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Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics in the Age of Crisis

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A toxic ideology rules the world - of extreme competition and individualism. It misrepresents human nature, destroying hope and common purpose. Only a positive vision can replace it, a new story that re-engages people in politics and lights a path to a better world.

George Monbiot shows how new findings in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology cast human nature in a radically different light: as the supreme altruists and cooperators. He shows how we can build on these findings to create a new politics: a “politics of belonging.” Both democracy and economic life can be radically reorganized from the bottom up, enabling us to take back control and overthrow the forces that have thwarted our ambitions for a better society.

Urgent, and passionate, Out of the Wreckage provides the hope and clarity required to change the world.

220 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2017

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About the author

George Monbiot

35 books842 followers
George Joshua Richard Monbiot is a British writer known for his environmental and political activism.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 247 reviews
Profile Image for Anna.
1,742 reviews677 followers
January 23, 2018
Paradoxically, George Monbiot slightly undermined my enjoyment of ‘Out of Wreckage’ by being too effective a speaker. I went to an event about the book back in November, which was excellent and convinced me to read it. However, I remembered almost everything from his speech, so the content didn’t seem terribly novel. In fact, I think the way he structured his thesis in spoken form was better than in book form. That’s pretty impressive: I lecture students and often struggle to impose a better structure than ‘And here’s another thing...’ Anyway, the content of both speech and book is thought-provoking, clear, and well-argued, with some memorable phrases like, 'Man was born free and everywhere he is in chain stores'.

Given that both are responding to the same stimulus, it’s unsurprising that this is a similar sort of book to Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. I found her writing more viscerally inspiring, while Monbiot’s is more systematic and thus intellectually stimulating. Both are well-written and encouraging visions for how to overcome Darkest Timeline thinking and scrape together some hope for future. (Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark is also helpful in this respect, albeit written during the retrospectively-not-that-bad Dubya years.)

The thesis of ‘Out of Wreckage’ distinguishes itself with an emphasis on community and belonging. Monbiot favours a meaningful application of subsidiarity: the devolution of political decisions to the most local level possible. However he is also realistic about the fact that some issues are of global scope: climate change, use of the oceans, regulation of multinational companies, etc. That’s inevitably a difficult tension to reconcile. I found his suggestions for initial movements towards local democracy sensible, though: participatory budgeting and land taxation. (The latter is a helpful case study for economics students of how humans in general and tax policy in particular are not rational. The principles of economics suggest that land is an ideal subject for taxation. In theory, taxing land value would encourage productive use of a scarce asset, capture rises in value created by public investment in infrastructure, and be very difficult to evade as land cannot be moved. So why isn’t it used, in the UK for example? Because we are still ruled by landowners! Who’d have the highest land tax bills? The goddamn royal family.)

Republicanism aside, Monbiot takes the same view as Klein that opposing neoliberalism isn’t enough, a better idea, or story, is needed to inspire people. Both cite Bernie Sanders as the sort of politician who offers this, and in his speech Monbiot also gave the example of Corbyn’s unexpected success (or rather, relative lack of failure; all parties lost) in the 2017 election. Ironic, really, that both Sanders and Corbyn are older white men and their policies are fairly classic social democracy. I don’t disagree with them as such, however I don’t think they are necessarily telling the ‘new story’ Monbiot believes is required. That isn’t surprising, given the narrowing of the Overton Window, and they do still represent a deviation from the neoliberal consensus. Also on the subject of British politics, part of the reason that ‘Out of Wreckage’ is cheering in both speech and book format is that the possible consequences of Brexit are essentially ignored. Given the determination of Theresa May's government to turn a disaster into a catastrofuck (thank you Malcolm Tucker), this approach is not hard to understand. At present, though, it’s difficult to imagine UK politics not being dominated by Brexit for the foreseeable future.

Actually, that tangent made me wonder if Klein’s book seemed more inspiring largely because she focused on Trump and America’s problems which, while terrifying, are at least geographically distant. Probably not, though. I think it's more that she went into case studies of solidarity across disparate groups enabling active resistance, whereas Monbiot advances a manifesto for local belonging rather than collectivity as such. Indeed, his thesis is explicitly centred on the new politics to say Yes to, rather than joining together to say No to neoliberalism's current avatars. He’s already covered the latter in other books, to be fair. While ‘Out of the Wreckage’ is quite brief, it packs in a great deal of interesting material and practical suggestions that are well worth further investigation. While I can’t see it sparking a revolution, it’s a great synthesis and complements No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need very well.
Profile Image for João Martins.
30 reviews13 followers
October 27, 2017
George Monbiot's latest book is everything I was expecting from his last one and did not get: a beautifully articulated and well-supported narrative about the maladies of modern political and economic systems, topped with a clear and thoughtful alternative story - a 'politics of belonging' - to replace them.
Absolutely essential!
Profile Image for Phakin.
459 reviews152 followers
September 8, 2021
ส่วนตัวตามอ่านงานของมอนบิโอต์มาสักพัก เคยแปลบางชิ้นไว้ในบล็อกของตัวเองด้วย ตอนที่แฟรงค์ติดต่อมาให้แปลเล่มนี้เลยดีใจเป็นพิเศษแม้ว่าจะไม่เคยอ่านมาก่อนว่าเกี่ยวกับอะไร

มอนบิโอต์อาจจะไม่ดังเลยในบ้านเรา แต่นี่คือคอลัมนิสต์ตัวท็อปคนหนึ่งของเดอะการ์เดี้ยนและเป็นแอคทิวิสต์ด้านสิ่งแวดล้อมที่ไม่ 'โลกสวย'

ท่าไม้ตายของมอนบิโอต์ คือความสามารถในชี้ให้เห็นตัวอย่างรูปธรรมว่าทำไม การเมือง-เศรษฐกิจ-สิ่งแวดล้อม เป็นสิ่งที่แยกขาดจากกันไม่ได้ และทันทีที่เรามองแต่อย่างใดอย่างหนึ่งโดยปฏิเสธอย่างอื่น (สิ่งแวดล้อมไม่เอาการเมือง, เศรษฐกิจไม่เกี่ยวกับการเมือง , การเมืองไม่สนเรื่องสิ่งแวดล้อม ฯลฯ) มุมมองพวกนั้นมักจะอันตรายและก่อผลเสียมากกว่าผลดีต่อคนอื่น คนส่วนใหญ่ ต่อโลก

ส่วนตัวผมคิดว่าหนังสือเล่มนี้เป็นงานที่มีข้อเสนอที่ชัดเจนหลายอย่าง อ่านบทแรกๆ เหมือนข้อเสนอหลักคือการบอกให้พวกเรา 'สร้างเรื่องเล่าใหม่' เพื่อท้าทายเรื่องเล่าเดิมๆ ที่เราเชื่อกันโดยไม่ตั้งคำถาม เรื่องเล่าที่อ้างว่า 'ธรรมชาติของมนุษย์' เป็นอย่างนี้เท่านั้น และเป็นอย่างอื่นไม่ได้

แต่ตั้งแต่กลางเล่มไปจนถึงตอนจบ มอนบิโอต์ไปไกลกว่านั้นมาก เขาค่อยๆ ยกตัวอย่างรูปธรรมว่านอกเหนือจากการสร้างเรื่องเล่าใหม่ อะไรคือความเป็นไปได้ในทางปฏิบัติ ถ้าเราอยากจะสู้กับสังคมที่ไม่เป็นธรรม ตัวอย่างพวกนี้มาจากผู้คนจากทั่วโลก โลกนี้กำลังมีคนสู้และใช้ข้อได้เปรียบของตัวเองในการสร้างความเปลี่ยนแปลง

- ทำไมภาษีที่ดินจึงเป็นเรื่องสำคัญ
- อะไรคือปัญหาของคำว่า 'ระบบเศรษฐกิจ' ที่มองเศรษฐกิจแยกขาดจากสังคม
- ทำไม 'กองทุน/กองทรัสต์' จึงอาจเป็นโมเดลที่ดีในการดูแลและสร้างคุณค่าให้กับทรัพยากรส่วนรวม (commons) ทั้งระดับชุมชน ระดับชาติ และระดับโลก
- เราจะสร้างวัฒนธรรมการมีส่วนร่วมในระดับท้องถิ่นขึ้นได้อย่างไร และที่อื่นในโลกนี้เค้าทำอะไรกันบ้าง
- เทคโนโลยีดิจิทัลช่วยให้เกิดการเมืองที่ไม่ใช่แค่โปร่งใสเป็นธรรม แต่ยัง informative ได้อย่างไร
- อะไรคือระบบการเลือกตั้งที่ดี (แค่ 'เลือก' เฉยๆ ไม่ได้ แต่ต้องออกแบบระบบและกฎกติการของการเลือก การหาเสียง การสร้างความเข้าใจให้คน และการแสดงความคิดเห็นของประชาชนตลอดกระบวนการ)
- ทำไมการควบคุมการใช้เงินเพื่อการหาเสียงจึงเป็นสิ่งสำคัญ ฯลฯ

จุดเด่นคือมอนบิโอต์ไม่ได้พูดถึงประชาธิปไตยแบบอุดมคติเลย กระทั่งยอมรับด้วยซ้ำปัญหาของการเมืองแบบเดิมคือเราเล่าเรื่อง 'แบบอื่น' กันไม่เป็นและเสนอสิ่งที่ 'เป็นรูปธรรม' กันไม่ได้

ถ้าอยากสู้ให้สูสีกว่านี้ เราต้องเล่าเรื่องใหม่ไปพร้อมๆ กับเสนอสิ่งใหม่ที่ทำได้จริง แต่เรื่องเล่าจะไม่ทรงพลัง สิ่งใหม่จะจับต้องไม่ได้ ถ้าไม่วางอยู่บนฐานของ 'ข้อเท็จจริง'

ปัญหาคือเราต่างเติบโตมากับเรื่องเล่าบางอย่างที่เราไม่ตั้งคำถาม คิดว่ามันเป็นธรรมชาติอยู่แล้ว คิดว่ามันเป็น 'ข้อเท็จจริง' ทั้งที่อาจไม่ใช่เลยแม้แต่น้อย

มีแต่การเริ่มตั้งคำถามกับสิ่งที่อ้างว่าเป็นธรรมชาติ เดินออกไปดูที่อื่นๆ มองเห็นความสัมพันธ์ของมิติที่สังคมสอนเราว่าไม่เกี่ยวข้องกัน (การเมือง-เศรษฐกิจ-วิทยาศาสตร์-เทคโนโลยี-สิ่งแวดล้อม) และออกแบบระบบที่ทำงานได้เท่านั้น ที่จะช่วยให้เราเล่าเรื่องได้ เรื่องเล่าซึ่งจะเป็นพลังให้คนที่รู้สึกว่าตัวเองอ่อนแอ กล้าลุกขึ้นมาต่อสู้ ร่วมกัน
Profile Image for Emmkay.
1,224 reviews89 followers
April 30, 2022
I enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm of George Monbiot’s vision of how we can move forward to a politics and economy that serve us better. He starts by emphasizing the importance of narrative, of having a story that captures the imagination and ‘makes sense’ so people will adopt it as a lens, and suggests a narrative that focuses on community and altruism as key to the human story. He then explores contemporary alienation and loneliness, linking this to the damage wrought by neoliberalism. Then on to his big ideas for how things might be done in future in a way that is more engaging, community-building, and empowering, with an emphasis on ‘the commons’ and direct democracy. And, finally, to some thoughts on how we might spark the change necessary to move from one to the other.

A slim volume, so it sketches out its ideas, with some interesting examples. I found it thought-provoking, and will probably continue to think about it - the discussion of ways of using referenda and citizens’ forums around the world, for example, wasn’t at all in depth, but it made me think. I also was intrigued by the idea of ‘subsidiarity,’ by which decisional power should rest with the lowest level that can practically speaking deal with an issue. He may be a bit better at castigating what isn’t working now than showing how to get to something else - the brief discussion of more effective phone banks and rallies in the last chapter was fine but given the magnitude of the forces he suggests are arrayed against change, I would have appreciated more on the ‘how-to’ front. 3.5.
Profile Image for Jamie Johnson.
23 reviews1 follower
October 25, 2017
I enjoyed reading Monbiot’s book, as I enjoy reading his contributions to the Guardian. The arguments for a new story, the retaking of the common weal, and engaged activism at the community level are all important and well presented.

My main issue is that the book does not take the current political and economic forces at play seriously enough.

First, the Hayekian interpretation of free markets, commonly referred to as neo-liberalism, where the ‘market’ is the ultimate aggregator of available information, has an internal logic that knows no bounds. That is why the ‘market’ continues to encroach so ruthlessly on the social, cultural and environmental domain. There are many alternative economic paradigms to the current ‘dominant narrative’, of which Raworth’s contribution is valuable. However, it is not a matter of finding a better narrative, but engaging in a war where neo-liberalism must be torn-down before alternate views will be able to flourish. Bit like weeding a garden, being nice is important, but insufficient in this regard.

Second is that there is no critique of the creation, power and abuse of money, even though money is widely understood to both control and define our current politics. Once again, participatory budgeting is nice, but insufficient. Neo-liberalism brings with it neo-capitalist economics, a perversion of the social construct of money to enable the former to dominate. This too must be actively refuted to allow alternatives to flourish. This does not mean to do away with money (to which there would be strong and valid resistance), but to destroy the economic myths that make the current social construct so abusive.

While Sanders and Corbyn have attracted attention with their social ideals, as in promoting a more socially acceptable capitalism, and in so doing moving the Overton window, a serious critique to get us ‘out of the wreckage’ requires both a more perceptive analysis and a stronger call to action.
Profile Image for Tara Brabazon.
Author 24 books332 followers
November 28, 2017
This book is a ripper. It explores the role of stories - of narratives - in creating truths we believe. Particularly, this book probes what happens when the two narratives of the twentieth century - neoliberalism and social democracy - are exhausted.

The loss of community and the rise of atomization remain key tropes throughout this book. While the word 'crisis' is overused, in inability to summon a believable and authentic narrative of life, identity, family and work is devastating for consensus-building politics.

Beautifully written and expressing a potent argument, this book offers a special inflection on the age of Trump. Stories matter. Stories matter more than shopping.
538 reviews38 followers
December 10, 2017
Monbiot argues that we need a new story for politics, which he says should revolve around community. This would entail a more participatory politics, subsidiarity, controls on political spending, etc.

It all sounds very nice. On the other hand, I'm not convinced we're likely to get it. He says that the community organisers behind the Sanders campaign show the way forward, and that they would have been successful had they only learnt what works earlier in the Democratic campaign. We shall see.

There do seem to me to be some problems. First, Monbiot claims that a neoliberal narrative has become omnipresent in modern politics and society. He seems not to have noticed that it's become a toxic term, and that no politicians today campaign on the basis that "there's no such thing as society". All it would take to pull the rug from under the feet of those campaigning for greater community is for closet neoliberals to pay lip service to the same ideals.

Similarly, he suggests that community organising will naturally only be an option for the community-minded. But in the UK its biggest proponents to date are Momentum, who support a politician, Jeremy Corbyn, whose whipping of his MPs on the most important issue of our time, Brexit, is precisely the opposite of returning power and autonomy to the people.

In addition, he suggests that greater community could replace celebrity worship and consumerism as people's chief preoccupations. Well maybe, but... good luck with that. As JG Ballard observed, most people just want to be left alone. There is indeed an epidemic of loneliness, as Monbiot observes, but once people couple up they generally want little more to do with anyone else.

Finally, although admittedly least importantly, while everything Monbiot advocates would be an improvement for politics, he doesn't offer much enticement to get out of bed in the morning. I'm very much in favour of a new human narrative, but empathy and fairness are bare minimums, not compelling inspiration.

Everything Monbiot advocates ought to come to pass. But it probably won't, and even if it does, what then?

Still, I'd turn up if he asked.
Profile Image for Bill Hsu.
789 reviews145 followers
November 23, 2019
I'm a fan of Monbiot's thoughtful and articulate pieces in the Guardian, and was happy to see this. A whole book on such a broad topic is obviously quite a different endeavor from a short focused article, but this is mostly intelligent, engaging and inspiring, and grounded in specific examples. I do agree that building inclusive communities is the way forward, though I'm maybe a little less optimistic than Monbiot; even organic, self-organizing communities with demonstrated successes can turn out to be unexpectedly fragile, and processes for protecting/strengthening the community and its values need to be in place (and enforced). But what else do we have?
Profile Image for Larry.
Author 26 books28 followers
November 27, 2018
After enjoying Monbiot's rapier-sharp commentary for the Guardian, I felt let down by this book. I think he is far better at original dissection and analysis of problems in current politics and society than at proposing solutions. And solutions are what this book is supposedly about.

The book is absolutely worth reading for the first and last chapters. Chapter 1 is an eye-opening essay about how important narrative and storytelling are in politics and the way opinions are formed. The last chapter uses the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign as an example of how politics in western democracies can actually be transformed and taken out of the hands of oligarchs and party central committees. Both chapters are brilliant and filled with hope.

In between I found his arguments to be weak. On the one hand, he blames a lot of our current problems on the stranglehold that big money has on western democratic political systems. This is kind of a no-brainer. But he pins most of the problem on neoliberalism, blaming it for cynically manipulating human selfishness and greed into the way narratives (see above) are formed. Somehow I get the feeling that selfishness, greed, hunger for power, and disregard for the environment all predate neoliberalism by several thousand years, so merely responding to neoliberalism doesn't quite clean up the problem. Sure, most people deep down are altruistic and like to help their fellow humans. But what of those who aren't? What's more, I cringe at many of his proposed solutions.

Most of Monbiot's thesis is based on the idea of "the commons": common ownership and stewardship of natural resources and infrastructure, on a local, national, and global basis. Everyone on earth will all share the atmosphere, for instance, and some worldwide body will ration out a finite and sustainable number of pollution shares to industry, and all the profits will go for the common good of all humanity. Fine, I share his ideals. But what he describes sounds to me like communism (with a small 'c'), which to me has always been the loftiest of ideal systems in its pure form, which gets turned onto its head when attempted to be put into practice. I doubt very much that a political or economic system can transform the darker aspects of human nature. Then there's the Big Fat Hole in his argument: If successful use of narrative can change public opinion and put certain people or groups in power, then how to control those people who are gifted at rhetoric and storytelling from abusing the system, bringing us back to where we are now? Therefore I couldn't take seriously most of this book.

I'm glad he finished with an analysis of the Sanders campaign. This was a great example of inclusive politics which is obviously do-able. I wish the rest of the book had contained as many practical ideas for solutions to the mess we're in.
Profile Image for Natalie Elizabeth.
25 reviews7 followers
August 15, 2021
This book reads like a half-baked anarchist manifesto with all of the ego and none of the explanatory power. Offers nothing really new, just a regurgitation of guardian articles and self-aggrandising anecdotes. The casual language is meant to be relatable I guess, but to me it just feels like being spoken down to. The author positions himself an educated do-gooder who has things to tell me if only I would just listen. I guess this book just wasn't written for me. But I wonder, who was it written for?

The only thing in this book that hasn't been written about more insightfully elsewhere is the idea that the Left needs to create a "story of our times" to unify people (everything would be fine if only we could convince the uneducated masses to just liiiisttenn). I think this is probably a dead-end/red-herring on the path to social justice.

Overall 2 stars because he does cite some interesting statistics. But honestly, when will we just stop lauding the ramblings of middle-class men who have nothing to offer but their good will and their larger-than-average-vocabulary?
Author 1 book499 followers
October 10, 2017
I already pretty much agree with everything he says, so I didn't get a ton of new value from this book, but it's a good overview of how to move toward a (slightly) better world. Nothing too radical (at least in the sense that he's not encouraging a violent revolution): build better community solidarity, take control of our political system, better taxation to ensure the euthanasia of the rentier, etc. Some proposals for transforming the currently awful & unaccountable global monetary organisations (WB, IMF) top.

It's less than 200 pages and the font size is approximately 18pt with 3cm margins so it won't take you very long to get through. You'll probably wish it was longer, even. Useful if you're doing a reading challenge, though.
Profile Image for MT.
430 reviews38 followers
October 2, 2021
- ครึ่งแรกเวิ่นเ���้อมาก เหมือนนักเขียนทำให้ระบบประชาธิปไตยเป็นอะไรที่overratedและidealเกินจำเป็น อาจเพาะว่าประชากรส่วนมากมันก็มีconsciousเรื่องsolidaliryแล้ว ไม่ได้ใหม่ไร และส่วนนึงการเมืองในไทยด้วยมั้งที่คนต้องการปชธต.คืนมาก่อนลำดับแรก เผด็จการจงพินาศแบบรายวัน ฉะนั้นนสเล่มนี้ที่แบบfirst worldมันยังไม่ได้รีเลทกับประเทศขนาดนั้น เพาะเราไม่ใช่แค่สู้กับพวกplutocracyอย่างเดียว คือมีทั้งทหาร ตำรวจ สถาบัน มันเฉพาะตัวสูงมากๆ (แต่ถึงจะมีปชธตแล้ว ก็ใช่ว่าจะซื้อนสเล่มนี้อะ ก็ยังมองว่ามันidealอยู่ดี)
- แต่พอมาครึ่งหลังก็ดีขึ้น มีประเด็นให้จับต้องได้ซักที โดยเฉพาะอย่างเรื่องระบบนิเวศการเมืองที่อยู่ในวงกับธรรมชาติที่อยู่รอบนอกที่ห่อหุ้มสิ่งมีชีวิตก็ดี ทำให้เห็นว่าโลกการเมืองในวงแม่งโครตเป็นอะไรที่simulacraเหลือเกิน เอวัง
Profile Image for Sarah Clement.
Author 1 book105 followers
November 10, 2019
I don't want to leave this a star rating, as I feel I cannot rate it fairly. Monbiot is simply repeating the arguments of so many authors, but I don't know if I am jaded because I have read these ideas so many times before, because I am sad that the left has run out of ideas, or because I just can't understand what's new about this after having read so many books about democracy. I have complex views about Monbiot....I think he is a compelling writer and his passion is intoxicating. But he really seems to have written a book here that is basically a parody of left wing arguments. I could have written this book without reading it, based on every Guardian article for the last 5 years. I agree with others who have said his dissection of the problem is a wonderfully succinct summary, but that his solutions are 'ho hum'. What is most interesting to me is that is solutions are exactly the same as conservative thinkers. He has come to the exact same view on reforms as Roger Scruton did in his book about conservativism and environmental policy. If you read academic articles, none of it will surprise you. It's all subsidiarity, localism, sense of place, and accountability. In theory, it's all very nice, and Monbiot really does an excellent job implementing the very rhetorical devices that he argues are critical for progress. But it's quite delightful, when you think about it, that left and right have arrived at the same solutions. you may adopt the view that this is positive, as it demonstrates convergence among left and right. Or you might adopt the view that both sides are out of ideas, and fetishising smaller societies whilst hoping we can return to democratic ideals that never existed. This book puts forward a compelling narrative, but if you read a lot on the topic, I would be shocked if you were fooled into thinking he presents anything new. Even 2 years after initial publication, it's also easy to see how very Polyanna the prose is, and his simple albeit elegant solutions borrowed from other European countries just seems strikingly divorced from context. If you like Monbiot and you like reading books that reinforce your worldview, then you will love this. If you like Monbiot but want something more than what you will find in a standard guardian column, then you may feel disappointed. It's a read meant to inspire, and it is certainly well written, but for me it just felt like a regurgitation of the same old arguments from many other authors, but done in that way that only popular writers can do ...where you feel the old is new again. It's even got currents of Habermas and Foucault, so it's hard not to feel like you are reading a parody of the left, when I know you are meant to be reading a broad vision of our global future. I don't think this book is for me, but it may be for you. I suggest reading and considering several reviews before proceeding.
Profile Image for Heather Hollick.
Author 2 books2 followers
December 10, 2017
You can see my full review of this book on my website. Here's the short version:

First I read Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America to get an understanding of the intellectual and philosophical underpinnings of our current political situation. Then I read Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right to get a sense of who was behind this movement and how they were putting their money to work.

And finally, teetering on the edge of despair, I stumbled upon George Monbiot. With a thorough grasp of how we got into this mess (hint, it involves neoliberalism), Monbiot’s ideas and prescriptions in Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis offer a promising, inspiring, and eminently possible way out of it. I’ve had the growing sense for a long time that a sense of community is what has been missing from our lives. With ample evidence, woven together into convincing stories, Monbiot shows that the capitalistic notion that we are inherently competitive and individualistic simply isn’t true. Weaving together research from psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology he shows that we are endowed with a communal ethos. We are all interconnected, and we’re deeply altruistic.

If you want to know more about the book, others have written about it much more thoroughly than I. For a broad-sweeping jaunt through Monbiot’s primary ideas, I recommend this interview with him at Truthout.org.

However, if you want the antidote to today’s toxic political and communally bankrupt environment, don’t waste any more time. Buy this book and start reading it today. Out of the Wreckage is not only the antidote to our sideways world, it’s the way forward.
Profile Image for Steffi.
280 reviews244 followers
April 30, 2019
‘Out of the Wreckage’ (great title for a holiday read) by writer and environmental activist George Monbiot (VERSO, 2017). The principal objective of the book is to identify exit routes from this miserable condition we and the planet are in today. If you’re following the discourse on 21st socialism (including radical municipalism) and Monbiot’s regular The Guardian columns then you’ll be familiar with most of the ideas and policy ideas contained in the book. In the case of the UK, John McDonnel’s ‘Economics for the many’ is probably very close to bringing the latest thinking into one more or less coherent political programme. Monbiot’s core argument is that policy coherence is not enough, what it takes to move beyond is a new story or grand narrative to supersede both neoliberalism and recycling Keynesianism (which is incompatible with saving the planet as its essentially based on economic growth with a bit more of redistribution – social democracy, essentially). I guess Bernie’s and AOC’s Green New Deal are an attempt to weave a socialist alternative with climate change at its core into a bigger story. So, this may be a useful read if you’re just starting to wonder ‘socialism sounds good but how exactly? If you’ve spent the past ten years on the subject, feel free to skip this one 😊
Profile Image for Nigeyb.
1,245 reviews283 followers
February 12, 2019
I've always had a lot of time for George Monbiot, and have been keen to read Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics in the Age of Crisis (2017) since it was published.

His message seems more pertinent than ever given our era is characterised by populism, climate change, political corruption, corporate power, rising inequality, and alienation.

As someone who believes in the inherent goodness of humanity, I found Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics in the Age of Crisis to be both inspiring and hopeful, and it makes a handy manual for activists.

George Monbiot’s hopeful and practical energy is what the world needs right now.

Profile Image for Steve Lawless.
136 reviews1 follower
October 6, 2021
An important contribution to the struggle for social justice and sustainability if somewhat rushed in the writing. As a community development professional myself I liked his chapters on community organising. Definitely the way to go rather than a vote to give away your own power every five years. It does, however, beg some serious questions. The power of the ruling elite to undermine true democracy and the real risk of a coup and suppression should there be any real threat to their power is not hinted at let alone addressed.
Profile Image for Ali.
92 reviews20 followers
November 12, 2018
Dünyanın gidişatı ile ilgili olarak kötümser olmak oldukça kolay. Aslında kolaydan kastım, kötü gidişatı kabul etmek son derece konforlu bir durum. Çünkü değiştirmek için bir şey yapmak zorunda değilsiniz. Monbiot gidişatı değiştirmek için bize öğretilen ve bizim anlattığımız hikayeyi değiştirmemiz gerektiğini anlatıyor. Anlatmakla kalmıyor, bunu yapabilmemiz için bir de sonut öneride bulunuyor.
Profile Image for Venky.
961 reviews349 followers
June 8, 2020
Trenchant, egregious and passionate, “Out of the Wreckage…” (“The book”) represents a loud voice bemoaning the surge of neo-liberalism that has wielded what George Monbiot perceives to be a pernicious influence over humanity. Preferring the ferocity of individualism over the warmth of togetherness, man has tragically become a puppet whose strings pull him dangerously towards material possessions and cultural detachments. Every step taken towards this end signifies a few other steps away from the notions of altruism, selflessness and cordiality. Wrapped in a warped world of celebrity aping and obsessed with social networking, Monbiot stresses that “we find ourselves competing not only with the idealised images of other people, but also with idealised images of ourselves”.

In an age characterized by increasing inequality and obsession towards status mongering, chronic loneliness has become the solitary companion of the confused individual. The degree of such an appalling state of solitude may be judged “by the exotic means with which some people seek to address it: hiring people walkers, designing robot partners, and procuring for cash, ‘friends’ with whom we can post for photographs that we can post on social media”.

Positing that this atomization of the individual is the direct result of a Hayekian notion of free market evangelism and non-interventionist laissez faire attitude preferred to be adopted by the Governments which themselves are murky creations of big corporate lobbying, obscene campaign funding and an outcome of intricate quid pro quo arrangements. “The result is that workers, job seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, infantilizing regime of surveillance and auditing, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers”. An Orwellian outlook!

Monbiot calls for ushering in a new era of politics that would mitigate the anathema of a wealthy minority ruling over a powerless majority. Exhorting a bottom up reformist process, Monbiot banks on a large body of socio-political research insisting on new, innovative and radical forms of societal restructuring that will result in a democratic redistribution of wealth, reduce inequality, preserve ecology and prevent the rise of totalitarianism and demagoguery. Advocating what he calls the politics of belongingness, Monbiot roots for what he terms a ‘participatory culture’ to be birthed which would in its wake create a ripple effect through whole communities. Citing the Lambeth study as an example, the author emphasizes that the costs (in the form of public spending) of supporting such participatory culture are likely “to pay for themselves many times over, by reducing the need for mental health provisions and social care, and by suppressing crime rates and recidivism, as well as alcohol and drug dependency”.

Calling for eliminating big money from political campaigning, Monbiot devotes considerable book space for the grassroots style organizing miracle accomplished by Bernie Sanders, an achievement which almost ensured in his winning the Democratic candidacy for the 2016 Presidential election in the United States. Also with a view to ensuring the election and selection of a people’s candidate, Monbiot contends that the best form of democratic election process can only be achieved by embracing the Single Transferable Vote (“SVT”) system. We can also decipher that Monbiot is an avid fan of the revolutionary economist Kate Raworth as her contentions about reorganizing the fundamental economic model (as initially spearheaded by Paul Samuelson) receives substantial attention and is bestowed significant appreciation.

Monbiot quotes from a plethora of sources in his outspoken book and to his great credit, renders appreciation to all of them. While some of his proposals and claims might seem plain outlandish if not just against the run of the mill or just toppling set conventions, there is no mistaking the powerful impact each of the underlying issues – which the proposals plan to tackle – brings to bear on the global economy. While the means chosen by George Monbiot might be a tad lofty, there is no doubting the noble intention characterizing the end – making the world a better place to live in!
Profile Image for Brandy Cross.
158 reviews14 followers
July 16, 2020
This seems a lot like a flimsy community anarchist manifesto from the introduction

On reading it, I’m unsure what this book actually wants to be. Part anarcho-communist polemic, part rational and reasonable discourse on government and public ownership, part Bernie Sanders propaganda, and part egotistical rant this book goes back and forth between calling the working poor to build communities and law to engaging in intellectually snobbery like the assumption that people need storytelling to handle politics, leading a crowd with hype and emotional manipulation is an empowering part of a campaign, and the mindless rabble will never be educated enough to vote. Maybe the solutions we need aren’t more propagation of mindless consumption as the politics of the common man but rather more resources, time, and budget set aside to making platforms, policies, and their impact legible and accessible to the common man. Difficult in a capitalist system, but certainly preferable to leading the uneducated along by the nose of emotional appeal.

I agree with a lot of Monbiot’s suggestions and thoughts on government and finding a balance between central role and local community. We clearly need both. I just wish it could have been presented without the dismissal of the working class to take time when given opportunity.

Also, casually misinterpreting Hobbes is a bit of a detractor. Boiling Hobbes argument down to, “life without government is nasty, brutish, and short because people are selfish” is a lot like boiling anarchy down to, “government is bad”. It’s lazy and misses the finer points of the argument that give the argument it’s merit. Hobbes argument was much more nuanced if you bother to read the works in question.

“ most people are socially minded, empathetic, and altruistic. They would prefer to live in a world where everyone is treated with respect and decency [] but a small handful, using lies and distractions and confusion stifle this latent desire for change.” Yeah. That’s also what Hobbes said, but in different words.

Overall, a cute book by a talented thinker and writer, but deeply flawed in execution and approach.
Profile Image for Thom.
1,594 reviews47 followers
June 24, 2020
I really enjoyed the first chapter (narrative and storytelling is crucial for political discourse), but most of the middle chapters seemed to be about a political utopia, not a map for how to get there.

This British writer contributes a weekly column for the Guardian (I haven't read it) and perhaps many of these chapters were originally articles. Most are interesting, if unlikely, though I'm not sure I buy all the arguments. One chapter goes into the tragedy of the commons, seeming to call for local community control - but then shifts gears to how we must reacquire commons from entities (corporations, individuals) who have "fenced them in". Is the whole planet a commons, then?

The book closes with an analysis of the Bernie Sanders campaign, and this is both cogent and shows attainable change. I understand the author is an excellent speaker, so before I attempt another of his books, I will check out his articles and perhaps some recorded speeches. For me, this book fell short of the 4.11 rating it boasts.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,649 followers
August 9, 2020
The author is absolutely right that it is essential to tell new economic stories and also right that the neoliberal narrative has failed. He is also right that the left does not have a great counter narrative to the right's market-dominance. He tries to offer a counter-economic narrative here and points to Kate Raworth and others who have done great work in this area. Unfortunately, I don't know if the idea of the "commons" is quite strong enough to counter Ayn Rand's individualist heroes. I think that's part of the problem with left theories is that they have not been able to match the heroics of the right's (though they've been wrong).
Profile Image for Bjorn.
829 reviews153 followers
July 13, 2018
Catch me on a more optimistic day and it's a 4.
Profile Image for Jan Peregrine.
Author 13 books11 followers
November 7, 2022
our world is so scary, so scary;
it's not like the home we once knew.
So much hate and anger you see;
and more and more confusion too.

We feel so very alone, so alone;
who do we trust or even believe in?
So many lies and distortions, you see,
and a whole lot of power grabbing.

We are told the same old story,
but it really doesn't make much sense.
It says we must over others have power,
and it matters not just how this happens.

It started with those already In power,
who were scared of losing it asunder;
they preached to us, preached us that story
so we'd fall apart in fear of each other.

We lost our connections, our hopes;
our identities were defined by our jobs.
The wealthy became all the more so,
and we the people succumbed to sobs.

Out of this wreckage another story awaits;
neoliberalism's grip must come untethered;.
We'll rebuild our connections if only we listen
to a story of a proud people working together.

know this: there's a spark inside you;
you may not feel it, but, friend, it feels you.
It doesn't rely on what people say,
nor on whatever you think you should do.

Your spark from inside gives you your power;
it's revealed, for example, in your word choice;
feel it, embrace it, and free it from fears;
your power, you see, comes from your voice.

Know this too: you are more than an object,
you have value because you sparkle with life.
Create hope by being part of people around you,
and it can help ease some of your strife.

It's not true what our society tells us,
that we must consider only rewarding ourselves;
this is why we despair and feel lonely;
we don't feel the spark in our inner selves.

But we can choose to know who we are;
we can demand, indeed, a democracy.
Make your communities thrive with connections,
and reclaim your life in the land of the free.
2,288 reviews33 followers
November 5, 2017


“Craving contentment and a sense of connection, we succumb to compulsions that often find expression in a frenzy of consumption. We chase brief spikes of satisfaction, which soon subside, to be replaced by the urge for another hit.…These tendencies are reinforced by an economic system that puts a price on everything and a value on nothing; a political system that promotes economic growth above all other aims, regardless of whether it enhances human welfare or damages it…We were once brought together by work, travel and entertainment. Now these activities tend to estrange us…A globalised media creates the impression that, wherever we might be, life is elsewhere.”

Monbiot opens up his latest book telling us all about the power of the story, insisting that, “Facts, evidence, values, beliefs: stories conquer all.” He lists a number of Principles that he and some friends have come up with, a manifesto of sorts. Perhaps the scary thing about them is how outlandish and extreme they appear, and yet on reflection they are entirely reasonable. This is indicative of how apathetic and awful the political status quo has gotten. That reason and fairness are now regarded as extreme luxuries.

“The rise in celebrity culture is not an accidental or emergent feature of our age. It is the means by which distant and impersonal corporations connect with their customers and construct desire. It is hard for people to attach themselves to a homogenised franchise, owned by a hedge fund whose corporate identity consists of a filing cabinet in Panama City. So the machine needs a mask. It must wear the face of someone we see as often as we see our next-door neighbours.”

“When state provision, community, a sense of belonging and contact with physical reality are stripped away, all that is left is shopping.” Although Monbiot talks about loneliness that often leads to atomisation, alienation and isolation and a whole host of mental health issues. He is never without hope and is keen to offer solutions, “We are astonishing creatures, blessed with an amazing capacity for kindness and care towards others. But this good nature has been thwarted by a mistaken view of our own humanity. We have been induced by certain politicians, economists and commentators to accept a vicious ideology of extreme competition and individualism that pits us against each other, encourages us to fear and mistrust each other, and weakens the social bonds that make our lives worth living.”

“Most of the money governments spend is provided by us in tax. But once we have surrendered it, we lose all sense of ownership. Public budgeting is experienced in many parts of the world as state-sponsored robbery. Money is siphoned into projects that are of great benefits to the friends of those in government. It is delivered disproportionately to favoured places (such as metropolitan centre, or narrowly contested constituencies that the ruling party may wish to acquire), while bypassing other places, including those in greatest need.”

Many questions are raised over the economy and property. What is the economy for?...who does it serve?...what does it ignore? How could it be better designed?...these questions are too important to be left to economists alone. The answer should belong to us all.” He insists. He discusses some interesting ideas, like the concept of the UBI (Universal Basic Income), that has been tried and tested in various countries around the world with some encouraging results. He also talks about original experiments elsewhere, like the one started in Porto Alegre in Brazil in 1989. A participatory system was created, where around 20% of the municipal budget is actually allocated by the people which has had made a huge and positive impact. This template has since been adapted and adopted around the world, resulting in some wonderful improvements.

He explores many areas from extrinsic and intrinsic values, and how they impact on our outlook, to various political systems elsewhere in the world. This book is also surprisingly funny at times too. Monbiot shows us the worst of humanity, but also reassures us with the best, and believes that we are capable of so much more and that we deserve so much better than the poor version of democracy that exists. Yes, he admits himself that this is a vastly ambitious idea, but it is by being ambitious that effective change will come about.

Monbiot shows the vast influence that Neoliberalism has had. “The term Neoliberalism was invented at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrick Hayek.” Hayek and some other millionaire chums would go onto form the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947. It was supported by a number of millionaires and their foundations, this created a growing network that stretched across to Europe and gradually began to grow in power and influence. These influenced not just political spheres, but also reached into academia, financing positions and departments in universities.

So Monbiot has done it again. This is a warming, enthusiastic and inspiring manifesto, from one of the most lucid and eloquent voices writing in the UK today. It is an appeal for reason and for action. It is a call to arms. This reads like the literary equivalent of Adam Curtis, and hopefully will raise awareness and address issues of democracy, in the way that Goldacre’s “Bad Pharma” did for the rotten pharmaceutical industry. Quite simply this is one of the most accessible, relevant and clear thinking pieces of contemporary political writing, I have ever read. This is a remarkable piece of work and it should be put in the libraries of every high school, college and university in the land.
Profile Image for Phoebe.
13 reviews
November 13, 2020
Skipped most of it because my brain doesn’t work anymore apparently but I think it’s good
Profile Image for Sutthikant Kritjanarat.
31 reviews2 followers
October 7, 2022
ผมมองว่าหนังสือเล่มนี้เป็นหนังสือที่ควรค่าแก่การอ่านแห่งยุคครับ ในยุคสมัยปัจจุบันที่เราคุ้นชินกับสังคมที่ถูกแนวคิดเสรีนิยมใหม่หล่อหลอมมาตั้งแต่สมัยปฏิวัติอุตสาหกรรม เรื่องเล่านี้นำเราไปสู่การใช้ชีวิตอย่างโดดเดี่ยว ตัดขาดจากสายสัมพันธ์ทั้งจากผู้คน ชุมชน เศรษฐกิจ ธรรมชาติ และการเมือง ซึงในหนังสือก็ได้เสนอเรื่องเล่าใหม่ที่อาจจะสามารถนำมาทดแทนสิ่งที่เราใช้ และเป็นกันอยู่นี้ ระบบแห่งความยึดโยง ระบบที่เชื่อมเราเข้าด้วยกัน

ผมอ่านหนังสือเล่มนี้ไปสองรอบครึ่งแล้วครับ เป็นหนังสือที่อ่านกี่รอบก็เก็บรายละเอียดไม่หมดจริงๆ ด้วยความที่ตลอดทั้งเล่มเนี่ยมีการพูดถึงแต่ละประเด็นในแต่ละบท และแต่ละบทก็มีประเด็นย่อยๆลงไปอีก แต่ผมสามารถพูดได้เต็มปากเลยว่าประเด็นต่างๆในหนังสือเล่มนี้มีแต่ประเด็นที่น่าสนใจทั้งนั้น ไม่ว่าจะกลับมาอ่านซ้ำกี่ครั้ง ก็ยังรู้สึกว่ามันสนุกอยู่

หนังสือเล่มนี้มีการเรียบเรียงลำดับเนื้อหามาเป็นอย่างดี ผมจะเกริ่นเนื้อหาคร่าวๆของแต่ละบทละกันนะครับ
บทที่1: กล่าวถึงความสำคัญของเรื่องเล่า(narrative) เรื่องเล่าที่ทรงพลังจะสามารถจูงใจผู้คนได้อย่างมีประสิทธิภาพ
บทที่2: เล่าถึงจุดเริ่มต้นของเสรีนิยมใหม่ และเล่ายาวไปจนถึง
บทที่3: ประวัติศาสตร์ของเสรีนิยมใหม่ภาคต่อ ความล้มเหลวของระบบนี้เริ่มเผยออกมา
บทที่4: ผลกระทบที่ระบบเสรีนิยมใหม่ทิ้งไว้ให้สังคม เช่น ความโดดเดี่ยว การบูชาเซเลปคนดัง การตัดขาดจาดสังคม และการเมือง
บทที่5: สังคมแบบความยึดโยง ความเป็นชุมชน สังคมของเรา เรื่องเล่าใหม่ถึงสังคมที่ใจดีกว่าเดิม
บทที่6: เศรษฐกิจของเรา เศรษฐกิจที่ควรจะเป็นของเรา และโลกที่เป็นของเรา ทรัพยากรต่างๆใครควรได้รับผลประโยชน์จากมัน
บทที่7: เศรษฐกิจที่เป็นอยู่ และเศรษฐกิจที่ควรจะเป็น โบกควรมุ่งหน้าไปทางไหน และเบือนหน้าหนีจากอะไร
บทที่8: การเมืองของเรา การเมืองที่เรามีอยู่ การเมืองที่ควรจะเป็น และการเมืองที่อาจจะเป็นไปได้
บทที่9: ผมขออนุญาต เรียกบทนี้ว่าบทแห่งความหวังแล้วกันครับ มันกล่าวถึงนโยบายหาเสียงของพรรคฝ่ายซ้ายที่พึ่งพาผู้คนด้วยความเชื่อใจ มากกว่าจะขายวิญญาณให้นายทุน ซึ่งมันก็เกือบจะสำเร็จ และผมเห็นว่านี้เป็นบทเรียนที่คุ้มค่าที่จะศึกษาและต่อยอด

โดยรวมของหนังสือเล่มนี้ก็มีเท่านี้แหละครับ มันพยายามจะเสนอเรื่องเล่าใหม่เพื่อหักล้างเรื่องเล่าเดิม ถึงอย่างนั้นมันก็ยังทรงพลังไม่พอ หรือไม่ก็เพราะผู้คนยังไม่เชื่อในเรื่องเล่านี้ แต่ผมเชื่อว่านี่เป็นจุดเริ่มต้นที่ดีครับ จุดเริ่มต้นที่จะเริ่มต้นอะไรใหม่ๆ เพื่อสังคมแบบใหม่ เพื่อโลกแบบใหม่ ให้มันเป็นโลกที่ใจดียิ่งกว่าที่เป็นอยู่
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Borko.
57 reviews3 followers
October 3, 2019
Good ideas, well defined, but the whole thing is merely the tip of the iceberg. If you're on the verge of awakening, the book might just be the push in the right direction. If you've been fumbling with debugging the system for a while, it's merely a soothing confirmation that other people have been doing so much more skillfully. Finally, if you think everything's alright the way it is now, by all means, start reading, start reading right now.
Profile Image for Rob Kall.
Author 4 books12 followers
October 31, 2017
This is a brilliant book, one of the best of the year.
Smart, visionary analysis of the current problem, discussion of neoliberalism, of progressive values and principles and the need to create a story that includes the principles we as progressives embrace.
I loved the hour plus interview I did with George.
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