In this major, paradigm-shifting work, Kojin Karatani systematically re-evaluates Marx's version of world history, shifting the focus of critique from modes of production to modes of exchange.
Karatani seeks to understand both capital-nation-state, the interlocking system that's the dominant form of modern global society, and the possibilities for superseding it. He traces different modes of exchange, including the pooling of resources that characterizes nomadic tribes, the gift exchange systems developed after the adoption of fixed-settlement agriculture, the exchange of obedience for protection that arises with the emergence of the state, the commodity exchanges that characterize capitalism, and, finally, a future mode of exchange based on the return of gift exchange, albeit modified for the contemporary moment. He argues that this final stage - marking the overcoming of capital, nation, and state - is best understood in light of Kant's writings on eternal peace. The Structure of World History is in many ways the capstone of Karatani's brilliant career, yet it also signals new directions in his thought.
The book was published by Duke University Press.
"Kojin Karatani is one of the most creative and important thinkers of the early 21st century." (David Graeber, author of The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement)
"Kojin Karatani's monumental and provocative synthesis testifies to a dramatic rebirth of universal history in recent times; but it does so by reuniting traditions - economics, politics, the social imaginary - which have proved increasingly sterile developed separately.... Karatani's own practical and theoretical experience of the cooperative moment opens up political perspectives, which will be politically suggestive and energizing at a moment when left politics seems universally out of breath." (Fredric Jameson, author of Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism)
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Work Through It and Be Rewarded In Its Relevance
I had read the print version previous to listening. I'll refer back to the print version for key points.
There are a number of "longue duree" (Braudel) examinations of broad historical sweeps out over recent decades, with titles of long centuries (the Long Twentieth Century), 5000 Years of Debt, multivolume sets from studies of the rise of capitalism as world system [Wallerstein] or evolving structures of power [Mann}, global South perspectives on the ubiquitous nature of imperialism of the modern period (Amin). Structure of World History takes a long, broad, multidisciplinary look at human processes of social exchange.
It must be someone that has a much better grasp of western intellectual history and associated individuals from that history than the reader of this work. The mispronunciation of names (Kant pronounced Can't), technical philosophical terms (he murdered the term utilitarianism), blending of section headings with narrative text portions; these miscues, though forgivable nevertheless became grating and took away from a certain intellectual authority that is expressed by the author in the text. That is, the lack of precision on the part of the narrator impedes the credibility of the work being read.
Karatani's emphasis on modes of exchange for purposes of human connection and the approaches to power and domination, humans over other humans, or human domination over the nonhuman world is not only cogent in looking at history; but, the future projection of that history as call to abandon the modes of exchanges based on plunder, exploitation and capital accumulation to something of our earlier human beginnings.
That is, he sees our need to recapture a life of exchange of pure gift-giving, or exchanges of reciprocity and mutuality, even if this is just an ideal to stretch towards. These alternative modes of exchange from our ancient past are still with us, never having totally left. They must be done because our alternative future based on the modes of exchange based on conquest and capitalism is a potential state of Hobbesian nature of all out war of all against all, the Schopenhauerian end we are already getting our bellies full of in our current life together on our finite planet.
This was an appropriate book of intellectual history for narration because of the clear writing style and the author's systematic return to his themes in circular and repetitions fashion. Please keep offering recordings of newer more academic works-regardless of the previous review that lacked exposure to understand the work. Some of us like to listen to works that we've read, or will read, to help give a different way approach and interpret the text.
- steve foster