Summary of the book "The Collected Explanations for The State of The World"

In his book The Collected Explanations for The State of The World (in the original Finnish: Maailman tilan kootut selitykset), Olli Tammilehto discusses explanations for environmental disaster, wars, hunger, poverty and the destruction of cultures. Since explanations and suggestions for solutions are often tightly connected, Tammilehto also studies the validity of solutions proposed for global problems. He takes under examination common explanations in both popular and scientific literature such as population growth and economic underdevelopment, and looks into them one by one. By pointing out their shortcomings, he little by little ends up with a social explanation based on power structures and prevailing ideologies.

The themes of the book are closely linked to discussions on globalisation, yet this is not just one book on globalisation among all the others. This work is also linked with much older discussions about the nature of the prevalent form of the economy and the state as well as the relation of people and society. Along with globalisation, 1t is also connected with other new discussions which occur among ecological philosophy and critical social theory. Despite the fact that this book is against postmodernist relativism in spirit, it utilises the subject and discourse theories of postmodernist debate.

Since this book brings together the streams of thought which are very versatile and hail from different sources, it offers a lot even for someone who has followed international discussion for some time. On the other hand, as an intelligible text, it is also suitable for someone who has recently discovered the problematics concerning global issues. Tammilehto's way of presenting is dialogical: he presents statements of an imaginary critical reader, and aims to reply to them. This may also contribute to making it easy to follow his thought processes.

The book starts with an introduction of good and evil by examining what is valuable in the world and what is in the process of being demolished. The first target of Tammilehto's criticism is economy as a general explanation, and a proposal for a solution. Economic growth and its green variations are seen as hopeless attempts to quantify human good. They do more to hide the destruction taking place through economy than to alleviate it.

Tammilehto moves on to discuss the technological explanation of problems. He observes that technological general solutions fail because the political nature of technological change is not taken into account. The book provides us with ample examples, generally ignored by popular history, of how social power and technological change are intertwined. Tammilehto also studies soft technology in some depth, and the problems involved with that.

From there, he moves on to slightly more unconventional explanations: supernatural and natural forces. Even though supernatural forces are not largely mentioned in public discussions, explanations linked with these are often a comfort for many. In addition, according to the author, supernatural explanations often take after biological explanations which are very popular in public debate. After going through the contradictions and shortcomings of these explanations, the author moves on to population growth, which is one of the most popular explanations for poverty in the third world. Based on a large sample of current and historical literature, Tammilehto argues that explanations of population growth are always insufficient and often greatly misleading.

After this, Tammilehto deals with explaining the state of the world on the basis of individual human shortcomings. Despite the fact that people's ignorance, weakness and wickedness undoubtedly are problems, he doesn't find it feasible to explain the state of the world on this basis - e.g. because it is not the case that the same individuals would always hold the same opinion but instead, people vary their speech and deed according to their social situation.

Tammilehto continues his presentation by going through feminist accusations targeted at male population. He claims that there is some truth in these male explanations, but they are insufficient without a more general examination of power. This is what he does next and studies the nature of social power. According to the book, power machineries have been created with the help of hierarchical structures and information management, which renew themselves effectively and keep society on its path of destruction. Of power structures, Tammilehto looks into states and corporations in some detail. He dedicates one chapter to the physical structures created by power hierarchies and their ability to maintain once-selected negative development. The book also discusses in depth global power practised by multinational corporations, coalitions of states, and superpowers, and its destructive effects on the state of the world.

Even though it appears that everything has been explained, Tammilehto won't give up. In the last actual chapter, he brings forth the weaknesses of explanations of power. According to him, to complement these explanations, it is necessary to comprehend the nature of current ideologies and discourses as social putty that fills up the holes in the actual use of power.

In order to understand the effects of current seemingly irrational discourses, the book examines subject theory, the starting point of which is a slight split of the self even in those who are considered mentally healthy in our current world. Finally, the book makes the ideological study concrete through a historical review of the state and economic ideologies of the Europe of the new era.

With all this explaining, Tammilehto's purpose is not to prove the inevitability of current poverty and destruction. On the contrary, he aims to show that the current state of the world is a result of processes started as a consequence of some people's aspirations to power, and that it is possible to stop these through cooperation. Although the book is no guide to social activism, one of its aims is to provide social movements with some instructions.

The references, a detailed index and a bibliography of over 1000 headings take up the last 80 pages of the book.

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After: 23.11.2000