't it just Capital to think of such a revolutionary idea, and we'll get to the discussion on market failures later in a tiny, adjunct way.